Around Damme


Picture: market square of Bruges  

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Ter Doest abbey

This abbey was founded as a branch of the abbey of Ter Duynen (Koksijde).  The abbey posessed an extended number of acres of ground, was very rich and had several famous abbots.  From the convent itself, not much is left anymore, except the monumental barn and some more recent buildings.  These buildings were raised out of the ruins of the abbey after destruction of the abbey by the Geuzen (protestant religious warriors). 

When you drive towards the domain, an old chapel points out the way to go.  This little chapel was built in 1687 on instruction of Martin a Colle, former abbot of Ter Doest.  He became head of the abbeys of Ter Doest and Ter Duynen, that merged at that time.  A little bit further down the road you pass the gate house and end up on the inner square where you can see straight in front of you the gigantic Gothic barn. 

Lambert, lord of Lissewege, donated in 1106 a piece of land to the friars of Benedictus, to build a priory.   In 1270, the friars of Benedictus left and their place was taken in by another order.  This order (Cisterciėnzers) had close ties with the Templer Knights.  In 1192, Richard Lionheart was captured by Leopold of Austria on his return from the crusades.  It is said that the abbot of Ter Doest paid the larger part of the ransom in order to get Richard out of prison.  Whether Richard Lionheart was in Ter Doest afterwards or not, is not proved, but it is assumed that he was.  In any way, he was in Damme.

The Gothic barn is unique and was built around 1280.  Although another source states that it was built around 1200.  The surface of the construction is some 54 m by 23 m; some 1340 m2.  Not bad for the 13th century.  The facade is about 30 m high!  The roof is one of a kind.  Under the impulse of the friars, a large part of the area north of Lissewege and Zeeland was protected from floodings by the sea.  The cleared lands were used for agriculture.  For the storage of the crops, large barns (tiendenschuren) were built.  The barn of Ter Doest is de largest remaining barn of its kind and is being restored at the moment. 

In 1308, all takes a turn for the worse.  Dikes break in Zeeland and the land flooded.  Under the government of Filips II, the abbey was confiscated.  In 1571, the Geuzen gave the finishing stroke and destructed the abbey completely.  Never would she rise again from the ruins...  All that was left behind by the Geuzen, was divided between the diocese of Bruges and the abbey of Ter Duynen.  In 1652, the present farm was built out of the debris of the destroyed abbey.

Nowaday a first class restaurant is established in the farm.  The barn is normally freely accessible.

How to get there?  From the market square of Damme, it takes you about 10 minutes by car.  You cross the Damse Vaart and you follow the direction of Dudzele.  Once you passed the center of Dudzele, you will already see sign giving you the direction.  Once you cross the Boudewijncanal, you turn directly to the right after the bridge over the canal.  This road will lead you straight to Lissewege.  On your way to Lissewege, you pass the domain of the abbey.

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© Hendrik De Leyn -

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