Medieval monasteries in the Netherlands

a census

Tertiarissenklooster in Elburg

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Present version
Granges and refuges, houses of terminarii,collegiate churches
Historical survey
Explanation for users
Names of the Orders


This census of medieval 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 a correspondent interactive Map now (2017) a partial English version is offered. The menu options , the names of the fields in the records, the legend of the Map and the Introduction have been translated. The content of most fields in the records is independent from the language used. The translation of the discursive fields is a task which still lies ahead. Further 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 appears to find 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 (not yet available in English). Additional databases 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 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. Recently, Holt (2015) on the Cistercians was published, intended for a broad audience but with a firm scholarly foundation. Curiously, for the Friars Minor a synthetical 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 for the Tertiaries in the Utrecht diocese, which is still under construction. For many categories of monasteries the Monasticon Batavum still remains the only 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.

The present version

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 and summer 2016. 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 (Spring 2017) offers only a limited number of changes of content. However, it contains two items of renewal: the interactive digital Map and this  partial translation into English.

Excavations of and archaeological observations in medieval monasteries sporadically occurred already from the nineteenth century onwards. But due to the Treaty of Malta (1992) and its national implementation these activities have received an enormous impulse and meanwhile have come to influence deeply our view of medieval monastic life. In the latest revisions, the Census has been enriched with four additional fields: insertion in the Archeologisch Monumentenregister, the assignment of archaeological status, archaeological activities, and public reports on them. Mrs Ivonne Lempke at Culemborg graciously put her data at my disposition. So far, however, only a start could be made with entering the relevant data: the systematic integration of archival / historical and archaeological research proves to be a task requiring a long breath.

Summer 2015 cooperation was started with Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven (Heritage Center for Dutch Monastic Life) at Cuijk –Sint Agatha. 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 goal of the new cooperation is to supplement the encyclopaedia with a description of medieval monasteries based on this Census. Toon Smeenk has started to adapt the records of the Census to make them fit for reuse in the encyclopaedia of the Erfgoedcentrum. This has already resulted in a great number of corrections and supplements to the Census itself.

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 signalised many of these errors. The logical next step was to include surveys of these dependent monastic settlements in the Census.

Granges (Dutch: ‘uithoven’ or ‘voorwerken’; Latin: grangiae) came into being as a concomitant to the rise of the orders of Cistercian 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.

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 the database 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 database of houses of terminarii brings us into 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. In 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 database of 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 common life centering 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. 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 at the occasion of 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, at first 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 Saint 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 this.


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 been transmitted. Chapels stood the best chance of survival: often a new destination could be found for them. An example is St Agnes’s Chapel at Amsterdam (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 built 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 in 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 such a panel, 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.

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 estate which covers the place of their monastery, but also by the tomb 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 of the chapel can still be revered in the twentieth-century parish church of the Assumption in the village.

The photographs mostly are self-evident, but if necessary some explanation has been added. The collection still awaits finishing: a few areas far from the ‘Randstad’ could not be visited until now.


In January 2016 a draft version of the digital Map was published, which presented the situation as it was ca. 1500. Now the Map of Monasteries has received a more definitive format, which 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; the program has been written by Peter Vos. The Map is hosted at Geoplaza, which is the University Library’s portal for GIS related data. The records in the Census can be approached directly via the Map.

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 a modern edition by Koeman and Visser, 1992-2001) 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 the 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 Map of Monasteries the internationally valid system of degrees of latitude and longitude has been opted for. The monasteries 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 the surfaces 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. Only the monasteries of the main database have been included in the map, not the granges, houses of terminarii and collegiate churches.

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)

-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. The number of monasteries actually settling in the Netherlands before 1100 was very modest, however. 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 counting a considerable number of double monasteries. In this development within the Netherlands 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 established themselves in 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 Beguines’ communities took the shape of court beguinages, as can be found nowadays especially in Belgium; generally speaking, there was no more than one such court in every town. In the eastern part of the country, the Beguines inhabited multiple houses per town, a pattern of settlement which corresponds to the one to be found in the Lower Rhine area. Probably, this difference existed from the start, but due to lack of documentation it does not become visible before the late Middle Ages.

In the first three quarters of the fourteenth century the increase in the number of monasteries slackened 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 Crutched Friars (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 monastic houses 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, contrary to the county of Flanders, in the present-day Netherlands the engagement of religious 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 from the 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 Crutched Friars 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 wish 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 adopted the 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 1458 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 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. At the side of the Franciscans, a number of monasteries of Poor Clares were founded, the Rich Clares being almost unrepresented in the Netherlands. 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. Sometimes 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 large part by incorporating rich male monasteries into them.

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. Only in the area south of the great rivers monastic life was continued during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Bois-le-Duc area was inserted in the Republic in 1629 only. Other parts of the present provinces of North-Brabant and Limburg did not join the Republic at all and counted as ‘foreign’ area. They offered a safe harbour to several religious communities which were driven from the Republic. This part of the history, however, has not been inserted in the Census integrally so far.

Explanation for users

The website ‘Medieval Monasteries in the Netherlands: a Census’ has the following components:

-this Introduction

-Monasteries, the central database with records for each of the 700-odd monasteries

-Granges and Urban Refuges

-Houses of Terminarii

-Collegiate Churches

-List of Eliminations


-Topographical Index (pdf)

-Bibliography, with list of abbreviations (pdf)

In Monasteries textual queries are possible on the Title assigned to each record, as well as on the fields IDNR (= identification number), Parish, Patron Saint, Alias, Diocese, Province, Gender and Development (applying the Thesaurus), or on combinations. Additionally, numerical queries are possible in the fields First and Last Mention. In the subsidiary databases, Granges and Urban Refuges as well as Houses of Terminarii may be found starting from the monasteries on which they depended or from the locations of these dependent entities themselves.

The Title given to each record reflects as much as possible the situation in which the monastery was found around 1500, the period of greatest flowering of monastic life. With respect to the monasteries and religious houses which vanished already before that date, a title was chosen as required. Changes are annotated in the respective fields. A shift of status may be traced in the Development field, which also gives notice of relocations. These relocations may be followed in more detail in the accompanying Map; if they entail a shift in toponym, recourse may be had to the Topographical Index. The toponyms applied as a rule are those of the parishes, because the ecclesiastical geography – different from the secular one – is comprehensive, unambiguous and stable, at least in the later Middle Ages. In some cases this means that a well-known monastery is found under a less well-known toponym; the Cistercian Abbey of Aduard, for example, must be found under Franssum. The Topographical Index has been devised also to bridge these differences. Apart from the Monasteries, this index also refers to the Granges and Urban Refuges, the Houses of Terminarii, the Collegiate Churches and the List of Eliminations. A name like Aduard as a rule has also been inserted in the Alias field, which is textually searchable. In the over 700 records of the central database a field has been reserved for references to the corresponding articles in the Monasticon Batavum. The separate database Concordances of articles in Monasticon Batavum to the identification numbers in the Census allows following this path in reverse order. The Bibliography supports all components, including the Introduction.

Survey of the fields in the records (with the exception of the last two these are textual fields)

[Title] see the explanation above. If available, at the top of the record a photo is shown, if necessary with some explanation. Likewise at the top a section of the Map is projected, showing the location(s) with the respective initial years.

IDNR: unique identity marker (a letter and a dual number)

Parish: see the explanation above

Municipality: present municipality, according to the division per 1 january 2015

Patron Saint: if known

Alias: one or more alias names

Diocese: according to the pre-1559 division

Province: refers to the duchies, counties and lordships of the medieval Low Countries

Gender: male, female or both

Development: this field lists the various stages in the life cycle of the monastery. The data entered in this field are approximative and do not claim completeness; they intend to enable the user to follow the main lines of development; the start of many religious houses lies in the dark, and the data available for this beginning may vary: foundation, incorporation in the order, dedication of a chapel, etcetera; years with an asterisk * are the very years of the change, those without concern a terminus ante quem; KvUtrecht means: incorporated in the Chapter of Utrecht (Tertiaries); KvWindesheim: incorporated in the Chapter of Windesheim (Canons and Canonesses Regular); CvSibculo: member of the Colligation of Sibculo (reformed Cistercians); for the names of the orders a thesaurus is used, which is explained below

Filiation: relationship, if known, to one or more older religious houses

End of Monastic Life: indications are of a variable nature and often approximative, depending on the available data: incorporation in another monastery or in the cathedral chapter of one of the dioceses newly founded in 1559, abolishing of catholic worship during the Revolt, ending of independent management of possessions, arrangement for pensioning the former religious, demolishing of the buildings; the Utrecht bailiwick of the Teutonic Order exists till the present day, the order of Knights Hospitaller has been revivified in 1909 after a slumbering existence of 325 years

Narrative Sources (CK): refers to the printed repertory Carasso-Kok (1981)

Narrative Sources (NS): refers to the digital database Narrative Sources

Manuscripts: Middle Dutch manuscripts according to the census Stooker and Verbeij (1997)

Archives: refers to those record offices which keep substantial collections of archival records

Literature: titles dating from after 1941/2 (Monasticon Batavum) have been included, selectively and with a focus on those publications that helped identifying the religious house

Third Order: concordance to the numbering of Tertiary convents applied in Goudriaan (1998), Van Engen (2006) and the Monasticon Trajectense

Monasticon Batavum: concordance, see explanation above

MeMO: refers to the digital database Medieval Memoria Online, which comprises data on the medieval cult of remembrance in the present-day Netherlands until the year 1580. It shows memorial objects and texts and contains short descriptions of the medieval ecclesiastical institutions from which this material has its origin, including ca. 160 monasteries. The number entered in this field refers to the institution in MeMO

Van Deventer: indicated on the corresponding urban map by Jacob van Deventer; the numbers between brackets [ ] refer to the commentary in the edition Koeman, Visser and Van der Krogt (1992-2001)

Rijksmonument: refers to the Monumentenregister which lists all monuments officially recognized on the national level; this register is kept up to date by the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) [Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands]

Coordinates: According to the National System of Triangulation as applied in the Grote Topografische Atlas van Nederland 1:50.000; a = above and to the left of the intersection; b = above and to the right; c = below and to the left; d = below and to the right

Archaeological Monument: according to the Archeologisch Monumentenregister kept by RCE

Archaeological Status:  protected or of high (archaeological) value

Archaeological Activities: excavation, observation, archaeological monitoring

Archaeological Publication: publications in the public domain, excluding internal and/or provisional reports

First mention: numerical field. Always consult the details in the Development field

Last mention: numerical field. Always consult the details in the field End of Monastic Life

Names of the Orders

In order to allow for searches on monastic orders, in the field ‘Development’ a thesaurus has been applied which gives the standardised names under which the orders can be found, excluding synonyms. The ensuing tables shows firstly 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.

English - Dutch
Alexians cellebroeders,(alexianen)
Alexian Sisters cellezusters
Antonines antonieten
Austin Friars augustijner eremieten
Beghards begarden,(bogarden)
Beguines begijnen
Benedictines benedictijnen
Benedictine Nuns benedictinessen
Brethren broeders
Brethren of the Common Life broeders des gemenen levens
Bridgettines birgitten
Bridgettine Sisters birgittinessen
Canons Regular
I.e. of St Augustine. Most of these were incorporated in the Chapters of Windesheim or Sion.
regulieren, (reguliere kanunniken)
Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre sepulcrijnen
Canonesses Regular
(I.e. of St Augustine. Most of these were incorporated in or associated with the Chapters of Windesheim, Sion or Venlo.)
regularissen, (augustinessen, reguliere kanunnikessen)
Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre sepulcrinessen
Canonesses Regular of St Victor victorinnen
Carmelites karmelieten
Carmelite Sisters karmelitessen
Carthusians kartuizers
Caulites caulieten
Cistercians cisterciënzers
Cistercian Nuns cisterciënzerinnen
Clarisses clarissen
Community of Priests priestergemeenschap
Convent of Chantry Priests college van vicarissen
Converse Women of St Augustine conversinnen van Sint-Augustinus
Converted Women
Convents of ex-prostitutes without known rule)
bekeerde vrouwen
Crutched Friars
(I.e. the ‘Belgian’ Order of the Holy Cross, founded at Huy in 1211)
kruisheren, (kruisbroeders)
Dominicans dominicanen, (predikheren)
Dominicanesses dominicanessen
Friars Minor franciscanen, (minderbroeders)
Friars of the Sack zakbroeders
Hermits of St William wilhelmieten
Hospital Sisters hospitaalzusters
Hospitaller Nuns johannieter nonnen
Knights Hospitaller johannieters
Knights of St Lazarus lazarieten
Knights Templar tempeliers
Magdalenes magdalenen
Male Tertiaries tertianen
(I.e. Early Medieval Nuns’ Monasteries without standardised rule)
Observant Franciscans observanten
Order unknown orde onbekend
Pied Friars eksterbroeders
Premonstratensians norbertijnen
Premonstratensian Canonesses norbertinessen
Secular Canons seculiere kanunniken
Sisters zusters
Sisters of the Common Life zusters des gemenen levens
Implying: female Tertiaries belonging to the Third Order of St Francis)
Tertiaries of St Dominicus tertiarissen van Sint-Dominicus
Teutonic Order Duitse Orde


Dutch - English
antonieten Antonines
augustijner eremieten Austin Friars
begarden Beghards
begijnen Beguines
bekeerde vrouwen Converted Women
benedictijnen Benedictines
benedictinessen Benedictine Nuns
birgitten Bridgettines
birgittinessen Bridgettine Sisters
broeders Brethren
broeders des gemenen levens Brethren of the Common Life
caulieten Caulites
cellebroeders Alexians
cellezusters Alexian Sisters
cisterciënzerinnen Cistercian Nuns
cisterciënzers Cistercians
clarissen Clarisses
college van vicarissen Convent of Chantry Priests
conversinnen van Sint-Augustinus Converse Women of St Augustine
dominicanen Dominicans
dominicanessen Dominicanesses
Duitse Orde Teutonic Order
eksterbroeders Pied Friars
franciscanen Friars Minor
hospitaalzusters Hospital Sisters
johannieter nonnen Hospitaller Nuns
johannieters Knights Hospitaller
karmeliten Carmelites
karmelitessen Carmelite Sisters
kartuizers Carthusians
kruisheren Crutched Friars
lazarieten Knights of St Lazarus
magdalenen Magdalenes
monialen Moniales
norbertijnen Premonstratensians
norbertinessen Premonstratensian Canonesses
observanten Observant Franciscans
orde onbekend Order unknown
priestergemeenschap Community of Priests
regularissen Canonesses Regular
regulieren Canons Regular
seculiere kanunniken Secular Canons
sepulcrijnen Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre
sepulcrinessen Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre
tempeliers Knights Templar
tertianen Male Tertiaries
tertiarissen Tertiaries
tertiarissen van Sint-Dominicus Tertiaries of St Dominicus
victorinnen Canonesses Regular of St Victor
wilhelmieten Hermits of St William
zakbroeders Friars of the Sack
zusters Sisters
zusters des gemenen levens Sisters of the Common Life

Synonyms in English (excluded from the thesaurus):

Black Monks -> Benedictines

Canons Regular of St Anthony -> Antonines

Croziers -> Crutched Friars

Franciscans -> Friars Minor

Friars of the Cross -> Crutched Friars

Hospital Brothers of St Anthony -> Antonines

Knights of St John -> Knights Hospitaller

Norbertines -> Premonstratensians

White Canons -> Premonstratensians

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