By the end of the 12th century, twelve monks left Klaarkamp, their mother house near the city of Dokkum. ‘They were looking for a suitable place for a new monastery and stumbled upon an artificial dwelling hill called Adduwert or Adewerd in the rough salt marsh area in the north of Groningen. The plan was to erect a monastery that would outgrow the monastery in Dokkum. The powerful Sint Bernardus abbey no longer exists, but thanks to the latest 3D technology, you can still take a walk across the monastery grounds of centuries ago. Join us in a journey across the Miracle of Aduard.
It is generally assumed that the Aduard monastery was founded in 1192. Cistercian monks led a very frugal life and liked to work with their hands. The uncultivated salt marsh area must have posed quite a challenge, because for centuries they were involved in reclamation, dyke construction, the digging of ditches and canals, including the eight-kilometre long Aduarderdiep as proof of their skill. Their involvement in Middag-Humsterland can still be clearly seen. The monks were also competent in the area of construction engineering, and a ninety-metre long cruciform church, the largest in the north of the Netherlands, is said to be proof of this.
Brickyards were realised for the construction and extension of the monastery, and it is believed that this is how they introduced this skilled trade in the region. Huge numbers of Roman bricks, glazed tiles and ornaments were produced here, as the handiwork of the monks realised a miracle on the Aduard artificial dwelling hill. The Cistercian Saint Bernardus Abbey developed into one of the largest monastery complexes in Europe.
The monastery was finished around 1300. In addition to the maintenance of dykes, canals and agricultural land, the monks increasingly applied themselves to the trade in and export of Roman bricks from the brickyards and other products. During the 15th century, the monastery earned prestige in the area of piety and scholarship. Well-known scholars of those days travelled to Aduard to discuss and reflect on scientific topics; in those days, the abbey was an academy rather than a monastery.
The great fire
During the Eighty Years’ War, in 1580 to be precise, State and Spanish armies were fighting near the monastery, causing it to catch fire and the monks to flee. Meanwhile, the Reformation progressed in Europe: Roman Catholicism became a forbidden religion, resulting in the suppression of the many monasteries and convents in Groningen in the 16th century. In 1594, the powerful Saint Bernardus Abbey was closed and gradually demolished, allowing for the current village to develop on the ruins.
All that was retained was the Roman-Gothic monastery infirmary which was converted into a Protestant church. Various houses in Aduard were constructed using the Roman bricks from the former abbey. One of the oldest houses now accommodates the St. Bernardushof Museum.
Experience the miracle
The fire destroyed the entire monastery archives, and no image, portrait or record was saved. Yet information about the history could be gained through excavations in the 1930s and the Latin Aduard Ambten Chronicle written in the 15th and 16th century. In combination with investigations and logical thinking, these two sources resulted in a modern miracle. Walk the two-kilometre route around the former monastery grounds which takes in seven works of art and information boards. ‘Would you like to know more about how this works? Come to Aduard and go back into time. This really is a miracle!’