The abbey was at the peak of its glory in the 11th century. In competition with St Peter’s Abbey nearby, it grew into a complex that included an abbey church, of which the ‘oldest wall in Ghent’ is still standing.
In 1540, in revenge for the Ghent uprising, Emperor Charles V ordered the demolition of the abbey. The surrounding village was not spared either. This brutal verdict (the ‘Concessio Carolina’) included an order that a Spanish fortress be built on the site of the abbey, sealing the city’s defeat.
Today the shape of the original Romanesque church is marked out with green shrubs. Five-metre-high columns of hornbeam evoke the image of the disappeared church. Where the altar once stood is now a concrete stage where artists perform, giving a sense of the site’s former grandeur. To protect this magnificent site as much as possible, it is only open to visitors for a few hours a week.