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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Research project: Herkenrode survey - Dormant - Dormant

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The abbey of Herkenrode is situated 5km to the north west of Hasselt, in the province of Limberg.

The abbey was founded in around 1182, by Brother Hendrik from the abbey of Autre. The land was donated to him by Gerard count of Loon. A Cistercian convent of nuns was established at the site, and by the 13th century it was the largest Cistercian complex for women in the Netherlands, as well as remaining the burial ground for the local counts. From the early 14th century the abbey became a place of pilgrimage. However, parts of the complex were destroyed in the late 15th and early 16th century. After this date, much of the abbey was rebuilt, including the gatehouse (built in 1531).

Many of the medieval structures of the abbey are recorded in documents and maps of the 16th, 17th and 18th century. They show that the complex was organised in strict accordance with the plan of a monastery of the Cistercian order, with a series of guest houses, a priest's house, refectory and chapel, all built around a central cloister and church. Prior to the replanning of the abbey in the 18th century, the complex was planned and destroyed to make way for new buildings. Although the new monastery was not completed, the plan of the earlier structures survives.

The geophysical survey was initiated with the aim of locating and mapping the remains of sub-surface archaeological features in the vicinity of the abbey church, where an 18th century plan had noted the presence of structural remains. In particular, the survey was designed to see whether the remains of the church, cloisters, and associated guesthouse and abbots house could be identified. Investigations concentrated on an area of approximately three hectares in the centre of the monastic complex.

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