Saint Agatha monastery: it's a unique place that we love to share

Sarah Schendeler

Sarah Schendeler works as an employee Public Services and Communication at the Heritage Center Dutch Monastic Life, located in Monastery Sint Agatha. Sarah liaises with the outside world about tours, the exhibition and public activities such as concerts and meditations. "It's a unique place that we love to share with interested parties," she said.

In the Maasheggen, near the village of St. Agatha, lies the oldest monastery in the Netherlands. It has been inhabited continuously by Kruisheren since 1371 and is regularly open to the public.

What does the area mean to you?
This environment is important to me personally, I grew up here, my "roots" are here. Also for the people who live and work in Monastery Saint Agatha, this environment has a lot of meaning. The monastery is a place of silence and is located - quite fittingly - in a quiet environment. We find it important to treat it with care. We like to contribute when opportunities arise. Right now that includes the development and opening up of the biosphere reserve Maasheggen. We have sown two pastures with alfalfa, a plant that the yellowhammer (little bird) likes very much.

Even in the past, the residents of the monastery were closely associated with their surroundings. There were brothers, such as Brother Piet, who took care of the garden for as many as fifty years, with all the love he had in him. Brother Edgar Claes made a statue of him that you pass by as you walk toward the monastery garden.

The Crusaders who still live here had a farm on the property for as long as they could. Complete with cows, chickens, a vegetable garden and an orchard. There are still nut trees, fruit trees and beehives. So there was just farming here in the convent garden. At one point, the Crusaders could no longer do it themselves. They started cooperating with farmers in the area. As a result, cows regularly walk in the meadow in front of the monastery. When we see that a calf is due, we quickly call the farmer!

Since the Maasheggen is a Unesco biosphere reserve, we get regular visits from nature organizations and governments. They meet here and then go into the area. We welcome this use of the monastery. The work these people do, consciously engaging with our natural environment, dovetails nicely with our vision for this place: to provide a place for living, working and contemplation. Cyclists and hikers enjoying the Maasheggen are also welcome here. They often make a stop at our place.

What is your favorite place in the Maasheggen?
The monastery garden is of course in the Maasheggen and that is a favorite spot of mine. This is also a bit of nostalgia: I used to come here with my mother. You have the large pond and the small pond. At the small pond there is a beautiful weeping willow (see photo) and in the big pond water lilies bloom in the summer. On my lunch break, I like to take a walk through the garden.

In the garden there are a number of monumental trees. They are beautiful and when I walk past them I get quiet inside. We have a group of fifteen volunteers who faithfully work in the garden every Tuesday morning. They ensure that the garden of the Kruisheren remains a beautiful, welcoming place where people can come to rest.

What could be better in the area?
The first thing that comes to mind is the hiking trails. They are well marked, but sometimes you have to climb over fences via posts. Fortunately, I have good mobility, but otherwise I wouldn't be able to walk the route. So the accessibility. But I know that a lot is happening, so maybe these obstacles have been removed by now. Also, I think it's important that you can easily find the information you need as a visitor. A lot is happening through different organizations. That's good, but for outsiders, information should be easy to find.

Visiting the monastery? You can!
There is a catering facility in the Gatehouse, an exhibition and, of course, the monastery garden. The garden is accessible all year round between sunrise and sunset. The exhibition, the monastery church and the Gatehouse (catering facilities) are open only during the summer season.

Opening hours (May through October):

Wednesday: 13.00 -17.00
Thursday: 13.00 -17.00
Friday: 13.00 -17.00
Sunday: 13.00 -17.00

Guided tour
You can make an appointment for a tour. For more information, visit



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