Monasteries in the Netherlands until 1800

a census

Tertiarissenklooster in Elburg

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Introduction
The present version of the Census and the ENK encyclopaedia
Archaeology
Granges and refuges, houses of terminarii,collegiate churches
Photos
Map
Historical survey
Explanation for users
Names of the Orders

Introduction

This census of medieval and Early Modern monasteries within the borders of the present-day Netherlands lists those monasteries and religious houses of whose existence we can be reasonably sure. The original Dutch version ‘Kloosterlijst’ was available on the Internet since 2008. At the occasion of the launching of an accompanyinginteractive Map (2017) a partial English version was offered. Now (2019) a complete English translation of the site can be published on the Internet, together with a final update of the various componentsFurther down in this Introduction a short historical survey will be given which explains the Dutch situation and its peculiarities to an audience that may be more familiar with the monastic landscape in the United Kingdom or in other parts of Europe.

The main database (Monasteries) contains all independent communities of men and women who adopted a religious life of some sort, disregarding their status in canon law and including even house and court beguinages. Monasteries, convents, friaries and religious houses whose existence has been confirmed by the sources, have been assigned a unique identification code. This code is the key to a record in which a standardised set of data – if available – has been entered. Further below the structure of the record and the types of data to be found in the various fields will be explained. A negative decision has been taken on monasteries who are mentioned in scholarly literature but whose existence finds no support in the sources. These are enumerated in the list of Eliminations, which for each item offers a brief argumentation why it was rejected Additional datasets included in the site relate to three types of institutions which are akin to the monasteries: one for Granges and Urban Refuges, one for Houses of Terminarii and one for Collegiate Churches (for more details see below).

The incentive to compose this Census was found in the discontent felt by many researchers in the field about the only encyclopaedic work on Dutch monasteries meant to be exhaustive which was available so far, Schoengen’s Monasticon Batavum (1941/2). Schoengen died before he could finalise his manual. His editors, who made efforts to elaborate his notes, were only partially successful, with sometimes considerable confusion as a result. Moreover, the Monasticon Batavum adopted the method of assigning a separate article to each stage of a particular religious house, with the consequence that data on the same house sometimes are scattered over its three volumes. Recent research – see especially Hildo van Engen’s 2006 doctoral thesis – has opened our eyes to the process of ‘claustralisation’ which characterised fifteenth-century monastic developments  in the Northern Low Countries. Numerous religious houses step by step opted for an ever stricter monastic life, often switching from one rule or order to another. In this new Census each religious house receives no more than one article (record) as long as the continuity of its population may be surmised. In the field called Development successive stages are distinguished if applicable. Only when the old population is chased away and replaced by a new one, an additional record has been inserted. The Friars Minor of Kampen, for instance, have two records (K01 and K14).

The Census is not a Monasticon. In contrast with the Monasticon Batavum or the more recent Monasticon Windeshemense, for example, no exhaustive analysis of the history of each monastery has been pursued nor a complete enumeration of sources or literature. Only some elementary data are given which orient the user who wishes to do his own research. Older literature included in the Monasticon Batavum, with some exceptions, has not been included, nor has a detailed reference to the sources. In compensation, the Census allows for systematic searches on monastic order, place (parish), alias, patron saint, medieval diocese, historical province (medieval and/or Early Modern) and gender, and on combinations; additionally also on first and last mention.

This implies that existing monastica retain their function. Therefore, the main database of Monasteries refers to them systematically. The monastica involved are the Monasticon Windeshemense for the Canons and Canonesses Regular, the Monasticon Fratrum Vitae Communis for the Brethren of the Common Life, Van Dijk (2007b) for the monasteries joining the Colligation of Sibculo, Van Eeghen (1941) for the women convents in Amsterdam, Gruijs (1975) for the Carthusians, Van Moolenbroek (1985) for the monasteries of Cistercian Nuns, Nyberg (1965) for the monasteries of Bridgettines, Kunzelmann (1972) for the Austin Friars, Roggen (1995) for the Clarisses, Schlegel and Hogg (2004/5) again for the Carthusians, Simons (2001) for the court and house beguinages in the southern part of the country, Tromp (1989) and Hillenga and Kroeze (2011) for the monasteries in the province of Groningen, Wolfs (1984) and (1988) respectively for the Dominicans and Dominicanesses, and Jacobs (2011) for the Carmelites. Recent publications are Holt (2015) on the Cistercians, intended for a broad audience but with a firm scholarly foundation, and Hoebens (2017), a well illustrated survey of the monasteries in the province of Limburg; these, too, have been accounted for. Curiously, for the Friars Minor a synthetic monasticon is lacking. The old survey by Schoengen (1927) had been reused already in the Monasticon Batavum, and in the 1950’s a series of separate articles on most Franciscan monasteries was published in the Bijdragen voor de Geschiedenis van de Provincie der Minderbroeders in de Nederlanden [Contributions to the History of the Province of the Friars Minor in the Netherlands]: this literature is here signalled as well. Likewise, references have been entered to the digital Monasticon Trajectense (http://www2.fgw.vu.nl/oz/monasticon/ ) for the Tertiaries in the Utrecht diocese, which is still under construction. For many categories of monasteries the Monasticon Batavum still remains the only scholarly reference work. The composer of this Census expresses the wish that his work will function as a check and a correction to the Monasticon Batavum.

Parallel to this Census the digital encyclopaedia of Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven (Heritage Center for Dutch Monastic Life) in addition to the Dutch monasteries founded after 1800 henceforth also covers those until 1800. The relationship between the present Census and the ENK encyclopaedia is explained further on in this Introduction as well as in the separate document ‘Monasteries before and after 1800’ (see Menu).

The present version of the Census and the ENK encyclopaedia

The Census ‘Medieval Monasteries in the Netherlands’ originally was launched in 2008, in Dutch only. Successive revisions and extensions appeared in April 2010, September 2012, winter 2014/5, summer 2016 and spring 2017. From the start, Ben Stuyvenberg was involved in this project as ICT man. In the couse of these revisions, corrections have been made and several fields have been added, including references – no hyperlinks - to other digital databases such as Narrative Sources and Medieval Memoria Online, as well as to printed surveys (for details see the Explanation for users below). The present version (summer 2019), besides offering a full English translation for the first time, is innovative in two respects: the archaeological date have been entered completely now, and the (modest number of) Early Modern monasteries have been added to the Census.

During summer 2015 cooperation was started with Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven (Heritage Center for Dutch Monastic Life) at Cuijk – Sint Agatha (http://www.erfgoedkloosterleven.nl). Under the direction of Marga Arendsen a team of collaborators is working on an encyclopaedia of monasteries in the Netherlands since 1800, directed at a broad public. The project was conceived of supplementing the encyclopaedia with a description of medieval monasteries based on the Census. Toon Smeenk undertook the considerable task of adapting the records of the Census to make them fit for reuse in the encyclopaedia of the Erfgoedcentrum. This soon resulted in the production a great number of corrections and supplements to the Census itself, which were inserted in the 2016 and 2017 revisions. The successful progress of his work inspired the decision to add records for the monasteries in the intervening period (1600-1800) to the Census as well as to the ENK encyclopaedia, a task which has been fulfilled now.

Archaeology

Excavations of and archaeological observations in medieval monasteries sporadically already occurred from the nineteenth century onwards. But due to the Treaty of Malta (1992) and its national implementation these activities have received an enormous impulse over the last decades. Older monastica had little occasion to pay much attention to material sources for medieval monastic life. In recent works of reference the registration of archaological data has been set in motion. Nevertheless, the traditional disciplinary split between historians and archaeologists still hampers the integration of written and non-written source material. For that reason, this Census makes an effort to break through this divide. The processing of the data on archaeological activities had started already in the preceding versions, but most of this job has been done recently, in the years 2017-2019.

For the archaeological data four fields have been set apart. The first field contains references (no hyperlinks) to the numbers of the List of Archaeological Monuments. These can be found on the digital Map of Archaeological Monuments (AMK), provided on the Internet by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE): https://archeologieinnederland.nl/amk-en-ikaw. The next field mentions the status assigned officially to a particular site: of archaeological value, of (very) high archaeological value, occasionally protected. In the third field a short desciption is given of the nature of the archaeological activities and the years in which they have taken place. For recent activities recourse was had to the professional terminology which was developed between 2001 and 2003 for the benefit of the Quality Norm for Dutch Archaeology (KNA) and standardised by the 2007 Law on the Care of Archaeological Monuments. The fourth field mentions the relevant archaeological literature, for which a separate Bibliography is added.

Mrs Ivonne Lempke of Culemborg graciously put her data at my disposal, which enabled me to make a start with the registration of the archaeological data. In an advanced phase of the elaboration of this material RCE at Amersfoort supplied an extensive excerpt from the datasets of Archis (the offical but not publicly accessible registration system of archaeological finds in the Netherlands). This proved to be both a welcome check on the work I had already done and a supplement to the assembled data.

Granges and refuges, houses of terminarii, collegiate churches

The 2012 revision saw the extension of the Census with two new components, one for granges and refuges, one for houses of terminarii. The confusion reigning in older literature around the identification of numerous monasteries and religious houses was partly due to the wrong interpretation of granges and other dependent settlements as indications for the existence of independent monasteries. The List of Eliminations already signalled many of these errors. The logical next step was to include surveys of these dependent monastic settlements in the Census.

Granges (Dutch: ‘uithoven’, in Groningen‘voorwerken’; Latin: grangiae) came into being as a concomitant to the rise of the orders of Cistercians and Premonstratensians after the turn of the twelfth century. The monasteries belonging to these orders acquired many outlying agrarian possessions. In places where these were clustered it was possible to establish granges: bases for direct agrarian exploitation by converses (lay brethren). Some literature on this topic: Rösener (1982); Dekker (1982) 191ff; Lohrmann (1983); Mol (1991a) 175ff and Mol (2014 [2015]). Frequently such granges in the course of time developed into independent monasteries. The commandery Schoten of the Teutonic Order (S16), for instance, started as a grange of Nes (N05), see Mol (1991a) 176. Selwerd (G34) was founded in a grange of Dikninge (I02): Tromp (1989) 23. The reverse also occurred. Bakkeveen (B01) started as a grange of Mariëngaarde (H27), then became an independent priory of the Premonstratensians, but lost its independence after 1343 and became a grange of Mariëngaarde again.

For the identification of the granges and their inclusion in the database numerous decisions had to be taken, as had been the case with the monasteries. Several major rural monasteries have been the subject of separate monographs which could be followed; an example is Van Bavel (1993) on Mariënweerd (B02). The most important concentrations of granges occur in the provinces Groningen (Ommelanden), Friesland and Zealand. For Zealand we have the in-depth studies by Gottschalk (1983) and (1984) and by Dekker (1982) at our disposal. The granges in Friesland receive a separate layer of maps in HISGIS Fryslân. But he situation with respect to Groningen (Ommelanden) was more difficult. Siemens (1962) includes an extensive reconstruction with beautifully executed maps of medieval monastic possessions in this province. These data have been taken account of by Tromp (1989) and now also form a separate layer of maps ‘kloostergoederen Groningen’ (monastic possessions in Groningen) in HISGIS Fryslân. In (1996) and (1997) Schroor published editions of the eighteenth-century maps of the landed estate of Land and Stad (province and town of Groningen), which for a large part go back to the former monastic possessions. But neither the reconstruction by Siemens nor the maps published by Schroor contain exhaustive enumerations of the granges. On the eighteenth-century maps the units of management are rather the ‘plaatsen’ or ‘heerden’, the farms that were the seats of the ‘beklemde meiers’ or long-lease tenants. These units do not correspond to the medieval granges. In contrast, Tromp does mention an impressive series of granges, without detailed justification. The method to track down the granges as best as possible may be gleaned from the treatment given by Mol of the possessions of Aduard (F04) in Van Moolenbroek, Mol and Loer (2010). In sum, for Groningen it appeared advisable to be cautious and to refer a considerable number of supposed granges to the List of Eliminations.

Additionally, large rural monasteries often possessed urban manors, functioning as staples and commercial bases: Mol (1991a) 175; see also Van Bavel (1993) 28. During the later Middle Ages, when direct agrarian exploitation under the grange system diminished in importance, the function of these urban settlements shifted and became that of refuges: safe harbours protected by the town walls. In particular during the Revolt numerous monastic communities saw obliged to flee to their refuges.

In the dataset containing granges and refuges also elementary data have been included about rural manors once in the possession of old Benedictine abbeys (themselves mostly situated outside the modern national borders). The manors functioned in the domanial system: unities of indirect agrarian exploitation coupled with judicial power. So, the Benedictines did not till these agrarian possessions in person, but delegated them into the hands of a secular bailiff (vilicus), a type of official that in the course of time often made himself independent from the monastery. See, for instance, Dekker (1982) 66-80 and (1983) 27-29; 98-126. After the year 1100 these manors got out of custom when foreign abbeys alienated their possessions in the Netherlands.

The dataset of houses of terminarii brings us within the orbit of the mendicant orders: Friars Minor, Dominicans, Carmelites and Austin Friars. The convents of these orders normally were situated in large central towns. At regular intervals the monks left these larger settlements and traversed the surrounding region in order to preach, hear confession and beg. In doing so, they remained within the limits of the district (terminus) assigned to each convent by the province of the order. Within such a terminus in due time domus terminarie were established, at first no more than a few rooms in existing houses, where the terminarii could pass the night. In later ages the terminarius resided in the term house at an almost permanent basis: Simons (1987) 187.

The Census contains a separate dataset on Collegiate Churches. This type of ecclesiastial institution was inhabited by men – mostly, but their were also a few female counterparts – leading a more or less communal life which centered around the praying of the Latin Office, but without the monastic vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. Instead, their life was governed by the so-called Rule of Aachen (816). Colleges of this type often were established at important churches. In the Netherlands, the term ‘kapittel’ (chapter) came into use from the twelfth century onwards, a synonym being ‘stift’. The inhabitants were called (secular) Canons and Canonesses. The English usage of distinguishing a separate category of Cathedral Chapters is not very relevant for the present-day Netherlands, as Utrecht was the only episcopal city within the borders until 1559. Needless to say that this type of chapter has to be kept apart from the Chapter – e.g. Windesheim – as overarching union of monasteries of the same order.

In Dutch scholarly literature it is customary to keep collegiate churches and monasteries strictly apart. In earlier versions of the Census this custom was followed. But in connection with the 2016 revision the decision was taken to reverse this and to include the collegiate churches, for two reasons. In surrounding countries, and especially in Germany, collegiate churches normally are discussed in Klosterbücher and comparable works of reference. On top of that, transitions from collegiate churches into monasteries and vice versa also occurred in the Netherlands. For instance, initially a college of Canons was attached to the church of Meerssen, but during the twelfth century these were gradually replaced by Benedictines (M25). In contrast, the Benedictine Nuns of Thorn (T03), originating in the high nobility, in the course of time more and more adopted the lifestyle of ‘stiftsdames’ (Secular Canonesses). At the end of the Roman Catholic period, the abbey of St Servatius (U07) and four other Monasteries of Nuns in Utrecht were transformed into collegiate churches, henceforth inhabited by protestant young ladies; see Van Kalveen (1997). For the collegiate chapters within the medieval diocese of Utrecht since 2014 the elaborate compendium by Jan Kuys is available. For those in the southern part of the country, which belonged to the diocese of Liège, use was made of several publications by Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, who also had the kindness to send me supplementary unpublished material. For early foundations of collegiate churches Van Vliet (2002) is indispensable. The descriptions had to be succinct. However, this type of institutions played a considerable role in the medieval remembrance of the dead (memoria), no less than fifty out of a total of seventy collegiate churches having an entry in MeMO. Therefore a separate field is reserved for references to MeMO.

photos

Since the 2014/5 revision photographs are added to the descriptions of those monasteries which are still recognizable somehow in the public realm. Places of remembrance of the medieval monasteries come in various kinds and shapes. Only from a small minority of them a substantial part of the monastic buildings still stands erect. In this category, Middelburg Abbey (M28) bears the palm, despite the heavy restauration necessitated by the 1940 bombing. The other end of the spectrum is constituted by those monasteries whose foundations – whether or not run up – are the sole remains, as is the case with the convent of Male Tertiaries of Sint-Janskamp near Vollenhove (V14). Much more often than people realize, monumental buildings dating from the Early Modern era hide construction elements going back to a medieval convent. Examples are the Orphanage of Gouda, which contains remains of the monastery of Canonesses Regular of St Margaret (G13), and the Red Orphanage at the homonymous street in Groningen, in which compartments of the Old Convent (G41) have beenpreserved. Chapels stood the best chance of survival: often a new destination could be found for them. An example is St Agnes’s Chapel inAmsterdam (A26), incorporated in the University and now its Museum. But even in the case of these chapels the original shape can often be discerned with difficulty, due to adaptation to new functions, as is proven by the Church of the Beguinage at Haarlem (H03), or as a consequence of heavy restauration, e.g. in the case of St Agnes’s Chapel at Gouda (G20). A curious remainder of the past is the well construed of Bentheim stone once belonging to St Agnes’s convent at Oldenzaal (O08): it was recovered at the occasion of the building of a park house, into which it was incorporated subsequently. Sometimes, visible remains can be spotted at unexpected places. The Tertiaries’ convent of St Catharine in Almelo (A15) did not leave any visible trace in that town itself. But when the sisters were driven from there in 1667, they refounded their convent just across the German border as Mary’s Flight on the Glaan: parts of it may still be visited now. Another monastery surviving until deep into the era of the Republic is Nazareth (Canonesses Regular) at Waalwijk (W01). A Baroque entrance survives, which now is incorporated in the tower of the imposing neo-byzantine parish church of St John the Baptist, which incidentally is situated at the same spot.

Often only the name of a street reminds of the former monastery. Numerous are the examples of ‘Bagijnenstraat’ or ‘Kloosterweg’. Much more original is ‘Gebed zonder End’ (Endless Prayer) in Amsterdam as the name of an impass which preserves the memory of the Tertiaries of St Clare (A27). Sometimes it is not the monastery itself which is remembered, but a remarkable superior, such as Mechtild van Meteren, Prioress of the Premonstratensian Nuns at Delft (D02). Occasionally, the name of a monastery is remembered in modified form, as is the case with Bartlehiem (O23), now an etappe in the legendary Frisian Eleven Towns Skating Tour. A recent trend is naming a modern building after a medieval monastery which preceded it, such as Agnietenburgh in Kampen (K07). More than once a monastery survives in the name of a farmstead. An example is Waterlooze Werve on the island of Walcheren, which refers to the former monastery of Cistercian Nuns (A01).

To a different category belong the information panels installed at many places, often under the auspices of the Dutch Automobilists’s Organisation ANWB. A case in point concerns the Premonstratensians of Kuzemer (O05). The information on these panels sometimes is less than reliable. The inhabitants of the Haarlem Tertiary convent of St Ursula (H18), for example, are called Ursulines on one of thesepanels, incorrectly.

Some special places of remembrance have been put in place in very recent times. The Werkgroep St. Antoniusklooster installed a precious bronze maquette near the Albergen parish church, with explanation even in braille, to remember the local monastery of Canons Regular (O15). Excavations in the area of the Canons Regular of Nieuwlicht at Westerblokker (W20) resulted in the running up of a portal in which a rediscovered keystone was inserted. Likewise in Westerblokker, the human remains found during the excavation of Bethlehem monastery of Canonesses Regular (W21) were reburied solemnly near the village church in a tomb covered with a statue group. In a few places a modern work of art preserves the memory of a former convent, for example in Deventer (D25) and in Scharnegoutum (S03).

This survey ends with three special cases. The monastery of the Canons Regular of Hemsdonk near Schoonhoven (B29) was founded on a ‘donk’ (river dune) lifting its head above the peat marsh. The monastery disappeared, but the dune is still there. The Canons Regular of Mariëndaal near Arnhem (O11) are remembered not only by the name of the manorwhich covers the place of their monastery, but also by atomb slab which now serves as table for picknick guests: the Stone Table. Not far from there was the monastery of Canonesses Regular of Renkum (R07), situated next to a pilgrimage chapel for Our Lady. The conventual area is now crossed by a provincial highway, but the statue once inthe chapel can still be revered in the twentieth-century parish church of the Assumption in the village.

Map

After a draft version of the digital Map had been published in January 2016, which presented the situation as it was ca. 1500, the Map of Monasteries in its present format was launched in Spring 2017. The map is interactive and diachronical, meaning that searches are possible with a moving time scale. The Map of Monasteries has been composed under the auspices of the University Library of the Vrije Universiteit, represented by Lida Ruitinga, curator of Maps and Atlases; the design was made and the program was written by Peter Vos. The Map is hosted at Geoplaza, which is the University’s portal for GIS related data. The records in the Census can be approached directly via the Map.

The publication of a renewed version of the Census in 2019 entails a concomitant adaptation of the Map. The time scale has been extended so as to encompass also the monastic life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both of the medieval monasteries which were continued in the Early Modern times as of those monasteries which were founded afresh during that period. The great number of migrations during these two centuries, often of a forced nature, is striking. Additionally, two subsets of data in the Census have been inserted in the Map for the first time, those relating to the Collegiate Churches and those of the Granges. The data of the collegiate churches are diachronical, comparable to the monasteries. The information available for the granges, however, mostly is to scarce to allow a diachronical approach; therefore they are treated synchronically. The map only shows the granges belonging to the monasteries which have been selected. It is also possible to make visible the connections between individual monasteries and related granges.

This Map replaces the map of monasteries published by S. Muller Hzn a.o. in 1921-1923 in the Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland [Historical Atlas of the Netherlands] edited by A.A. Beekman. The Monasticon Batavum (1941-1942) lacked an accompanying map. Since its publication research has made much progress: the principal publications mentioned in the Census have been accounted for in the Map as well. Apart from that, the series of town maps drawn by Jacob van Deventer ca. 1560 (available in modern editions by Koeman, Visser and Van der Krogt, 1992-2001, and Rutte and Vannieuwenhuyze, 2018; (see also the website of the Biblioteca Nacional de España) have been used systematically. For the northern provinces recourse was possible to the HISGIS site of the Fryske Akademy at Leeuwarden. The map ‘Kloosters omstreeks 1300’ [Monasteries ca. 1300] in the De Bosatlas van de Geschiedenis van Nederland (2011; p. 119) is based on the data found in De Nijs and Kroeze (2008-2011), in which recent research has not been taken account of systematically.

With respect to the locations of the monasteries in the Census a field has been set apart for (global) coordinates according to the Rijksdriehoekstelsel [National System of Triangulation], as it can be consulted in the Grote Topografische Atlas van Nederland 1: 50.000. This is the system applied by the Cadastre, the public office registering all real estate in the country. It is also used by the AMK [Register of Archaeological Monuments]. As basis for the location of the monasteries, collegiate churches and granges on the Map the internationally valid system of degrees of latitude and longitude has been adopted.

The institutions are indicated as points on the map. The reason for this is that only for a minority of them the contours of the area involved are known; and even in these cases entering their surfaces on the map would have been too time consuming. If known, the point chosen for a specific monastery is its chapel. As underground of the map the available options are Open Street Map in standard and stylized versions, Bing Road (a topographical map offered by Bing Maps) and Bing Aerial. The last mentioned gives a satellite photo as underground, which offers a clear view of the present built-up environment.

Icons indicate the various orders to which the monasteries and religious houses belonged. They have been grouped together in a few overarching categories, characterised by specific colours: Rule of St Benedict, Rule of St Augustine, rules of St Francis, knightly orders, remaining rules, and houses without a recognized rule. The location of the cross above or below the icon indicates men’s, women’s and double monasteries. If a monastery changes order over time, this becomes visible in the map as well. Collegiate churches are indicated by the icon for secular canons with an extension in red. For the granges a uniform symbol is used; the connections with the respective monasteries are made with the help of circles.

It is important to be reminded that in the process of projecting the data of the Census onto the Map, nuances had to be skipped and solutions had to be chosen for uncertain details. For that reason a number of conventions have been applied:
-if the exact location of a monastery is unknown, it has been located near the parish church (this is especially the case for many early houses of Beguines)
-the location of many granges is approximative; in these cases an intersection on the Topografische Atlas 1:50.000 has been chosen
-in the cases of interim changes with unknown date for the initial phase this is assumed to have been one year prior to the first known date. See e.g. U03 (Oostbroek): 1113 -> 1112
-if a specific phase is datable according to a more years’ period (e.g. 1402-1405*, meaning that the foundation took the years 1402-1405) the last mentioned date is entered on the Map
-a date of the type ‘1450* or 1454*’(e.g. W02, Waalwijk): the last year is entered
-dates such as ‘ca. 1405’ and ‘1405?’: the modification is skipped
-a date such as ‘between 1397 and 1400’: the last date is entered
-a date of the type ‘shortly after 1400’: 1401
-‘14th century’: 1350
-convents of Tertiaries often evolved out of houses of Sisters of the Common Life, without an exact date for the transition being known. Often the 1555 list – see Van Heel (1936) – is the first proof of the new situation (e.g. W16: Weesp, Jonge Hof). In analogy with better known cases it has been assumed that such a transition nevertheless already took place in the fifteenth century. In such cases a conventional year has been entered, mostly 1450 or 1475
-during the Revolt against Spain many mergers between monasteries took place, normally entailing the migration of the inhabitants of one monastery to another. In the verbal fields of the Census the records of both the receiving and the received institution have a notice. The Map continues with the receiving institution only.

Historical survey

In order to orient the user a succinct overview of the historical development of monastic life in the present-day Netherlands will be given. This made a late start in comparison with the surrounding countries, though ‘foreign’ abbeys from an early moment possessed immovable goods in the Netherlands, which often were organised in manors (‘courts’). However, the number of monasteries which actually settledin the Netherlands before 1100 was very modest. In the Carolingian era, a differentiation took place between ‘real’ monasteries demanding the three classical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience from their inhabitants and living according to the rule of St Benedict, and collegiate churches or ‘chapters’ manned by secular canons following the Aachen rule.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw the deployment of the new rural orders of Regular Canons, Cistercians and Premonstratensians, with male and female branches and at least in the beginning also joined bya considerable number of double monasteries. In this development the lead was taken by the Northern provinces as well as the Southwest. As far as monks and nuns are concerned, these monasteries were affiliated to the nobility. But they also counted large numbers of converses (lay brothers) who tilled the soil; landed property usually was organised in granges. Characteristic at least for the Regular Canons and the Premonstratensians was their willingness to adopt tasks in the pastoral care in rural parishes. In this same period the earliest settlements of the knightly orders in the Netherlands took place, a process in which the Teutonic Order was ahead of the Knights Hospitaller. The early date given to the first commandry of Hospitallers, the one in Utrecht (1122) may be called into doubt. As far as the Teutonic Order is concerned, besides priestly members its Netherlandic bailiwicks also counted knights with a noble background. The commandries of the Knights Hospitaller were inhabited by priests only. The number of settlements of the Knights Templar was restricted to one or two at the most (Alphen, A60 and Zaamslag, Z39), but this is amply compensated by the miraculous multiplication of Templars in later legend (see the List of Eliminations).

For completeness’s sake an enumeration may follow of the orders which settled more incidentally in the Netherlands during the thirteenth century: the Magdalenes, an order destined for ‘fallen’ women, whose monasteries soon joined other orders; the Hermits of St William, called after their founder William of Malaville; the Antonines, who originally constituted a confraternity dedicated to the nursing of victims of St Anthony’s Fire (ergotism) and which was organised along the lines of the knightly orders; the Regular Canonesses of St Victor (the reforming monastery near Paris); and the Caulites, who were akin to the Carthusians and owed their name to the original founding in the Val-des-Choux in Burgundy.

In the course of the thirteenth century, the towns began to play a role as places of settlement for religious communities. The international mendicant orders settledin the urban agglomerations, the largest part being taken by the Friars Minor and the Dominicans. Smaller numbers of convents were started by the Austin Friars, the Carmelites, the Pied Friars and the Friars of the Sack. The last mentioned two orders soon disappeared after their suppression at the Council of Lyons (1271).

The Beguines are a phenomenon going back to the thirteenth century as well. It is to them that the label of ‘first women’s religious movement’ is applicable. Their background has to be looked for in the urban citizenry, in which also the mendicants were embedded. In the South and West of the Netherlands Beguines’ communities took the shape of court beguinages, as can be found nowadays especially in Belgium.Generally speaking, there was no more than one conspicuouscourt in every town. In the eastern part of the country, the Beguines inhabited multiple houses per town. Thispattern of settlement dominatedin the Lower Rhine area, but the Repertory appended to Simons (2001) makes clear that this pattern originally also occurred in the Southwestern part of the Low Countries.

In the first three quarters of the fourteenth century the increase in the number of monasteries slowed down. The Beguines were joined by a couple of houses of Beghards, their male counterparts, but the decisions of the Council of Vienne (1311) plunged them into a deep crisis. Short-lived were a few settlements of the Knights of St Lazarus. The growth in the number of commandries of Knights Hospitaller continued. Likewise in the fourteenth century the Netherlands made their acquaintance with the Carthusians and the Croziers(the last named are to be identified as the ‘Belgian’ order originating in Huy). A remarkable number of new collegiate churches was founded, for which regional and secular overlords were principally responsible. Due to changes in the agrarian economy the rural orders exchanged their system of direct exploitation through granges for indirect exploitation of landed properties by leasing them.

Starting with the last decades of the fourteenth century the Netherlands went through nothing less than a monastic revolution, on a par with surrounding regions such as Brabant, Liège, Lower Rhine and Westphalia. This revolution contained a small component of religioushouses of the active type: it was in this period that the Alexians, who dedicated their lives to the tending of the ill, reached the coasts of the North Sea, coming from the South. Generally speaking, the engagement of religious personnel in hospital care was rather insignificant. The upsurge of monastic life at the turn of the fifteenth century, therefore, had a predominantly contemplative character. Responsible for this was the Devotio Moderna, which traditionally is said to begin with the preaching tour of master Geert Grote from Deventer (1379-1383). The Modern Devotion was an urban phenomenon. Even when newly founded monasteries of Canons Regular settled in the countryside, in most cases ties with the citizenry of a nearby town can be proven. The IJssel Valley (with the towns of Deventer, Zwolle and Kampen) is supposed to be the cradle of this movement, which is well documented for this area due to an extraordinarily rich historiographical tradition. Actually, the Western part of the country (Holland and Utrecht) from the start took an equal share; quick urbanisation had taken place in this area during the preceding decades.

The Devotio Moderna in the stricter sense manifested itself in three types of religious settlements. The Brethren and Sisters of the Common Life were living together without any ecclesiastically recognized rule; so, in the formal sense they were laypeople. The Male and Female Tertiaries adopted the Third Rule ascribed to St Francis. This had been intended originally for laypeople living in the world, but was now put to good services by religious people living in community. With respect to their status – were they lay or religious – much confusion arose in those days, which lasts into the present time. A fully monastic life, based on the three vows and on the Rule of St Augustine, was led by the Canons and Canonesses Regular. In the monastic branch their was a male dominance. The non-monastic branches, however, were characterised by female preponderance, and this is especially true for the Tertiaries; it is justified to speak of a ‘second religious women’s movement’.

The initial phase of the Devotio Moderna was characterized by experiments. Often the common life was introduced in stages and was preceded by a period in which the brethren or sisters lived together religiously without giving up private property. In some places communities of priests came into being, which did or did not develop into houses of Brethren of the Common Life. As early as 1399 many houses of sisters and some inhabited by brothers adopted Tertiary status, sometimes maintaining private property and sometimes abolishing it, but with a vow of chastity which was not provided for in the original Third Rule of St Francis. The Canons Regular from 1395 on founded the Chapter (congregation) of Windesheim. A quarter of a century later this received competition bythe small Holland Chapter or Chapter of Sion, which had its origin in the cooperation of some houses of Male Tertiaries that wished to adopt the Rule of St Augustine. The Tertiaries (male and female) had a chapter of their own right from the start, the Chapter of Utrecht. Its operational field was restricted to the Utrecht diocese; a separate Chapter of Zepperen was erected in 1441 to cover the Liège diocese. Rectors of houses of Brethren and Sisters of the Common Life regularly met at the Zwolle Colloquium.

The Modern Devotion, and especially its monastic branch, may be interpreted as observantism, a concerted effort to return to the faitful observation of the rule (of St Augustine). Moreover, it is defendable to give the term Devotio Moderna a somewhat wider application instead of restricting it to the three brances as explained so far. The devout themselves were strongly oriented towards the Carthusians, an order that never underwent a relaxation of its rule. In the Netherlands, the Carthusians experienced a remarkable expansion parallel to the deployment of the Modern Devotion. In 1410, the Croziers implemented a reform in observant spirit under the impact of the Devotio Moderna. The Cistercian order was enriched by the establishing of an observant branch called the Colligation of Sibculo, likewise inspired by the Devotio Moderna. Additionally, this movement absorbed some (but not all) existing houses of Beguines. In the course of the fifteenth century older monasteries of Regular Canons - especially in Frisia – were reformed by members of the Chapter of Windesheim, a process which entailed giving up their status as double monasteries.

Apart from the foundation of six monasteries of Bridgettines – these were double monasteries in principle, in harmony with the wishes of St Bridget – and from the establishing of some monasteries of Canons and Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre – which had the fostering of the Jerusalem pilgrimage as their central concern – for the remainder of the fifteenth century three trends were characteristic. In the first place, within the orbit of the Modern Devotion numerous religious houses at varying speed underwent a process of claustralisation: simple communities with lay character first embracedthe Third Rule of St Francis, then had themselves enclosed , and in many cases eventually adopted a fully monastic rule. Impulses for this development came from below, from the sisters and brethren themselves, as well as from the hierarchy. In many communities the legacy tour by Nicholas of Cusa in 1451 triggered the more or less enforced adoption of the Rule of St Augustine. From 1459 onwards, also the Alexian Brothers went over to that rule; they were joined meanwhile by houses of Alexian Sisters.

Secondly, this period saw an enormous increase in the number of low budget convents, to which, incidentally, also the Tertiaries may be considered to belong. Most of them were found in an urban environment, but they also occurred in rural areas, for example in Frisia. These convents had modest income from immovable goods and rents, which obliged the sisters to work for their livelihood, often in the textile industry. Therefore, they had not enough time to sing the full (Latin) Office, from which they were excluded anyhow by lack of education. From the middle of the century, a large part of these convents also lived according to the Rule of St Augustine; but in the absence of choir sisters (nuns) they were inhabited by converse women only. They received pastoral supervision from the male monasteries of the Chapters of Windesheim and Sion, but they were debarred from full incorporation. It is a fact that a few of these convents were destined for converted women in the narrow sense: ex-prostitutes.

Finally, shortly before the middle of the century a new wave of observantism started, affecting this time the mendicant orders, in particular the Friars Minor and the Dominicans. In the Franciscan order this process resulted in the establishing of a network of new observant monasteries ‘under vicars’, which means that they constituted a parallel organisation within the Cologne province of the order. The number of existing convents adopting observantism was small, and on top of that they often did so against their wishes and sometimes even with the expulsion of the old population. The reform in the Dominican order was more gradual, resulting in the observant Holland Congregation. Both observant branches of the mendicants gave the impulse to the formation of networks of Tertiary convents of their own; the new Franciscan Tertiaries did not join the existing Chapter of Utrecht of modern devout Tertiaries. Alongside of the Franciscans, a number of monasteries of Poor Clares were founded. In both orders, the observant movement was favoured particularly by the (Arch)dukes of Burgundy and Habsburg.

Beginning in the second decade of the sixteenth century the flowering of monastic life was over. New foundations hardly occurred, and many of the existing monasteries got into troubles. Vocations dropped, the favouring of the monasteries by private persons and officials declined. Central and local governments increased fiscal pressure on the monasteries. Some monasteries were abolished already long before the Revolt; alternatively they were forced to merge. The establishment of a number of new, smaller dioceses in 1559 was funded for a considerablepart by incorporating rich male monasteries into them.

For most of the Netherlands the end came with the Revolt against Spain and the installation of Reformed worship as the public religion. The chronology of this process followed the course of politico-military events and so differed from region to region. The monasteries were suppressed. Male religious were put before the choice between an oath of loyalty to the new regime or departure. Female religious received a pension out of the income of their former convents. The possessions and rents of the monasteries usually were assigned to charitable institutions. Those buildings which were in good state of repair likewise received a new destination.

However, in a few areas monastic life was continued until deep in the seventeenth and even eighteenth century. Twente went to and fro between Spain and the Republic several times and was annexed to the province of Overijssel definitively only with the Peace of Westphalia (1648). The annexation of States-Flanders, the present Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, was completed with the reconquest of Hulst by the Republic in 1645. In these regions religious houses managed to continue their functioning for some time.

More complicated was the situation in the present-day provinces of North-Brabant and Limburg. ’s-Hertogenbosch was conquered by the Republic in 1629, whereupon also the surrounding area, called Meierij, came under the authority of the States-General. The Meuse campaign of 1632 gave the Republic a foothold as far south as Maastricht. And in 1637 Breda, which had returned to Spanish rule in 1625, was reconquered by the Republic. The annexed areas became ‘Generaliteitslanden’, which implied that they were ruled by the United Provinces without being represented in their government themselves.

This does not mean, however, that North-Brabant and Limburg were brought under a Protestant regime in their entirety. Within North-Brabant several foreign enclaves were situated: Megen, Gemert, Boxmeer and in particular the seigniory Land of Ravenstein. Here Roman Catholic monastic life could be continued; religious houses expelled from the Meierij found refuge in these enclaves. The Barony of Breda and the Land of Cuijk did belong to the Republic, but these areas were governed more or less independently as seigniories of the House of Orange, which offered protection to the monasteries under their authority.

The province of Limburg as such did not exist at all. The northern half coincided with Upper-Guelders, which belonged to the Habsburg Southern Netherlands until it was divided in three parts at the Peace of Utrecht (1713): an Austrian, a Prussian and a ‘Staats’ part. Each of these compartments henceforth had a religious regime of its own. Other parts of ‘Limburg’ belonged to the duchy of Juliers or the prince-bishopric of Liège. The conquest of Maastricht by the Republic did not end the condominium status of this important city: authority now was shared by the Republic as successor to the Duke of Brabant and the prince-bishop of Liège. As a consequence, monastic life remained intact and even flourished. Each of the ‘Lands of Overmaze’ (Valkenburg, ’s-Hertogenrade and Dalhem) in the southern part of the present province was divided in two parts at the Partition Treatise (1661): one for Habsburg, one for the Republic.

In this situation seventy-odd monasteries going back to the Middle Ages could continue their existence into the Early Modern era in the area south of the great rivers; not seldom they were chased from one location to another. Additionally, fourty new religious houses came into being, which mostly belonged to one of the younger orders associated with the Counter-Reformation: the Capuchins and the Jesuits for men, the Discalced Carmelite Sisters (Theresians), the Penitents-Recollectines of the Reform of Limburg and the Ursulines for women. The end came in the last decades of the eighteenth century. Under pressure of several ‘Enlightened’ European princes pope Clement XIV abolished the Jesuit order in 1773. The religious legislation of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II (1784) suppressed practically all monastic houses; in our area this was felt in particular in Roermond. The successive insertion of the remaining parts of the south in revolutionary France had as consequence that the French legislation, which entailed abolition of the monasteries, was applied here.

Explanation for users

Explanation for users as of October 2019 [pdf 26 kb]

Names of the Orders

In order to allow for searches on monastic orders, in the Development field a thesaurus has been applied which gives the standardised names under which the orders can be found, excluding synonyms. The ensuing tables shows first the English names in the left hand column, their Dutch equivalents in the right hand column (here those within brackets are excluded synonyms); next the equivalents in the reversed order. The literature sometimes mentions female convents of ‘the Third Order of St Augustine’ or ‘Tertiaries of St Augustine’. Goudriaan (2016) argues that such an order did not exist in the Netherlands during the Middle Ages. The convents concerned were ‘low budget’ monasteries following the (standard) rule of St Augustine but inhabited only by converse (lay) women in the absence of choir sisters. Convents of this type have been subsumed under the general label of ‘Canonesses Regular’. If we can be sure that such a convent housed converse women only, this is noticed in the Development field, e.g. G20.

Names of the Orders as of October 2019 [pdf 23 kb]

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