Abbey church and cloister of Notre-Dame de La Cambre/Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Ter Kameren
In the early 13th century, Henry I, Duke of Brabant, helped to establish a women’s abbey affiliated with the Order of Cistercians. Numerous donations allowed the site and the abbey buildings to steadily expand, with 41 abbesses passing through over a period of nearly 600 years. The church dates back to the 14th century. Following the French Revolution, the abbey had a sudden change of fortune and in 1796 was sold as a national asset to a man named Simon, who planned to conserve only the abbess’s palace and to demolish the rest. Subsequently, it housed a boarding school for girls in 1802, then a cotton factory, a sugar refinery, a refuge for the sick and infirm and finally, from 1810 to 1870, a dépôt de mendicité (workhouse for beggars). From 1871 to 1909, the whole complex – including the 18th-century abbey buildings and church – was taken up by the Military Academy, which even installed a gymnasium and games room in the nave. The church was given back to worship and to the faithful in 1907. During the First World War, the site was occupied by the Germans, who stayed for many months and left it in ruins. Major restoration works were undertaken from 1921 to 1935, starting with the cloister, the presbytery and the chapter wing, which were restored in 1921. Since then, Mass has been celebrated regularly in the church, which also hosts baptisms, weddings and funerals. The cloister was completely rebuilt between 1932 and 1934 and its bays filled with emblazoned stained-glass windows featuring references to the abbesses. The church houses the reliquary of St Boniface. Since 1935, it has been decked out with splendid stained-glass windows designed by Anto Carte and a superb organ, which benefits from the remarkable acoustics. (Listed 30/06/1953 and 06/05/1993)
Guided tours available.
Archive material on display.
Accessible with assistance