The Abbey of N.-D. de Koningshoeven is in North Brabant.
This is the largest (5,128 km²) of the eleven provinces that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 3 kilometers from Tilburg, a city of over 100,000 inhabitants and 8 kilometers, as the crow flies, from the Belgian border.
With the French government having promulgated decrees of expulsion of religious in 1880, Dom Dominique Lacaes, Abbot of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, considered finding refuge abroad.
A prudent man, he sought the advice of well-informed and competent politicians. He thought it possible that his monastery, having been preserved until now, might remain so in the future.
Dom Dominique sent Dom Sébastien Wyart to Paris to get some useful information. Dom Sebastien left and he soon had to judge the situation. He wrote, from Paris, to his Reverend Father .... “The Government has no intention of undertaking new executions at present. Sainte-Marie-du-Mont can live in peace for the moment ... But we must not count on a very long “status quo.” The Revolution will follow its impious march and will make a clean sweep of everything relating to religion. Consequently - this is the conclusion which emerges from my conversations - the Trappists will be wise in preparing, from now on, refuges in England or Holland."...
These gloomy predictions of exile, which fortunately were not destined for Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, led Dom Dominique to find a foothold in Holland. As early as December, he commissioned Dom Sébastien to do so. After putting his efforts under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, whose feast was near, Dom Sébastien set out. It was in the octave of this feast that he found what he was looking for. The Houben family, from Tilburg, put at its disposal a fairly large estate which had once belonged to the king and which, moreover, kept the name "Royal Farms of Koningshoeven." This name dates from the time when the King of Holland, William II, with his residence in Tilburg, owned this estate. The buildings consisted mainly of a large sheepfold, the “Schaapskooi,” and two small farms with 50 hectares of land. The monks received everything free of charge for three years.
The abbey (II)
Dom Dominique accepted the offer made to him and, on March 4, 1881, six religious from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont settled in ND. of Koningshoeven, with Dom Sébastien as superior. During the same year, Dom Sébastien returned to Mont des Cats to fill the office of Prior. He was replaced by Father Jérôme Parent who would later become the third Abbot of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.
The new monastery grew quickly, and the General Chapter of 1883 gave it the title of Priory and named Dom Nivard Schweykart the titular Prior.
This superior had built a brewery and increased the farm's output, and his community received many postulants. He was then appointed to assume the leadership of a monastery in Croatia. Father Willibrord Verbruggen succeeded him and the house continued to prosper. She had become capable of receiving the title of Abbey. A special brief from the Sovereign Pontiff, dated April 11, 1890, conferred this honor. Dom Willibrord I was elected Abbot. He was blessed in Rome on April 25, and on July 27 he was installed in Tilburg by his Father Immediate Dom Jérôme.
In 1891, the monks began the construction of a vast abbey which could house two hundred monks. The consecration of the new church took place on September 17, 1894, in the presence of all members of the General Chapter which had met that year in Tilburg, as well as a large number of ecclesiastical dignitaries. The chronicle declared that never, perhaps, since the Middle Ages, had the land of Holland seen such religious solemnity.
In 1898, the community was already large enough to spread and founded the Monastery of N.-D. from Refuge to Zundert.
After 1925, the monks completed the various cloister buildings, rebuilt the brewery and expanded the farm. Thus, on March 5, 1931, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey, all construction was declared complete. In 1945 the abbey had 150 monks.
From the 1970s onwards, candidates for monastic life only entered in small numbers. Many have left; only a few have stayed. In 1997, the monks requiring the most care moved with a few brothers to the monastery-retirement home of a congregation of missionaries. In "Huize Sparrendaal," the needy monks continue to follow the same monastic life, but adapted to their age and their needs. Currently, fewer than 20 monks live in the abbey.
The brewery of the monastery ...
Son of a brewer, the prior Niverdus (Nivard) Schweykart had, from the start, the desire to build a brewery. On April 13, 1885, the monks asked the municipal council of Berkel Enschot for permission to build a brewery and a malt house. In the meantime, Father Niverdus had learned from a novice from Moravia, Brother Isodorus Laaber, the art of Munich-style brewing.
Despite this, the monks adopted the region's system, top fermentation, a process that Father Niverdus had not learned. In fact, the first brew was a failure, but in 1886 their sorrows would be rewarded. Quickly, the Trappist fathers were seen as a competitor by the local brewers.
On January 15, 1891, a 43 horsepower steam engine was installed. The early German name for the beer - "Bernardiner Bräu" - was abandoned before the Great War; the beers adopted the local name "De Schaapskooi" (The Sheepfold). In 1891, local brewers complained unsuccessfully to the Bishop of 'S Hertogenbosch about competition from the Trappist brewers of Tilburg.
On February 21, 1893, the first deposit of the logo of the "De Schaapskooi" brewery by Prior Verbruggen took place. On January 7, 1897, Brother Serapion became director of the brewery and its expansion would soon be even greater - a depot would even be set up in the Brussels municipality of Ixelles. On December 30, 1912, a new filing of the De Schaapskooi logo took place, but this time as a public limited company.
Another character would also mark Tilburg: Father Dom Simon Dubuisson, abbot from 1913 to 1945. Originally from Mouscron, he came from the abbey of Scourmont where he met Dom Anselme le Bail. He was strongly influenced by the building knowledge of the latter. He saw how to build drains in Koningshoeven, because of the polluting textile industries of Tilburg. He restored and expanded the brewery in 1926.
The Second World War dealt a heavy blow to all the brewers in the region. Per-capita consumption dropped sharply and the Trappist fathers had to promote their beer to boost consumption.
After the death of Dom Simon Dubuisson in 1945, the monks added a lemonade in 1950 and a pasteurizer in 1954 (replaced in 1961). The laboratory was renewed in 1959 and new fermentation tanks were installed in 1967.
On October 26, 1969, the community sold the brewery to the Artois Group of Louvain, as the monks could no longer manage the operation alone. The buildings were leased to the Artois group for 10 years, with the possibility of renewal of the contract provided that the operation remain in Koningshoeven. Ten years later, Artois ceased the activity, and the abbey resumed the production of Trappist beer on June 18, 1980. Brother Eligius Martens was appointed director of the brewery and the beer "La Trappe" appeared on the market, experiencing the success we know today.
The brewery (2/2)
In 1983, Father Godfried was appointed director of the brewery and major developments occurred under his direction. The brewery was renovated in 1989. The brewing tanks from Germany, the largest of which had a diameter of 4.60 m, had to be hoisted and transported with special equipment: in fact, some could not pass through the entrance to the abbey.
From the 1960s, the Tilburg brewery produced many different beers including a Pilsner. The brands used by the brewery were numerous as well.
In 1998, the monks, in the face of an aging community and within the framework of an existing partnership agreement with the Dutch brewery Bavaria, decided to relieve themselves of the burden of the management and the daily monitoring of the brewing activity.
It appears that the monks of Tilburg, on this occasion, would have liked to remove the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo from their products. It is believed that certain other members of the International Trappist Association (ITA) would have insisted on this.
It was therefore necessary to consider the beers of Tilburg as having the right to be called "Trappist beer" without however being an "Authentic Trappist Product" within the meaning of the International Trappist Association (ITA). A few years later, the monks of Tilburg, revising their position and striving to meet the criteria required to reacquire the right to wear the logo, began discussions with the ITA. On October 7, 2005, the beers of Tilburg finally won again the right to bear the famous hexagonal logo. They have therefore again become an "Authentic Trappist Product."