BIRTHPLACE OF SINT-TRUIDEN
Capital of Hesbaye
Trudo, founder of the Saint Trudo abbey
The foundation of the abbey by Trudo, son of Count Wicbolde, dates back to around the year 655. This first abbey probably consisted of a church and some wooden monastery buildings. The former Benedictine abbey around which the city of Sint-Truiden grew up, left its mark on the wider area. As a testament to the abbey’s power within the historic city walls, today its architectural heritage on this site still reflects the identity of the city and of the abbey itself.
The Rule of Saint Benedict: ‘Ora et Labora’
When it was founded, the abbey depended on the Bishop of Metz. In the 8th or early 9th century, the order adopted the Rule of Saint Benedict. Its daily schedule consisting of seven prayers, meditative reading and working requires devotion and an unwavering faith in God. After the devastating fire of 1975, the city of Sint-Truiden completely renovated the abbey church domain, which also contains this sacred number seven:
seven stepping stones across the abbey’s updated history:
- the Abbey Square
- the Baroque portal of the abbey church domain
- the archaeological field
- the eastern stage or sanctuary
- the semi-underground silent room or crypt
- the event area or the grandstand located on the side
- the abbey tower with its three experience levels.
Gardens and abbeys
The church field has no remains of the old abbey gardens. Its origin is the new garden laid out in 1999 on the ruins of the abbey church. The garden is bordered by the ruins of the old abbey tower – part of the 11th-century western block in Romanesque style, the Baroque portal from 1655, the school buildings constructed after the fire, the playground, and the undulating, plastered wall of the Academy Hall foyer.
The design for the church field was kept simple. Using imagery, it evokes the old pilgrims’ church, and by doing so underlining the importance of this foundational location.
The outer walls of the church and choir are marked by rough boulders stacked in metal baskets. The church floor is marked out in the grass, and eight steel columns each 18 meters high suggest the elevation and verticality of the old church building, now vanished.
The crypt’s shell rises above the grass at church level and recalls the former choir. Behind the crypt and choir, a grid of tall-cone fruit trees was planted to shield the church area from the playground behind it. They also refer to the fruit-growing tradition in Hesbaye, of which Sint-Truiden was the centre.
Only the outer walls of the abbey church’s tower were spared, so a complete restoration was out of the question. That’s why the tower is presented as a ruin. Today’s pilgrims can visit the restored ruin. An ascent provides panoramic views of the surroundings, both near and far. It also shows the tower in all its facets: historically architecturally and materially. As you climb the 193 stairs, you’ll experience the sobering power of a millennium’s worth of architectural history and of the glorious past. All the way at the top, you get to enjoy a breath-taking panorama of the city and its wider region.
Today, the tower is much more than merely a symbol of the abbey’s power, and much more than a ruin. It’s an answer to the search for an appropriate new purpose that both elevates the monument itself and invites people to come visit it.
The work of art by Koen Vanmechelen also contributes to the cultural-historical re-evaluation of the site: once the destination for pilgrims visiting the crypt of Saint Trudo, today it’s the place where conceptual art at the birthplace of the city of Sint-Truiden tells the world about this place’s connection with both the abbey and the city, creating a new type of pilgrimage.
The abbey tower is open every day, some holidays excepted.
An entry ticket to the tower can be purchased at Toerisme Sint-Truiden, Grote Markt, 3800 Sint-Truiden.