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Klein-Sinaai is a village near the Dutch border in the Belgian municipality of Stekene in the province of East-Flanders. Until 1976 it was an independent municipality.
In Klein-Sinaai we can find remains of the Abbey of Boudelo which was a cisterciënzer-abbey. This abbey is also known as "Baudeloo" under an older spelling form.
At the beginning of the 13th century a small religious community settled in the barren wilderness of Klein-Sinaai, near Sint-Niklaas in a place that had already been inhabited during far away prehistoric times. Boudewijn van Boekel, a Benedictine monk from the St Pieter’s abbey in Gent, set up a modest monastery that was granted the title of abbey by the Count of Flanders in 1204.
The Boudelo monastery took over the rigid Cistercian rule (1215-1216) and gradually grew into a very well organised farm, due to material help from the Count of Flanders and countless donations.
Initially manuel labour occupied a major place in the daily life of the monks, as they were living according tot he ascetic ideal of their order. But soon they passed on these duties to lay brothers who would do this job until circumstances made them leave the domain. The limited number of lay brothers was a result of an incident in 1226. In that year the abbot of Boudelo, Theodoricus, was murdered by a lay brother. The Chapter General of the Order of Cîteaux then decided that the number of converses in Boudelo should be limited to a maximum of five.  

By 1236 there were 15. Because of this, the direct exploitation of the Boudelo property – in the meantime centred around three main places, the grangriae or exterior farms in Otene and Lamswaarde in Zeeland and the land around the abbey itself – became less significant in the second half of the thirteenth century. It was replaced  by a well controlled system of lease, hereditary tenure and taxes introduced by the abbey throughout its large landownership of more than two thousand acres.
From the very beginning of the rise of the cities the monks had taken the side of the Count of Flanders. This was the reason why the buildings were devastated twice by the citizens of Gent, namely in 1381 and 1382. The ecclesiastical schism at the end of the same age caused such a discord in Flanders that the abbot of Boudelo had to flee. The financial and material chaos was completed when the abbey suffered further misfortune because of heavy floods which in the beginning of the fifteenth century swept across the domain, starting from De Braakman, an arm of the mighty Schelde, and because of the looting in 1452 brought about by the quarrels between Duke Filips de Goede and the city of Gent.
As a consequence it was only after 1460 that a new prime broke fort he abbey, lasting till 1578 and only interrupted by new floods and a financial débâcle at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was indeed in 1578 that the Sinaai monastery was thoroughly plundered by Calvinists from Gent.
Abt Del RioKunstwerk Abt Duermael en monniken In 1584, after Duke Alexander Farnese had restored order in the region of Gent and in Het Land van Waas, the monks of Boudelo, under the leadership of their abbot Jacob del Rio, decided to move from the Sinaai monastery, which had already been partly dismantled, and to settle in their house of refuge along the Ottogracht in Gent. This refuge was entitled the name abbey in 1602 and this was the outset of the triumphant rise of the Boudelo monastery: structures of the abbey were rebuilt and embellished and a brandnew abbot’s house with magnificent seventeenth-century ornaments was already left in the eighteenth century for an even more splendid place of residence at the Steendam. Meanwhile the chapel as well as the monastery buildings were decorated  in a very rich way with paintings, tapestry, bronze and stone sculpture, whereas within the walls of the abbey itself the monks revived the art of the written word, especially the prose and poetry edited for the festivities in commemoration of St Bernard.
The French occupation put an abrupt end to this unprecendented abundance and unrestrained joy of living by the Boudelo Cistercians. Although they obviously had abandoned the ideal of poverty, they were never blind to the needs of the paupers among whom they were living: every person in search of relief and support was familiar with the Gate of Boudelo.
On 31 October 1797 the monks were driven from the monastery manu militari and the whole abbeycomplex was given another destination. The old buildings along the Ottogracht were used for the Ecole Centrale, then, under Dutch government, they housed the royal College and later in the Belgian Kingdom, they became the current Koninklijk Atheneum. The abbey yard was turned into a splendid botanical garden, a meeting place for the city’s ‘beau monde’. The church, which under French rule had been at first a Temple of Reason and then the library of the Schelde County, was used by the Dutch as city library and later on also as the university of Gent library till the Boekentoren was put up in the first half of the twentieth century. The abbot’s house at the Steendam, used as the official residence of the Bishop of Gent between 1806 and 1845, was transformed into a secondary school. During the years extensions have been added, but the school is still there.

In the "cultuurhistorisch museum" in Sint-Niklaas several archeologic finds of the Boudelo-abbey are on display.
Traces of the former abbey at the site in Gent can still be found in several buildings, whereas in Klein-Sinaai the remainders of the abbey were cleared away after a last thorough archaeological study, and have been replaced by a modern residential area.






Nearby is the abbey farm from 1660 that was built with remains of the abbey.





A monument commemorates the place where the abbey wall once stood.






There are many information boards around the site that explain the history.
Close by there is the Fondation of Boudelo. A beautiful and extensive nature reserve with forests and meadows.






In 2011-2012, excavations were carried out with new sensor techniques.


Unknown buildings came into the picture. This project received international attention from the scientist press.
(Source: De Wase en Gentse Boudelo-abdij – Paul Pas)