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The abbey of Saint-Bernard

In 1244 the Cistercians began the construction of the abbey of Saint Bernard in Hemiksem, where they moved in two years later. The buildings would lead to the revival of the brick industry in the area, an activity that was lost after Roman times. The steady rise of the abbey was stopped by the religious wars, but in the 17th and 18th centuries it grew into one of the richest and largest abbeys in the Duchy of Brabant. Today, the restored west wing with its tower from around 1700 is a witness to this. After the French Revolution, the abbey was abolished. The Gothic abbey church was demolished in the 19th century and the complex was given various destinations: a French naval hospital under Napoleon, a prison, a storage place and encampment of the engineers of the Belgian army. The German “Luftwaffe” took up residence there in the Second World War and after the war, the former abbey was for some years an internment camp for collaborators. Until 1978 it was used again by the Belgian army. In 1988 the municipality of Hemiksem purchased the complex protected as a monument. In 1998 the town hall was housed in the restored west wing. Parts not yet restored contain a local history museum and a museum about the Hemiksem ceramics company Gilliot, which found a worldwide market for its products. The park and the monastery wall belong to the Flemish community.