Sint Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren
In winter of 1814 Jan-Baptist Victoor (married to the widow of JF Lebbe) left Poperinge to settle in the forests of Saint Sixtus and to spend the rest of his life as a hermit. In this way he continued the monastic tradition, which had been interupted thirty years before by Emperor Jozef II. When in the summer of 1831, the prior of the newly founded monastery of Catsberg together with some of his monks settled with the hermit, a new Cistercian monastery was born. The early years (1831-1836) were difficult. Yet there was a steady growth of the community. There were 23 members in 1835 and 52 in 1875. Twice the community ceded monks: in 1850 16 priests and brothers left to Scourmont for the foundation of a daughter house, and twenty brothers were sent to Canada in the years 1858 – 1860 to give new life to Tracadie ( Today Spencer in the U.S.) Other important events in the first period are the construction of the “old church” in 1840, the establishment of the primary school around 1840, the commissioning of the first brewery in 1839, the donation of the monastery properties by the family Lebbe in 1860, the up-grade of the priory to abbey in 1871 and the development of the farm to business model for the region in the years 1875-1878.
This church promotes the isolation of our monks, for it is only accessible for guests and for the people who ring the bell at the gate of the monastery.
The former outside church was completely ceded to the parish and its pilgrims. She was operated until 2000 by the pastor of Vleteren.
“How many of you still are there?” It seems that we are considered. by many as the last of the Mohicans, like a sort of dying breed. Monasteries and abbeys know as well the sociological regularity of expansion and contraction.So many factors can influence this process. Ofcourse the general social secularization is not without consequences for our abbey. There are less new members than 10 years ago. And the age of the candidates has grown older than before.