Fragment from the Tongerlo Abbey Archive is online: “a goldmine for scholars and historians” (Westerlo)

Tongerlo Monastery was founded around 1130. © Mark Peters


Anyone interested in the history of Tongerlo Abbey (Visterlo) should visit the website of the Brabant Historical Information Center (BHIC). Dutch historians digitized the monastery’s vast archive and made it partly accessible to researchers and genealogists. “There are a total of 967 thick records,” says Margot America, communications coordinator at BHIC.

Mark Peters

Tongerlo Abbey was an important religious, political, and economic player in Brabant in the period 1130-1796. Despite its turbulent history, the extensive monastery archives located in Tongerlu Monastery have been well preserved.

The log is so thick that it cannot be numbered without removing it from the tape.  I have decided not to.

The log is so thick that it cannot be numbered without removing it from the tape. I have decided not to. © rr

“The collections we have digitized contain copies of nearly all the charters and form the core of the long-running administration of the monastery with records of, among other things, the monastery’s inhabitants, servants, benefactors, long leases, taxes, leases, tithes, etc. All this is described in the inventory. For researchers Professionals and amateurs, these records are a historical goldmine,” America said.

The ecclesiastical record appeared, dating from about 1516.

The ecclesiastical record appeared, dating from about 1516. © rr

This includes political and religious research, regional and local history, local history, domain name research, and genealogical research. This applies to research in Belgium, especially in Quimpen, as well as in the Netherlands. “


The Premonstratensian Monastery in Tongerlo was founded around 1130. About six years ago, the order had already settled in Antwerp. “The Dukes of Brabant favored the matter and with it the new abbey of Tongerlo. The monastery grew into one of the most important Premonstratensian monasteries in Brabant.” Of the rights that the monastery received, patronage rights, the right to nominate a new priest, were very important. The monastery has served many parishes in Brabant since long ago. The abbot was a member of the states of Brabant and thus also had a direct political influence.

The oldest obituary of the monastery is from 1570.

The oldest obituary of the monastery is from 1570. © rr

When the old parishes were replaced by new and smaller parishes in 1559, the monastery served as a source of income for the Bishop’s-Hertogenbosch. The Bishop of Bossche was a limited abbot of the Tongerlo monastery. This situation ended in 1590. The monastery was forced to cede most of its possessions in the meerige to the bishop. Since the monastery was located in the south of the later Austrian Netherlands, it was able to keep its goods within the borders of the republic.

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The arrival of the French brought enormous changes to the monastery. After their departure in 1814 and the subsequent dissolution of the United Kingdom to the Netherlands in 1830, the remaining monastery members were able to reunite as a monastery from 1838. They repurchased their old monastic buildings and restored their monastic life in Belgium to the best of their ability. Their former possessions and parishes in the Netherlands remained in the possession of the Dutch state.

Map of monastery farm in Shaam.

Map of monastery farm in Shaam. © rr

Tongerlo preceded three other, albeit smaller, archives of Norbertine monasteries: the archives of Norbertine Abbey in Bern, Norbertine Abbey in Sint Catherinadal, and Norbertyn Abbey/Postel Abbey. Their ancient archives can be viewed completely digitally.

Megan Vasquez

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