The area

De Heilige Driehoek owes its name to three vital monasteries (the “Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij”, the “Sint Paulusabdij” and “Sint Catharinadal”) which are still in daily use, and are surrounded by large gardens and farmlands. 

SPECIAL LOCATION 

De Heilige Driehoek, a unique area comprising roughly 250 acres, is under national protection as part of a heritage preservation programme. This will help ensure its continued existence as one of the cultural and historical highlights in the province of North Brabant.
This locality exudes an air of contemplation, spirituality and beauty. It is an oasis of tranquility, marrying fine architecture to wonderful scenery. The walls demarcating the area provide the necessary silence for the monasteries to function.

TRADITION

The monastic inhabitants have lived here for centuries, each with their specific rules and traditions, in communication with God, their neighbours, and the world. These walled buildings with large gardens are characteristic features of the regional landscape.

While it’s not as self-evident to lead a religious way of life these days, the intrinsic values and vital questions resulting from that tradition are as relevant as ever. Traditionally, various crafts and art forms were practised in the workshops of the monasteries to embody the monastic ideals. By organising a manifestation of art in this area, the Biennial aims to continue this tradition.

THREE MONASTERIES 

The monasteries within the De Heilige Driehoek are: 

• Sint Catharinadal, home to the Norbertine sisters 

• Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abbey, home to the Benedictine sisters 

• Sint Paulus Abbey, home to the religious community Chemin Neuf

Aerial view of the area.

Sint Catharinadal 

The priory of St. Catharinadal is the oldest monastic community in the Netherlands. It has existed without interruption since the foundation of the order in 1271. Since 1647, the Norbertine sisters have lived in “De Blauwe Camer”, a manor house dating from the 14th century, and one of the finest monuments in North Brabant. 

Norbertines 

The Norbertine sisters can boast a rich history. The convent was founded in 1271 in Vroenhout, near the city of Roosendaal, but was seriously threatened by impending inundations during the St. Aagten Flood in 1288. That’s why in 1295 they moved to Breda, where they stayed till 1647, when it became impossible for them to stay there: practising their Catholic belief was not allowed after the Reformation. They settled in Oosterhout and still live here. Once they had taken up residence in De Blauwe Camer, the manor was expanded with two wings for the sisters. In the 19th century, a gatehouse was added at the entrance. The premises are surrounded by a defensive moat. In the priory there are now thirteen sisters, canons, who live according to the rules of St. Augustine. Every day they sing the Liturgy of the Hours. An art studio was added in 1954, which was famous for the restoration of antique books and manuscripts.

Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abbey 

In 1901, the Benedictine sisters settled in a boarding school on the estate “Vredeoord”, Zandheuvel, in the city of Oosterhout, and close to the priory of St. Catharinadal. The female monks, called monials, had been expelled from Wisques (France) following anti-clerical legislation by the French government. In the years that followed, they expanded the old boarding school into an abbey with an adjoining church. As more and more Dutch sisters joined over the years, the abbey eventually took to Dutch as the common language. 

Abbey 

The abbey was built in a neo-gothic style by the French architect Villain. He designed the church and abbey as a square around an inner court. In 1961, the church was renovated after a design by well-known Dutch architect Granpré Molière. In 1972 and 1982, a guest house for visitors was added along with a new monastery section and a second courtyard, in the style of the “Bossche School”. Twenty-three sisters live here, following the Rule of St. Benedict. They live their lives according to the adage of “ora et labora”, combining work, study and prayer. Every day they sing the Liturgy of the Hours. In their studios, they restore antique Gobelin tapestry and mediaeval manuscripts. They had a parchment workshop and now produce candles as well. 

Sint Paulus Abbey 

The monks from Wisques came to Oosterhout following in the footsteps of the Benedictines. Their abbey was built in 1907, adjoining the convent of the Benedictine sisters. Soon the whole area was popularly known as “De Heilige Driehoek” – the Holy Triangle. 

Benedictines 

Before long, many Dutch novices joined the order. Around 1950, about a hundred monks lived in the monastery. They were famous for their skills in painting, pottery, restoration and growing orchids. As the numbers dwindled, the last monks left the abbey in 2006 to retire to a religious home for the aged. 

The Abbey was designed and built by young French architect and Benedictine monk Paul Bellot, who was introduced to the work of the famous Dutch architects Berlage and Cuypers in the Netherlands. He made the abbey a marvellous creation in brick. Dom Hans van der Laan, the internationally famous architect-monk and one of the founders of the “Bossche school”, designed the guest accommodations in 1938-1939. 

Their community played an important role in the social, religious and cultural scenes of their age until the last quarter of the twentieth century. Writer Frederik van Eeden felt at home there and was even baptised there. Dom Nico Wesselingh and his confrères gave new impulses to Gregorian music. Dom van den Bergs was a pioneer in growing orchids. The pottery workshop was famous far beyond the borders.

Chemin Neuf 

The abbey is now inhabited by the French community Chemin Neuf, an oecumenical community with an apostolic character, primarily focussed on young people and families.