The old abbey at Gembloux is an outstanding example of monastic occupation in the 18th century. It reveals information about the life of a community, as well as about the development of architectural tastes and the mentality typical of the Age of Enlightenment.
The abbey was found in 940 by Guibert, a Lotharigian nobleman. It was rebuilt a century later by abbot Olbert, who converted the abbey into a spiritual, artistic and intellectual centre. Rebuilt again by L.-B. Dewez in 1762-1779, the abbey opened up to the outside world in the 18th century, in contrast to the mediaeval abbey that had been turned in on itself and lived as an autarchy. From this period onward, there were quarters for guests adjoining the abbot's dwelling, the monastic area, the abbey church and the incense burner. Presenting a certain image of grandeur and dignity, the abbey is a marvellous illustration of the à transformation of thinking about relations with the outside world that turned the abbey world upside down in the 18th century.
The abbey designed by L.-B. Dewez included a noble section built in an H-shape preceded by a long enclosed courtyard. The body of the main building is on two levels adjoining two short side wings. Colossal with Ionic columns, the façade is topped by a triangular pediment bearing the coat of arms of the abbey, as well as that of the person who commissioned the building.
Inside, visitors are struck by the monumental oak staircase, as well as the strict proportion of the elements and ample, well-ordered space, with everything reflecting balance and reason, traits close to architect Dewez's heart.
Listed: 13-01-1977 and 23-06-1977
Exceptional heritage site of Wallonia