Van Impe, Luc and Strutt, Kris
VIOE-Rapporten 02: Een abdij onder het gras. Geofysische prospectie bij de evaluatie van verdwenen monumenten
Centrale Archeologische Inventaris (CAI) II. Thematische Inventarisatie - en Evaluatieonderzoek, .
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The abbey of Herkenrode, situated to the northwest
of Hasselt (B., prov. Limburg), is thought to have
been founded around 1182 AD. This foundation has
been attributed to Gerard, count of Loon (1171-1194),
and must have been undertaken during a period of major
political problems. Later on, during the 13th century,
the abbey became the largest and richest Cistercian
complex for women in the Low Countries. Its importance
is illustrated by the fact that the abbey remained
the burial place for a number of members from the
countal family of Loon. Many of the medieval structures
of the abbey have been described in historical
documents and are depicted on figurative maps.
Prior to the planned rebuilding of the abbey, during
the 18th century, part of the complex was destroyed
to make way for new structures. However, this
rebuilding has never been realised due to the political
upheaval towards the end of that century. After the
French Revolution, the abbey was sold and some of
the remaining buildings were used for industrial and
agricultural purposes. Ultimately, the central part of
the medieval abbey – church, cloister, kitchen, refectory,
priest’s and guest’s houses, mill, brewery – has
been completely destroyed.
In 2003, the Flemish Heritage Institute (‘Vlaams
Instituut voor het Onroerend Erfgoed’, the successor
of the former ‘Instituut voor het Archeologisch Patrimonium’)
ordered a geophysical survey by the Archaeological
Prospection Services of the University of
Southampton. This survey was designed to see whether
the subsurface remains of the medieval structures could
be identified and evaluated. Two types of geophysical
prospection techniques were applied: resistivity measurements
and magnetometry. Subsequently, the contrasting
results of both techniques were compared,
evaluated and integrated.
The exact location of the church, the cloister, and
service buildings were recorded, together with some
strong rooms and cellars. The results, showing a relatively
good preservation of the subsurface structures
will be used for excavation planning. The archaeological
research will contribute to the touristic and economic revaluation
of the abbey complex, as planned by the Stichting
Vlaams Erfgoed (Flemish Heritage Foundation).
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