In the year 1282, Arnoud van Leuven, Lord of Breda, gives about 1500 acres of land to the Abbey of St. Bernardus in Hemiksem, Antwerp. The village of Hoeven gets his name from this 1500 acres. 1,5 acre is 1 "hoeve". The 1500 acres were about 100 "hoeven" big. Just outside the village an estate is found, lying just a bit higher in the landscape. In Dutch this is called: "Boven op de Donk". This is where Bovendonk gets it's name from.
The grounds the Abbey got from the Lord of Breda are mostly swamps and very wet and need to be drained. The polders between Hoeven and river Mark "de Hoevense Beemden" were created during this period. These polders happened to be very fertile and suited for agriculture and cattle breeding. Farmers who would want to use these lands needed to pay a tenth of their income to the estate Bovendonk. The brothers living on the estate could live from the income from the farmers and were almost selfsufficient.
From the start of the 16th century, a period of wars in the Netherlands and Europe started. In the 80-year long war with Spain, the Spanish Army takes Bovendonk. After a fire, Bovendonk is rebuilt in 1596. Just 45 years later, a new building is built. Only finished a few years, Republicans and the Abbey get into an argue about who owns Bovendonk. In the end, the Abbey gets to keep the estate. In 1795 the French get to the Netherlands during the enlightenment. Their ownership doesn't last long. Only 5 years later, the estate belongs to the Catholics again. Until Napoleon shows up, he takes Bovendonk until 1813. Willem I van Oranje restores the Dutch Republic and gives Bovendonk back to the Bishop of Antwerp.
In 1798, Breda started exploring the posibilities of starting an own diocese. To do so a small seminar for teaching priests was started. The apostolic vicar Adrianus van Dongen was responsible for this challenge. In 1816 the seminar relocated to Bovendonk. The first president of the seminar, Johannes van Hooijdonk became the first bishop of Breda in 1853 . For the first few years he lived at Bovendonk.
In 1892 the diocese bought the grounds of Bovendonk from the state, who was, up until then, owner of the estate. The estate costed roughly 14.000 gulden, approximately 7.000 euro.
In the year 1895, Pierre Cuypers, famous Dutch architect who built the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Station a.o., got the assignment to design and build a new seminar. The old buildings and bishops home were torn down and a new neo-gothic building got built. In the year 1907 construction was completed and the building was first used in 1908.
60 years later, less and less young men started their education to become a priest. In 1967 the seminar was shut down. The books from the library were brought to the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam. For 11 years, the building was completely empty. Until Toom Hommel, a priest from Roosendaal started a community at Bovendonk. Within a few years and a lot of help from volunteers he renovated Bovendonk. In 1983 a new form of seminar was opened, not only for new priests, but also for men who came into touch with their belief on a later age. A part-time study.
In 1990 a start was made with professionalising and commercialising of Bovendonk. B.V. Expoitatie Bovendonk rents most of the spaces for the conference centre, hotel and restaurant. The floors above the entrance are permanently rented to the seminar.
Throughout the year, Bovendonk offers guided tours around Bovendonk. During a tour, a guide will show you around Bovendonk and tell you everything about the special history. Contact us for a guided tour.