“Zevenbronnen” (Seven Springs) is a unique nature area in the green belt around Brussels. On less than 24 hectares, a typical old Brabant landscape unfolds with wooded hills, deep and wet valleys with here and there fields on the most fertile spots. Steep slopes offer wonderful views of the countryside.
Fauna and flora
Typical trees from the hilly country Brabant adorn the forest here, such as beech, alder, oak and Sycamore Maple. The herb layer is home to many species, including tongue fern, bitter cherry field, cuckoopint and wood rush.
In the spring, the flower carpets of wood Anemone, wild bluebell and dotter flower form a lively spectacle. Later in the year, Lilies of the Valley, Foxglove, Willow and Heath bring colour in “Zevenbronnen”. The flower varieties that are abundant attract a large number of butterflies, including the rare purple Emperor, the Brown Hairstreak and the white-letter Hairstreak.
“Zevenbronnen” (Seven sources) currently has ten ponds, remains of the fishery at the time of the Priory. They are all teeming with life! There are three large and one small pond in the domain itself.
On summer evenings, you can see bats hunting above the water surface.
“Zevenbronnen” is an ideal place for bird watching. Birds of prey circle the air looking for a meal. In the autumn the areas around the ponds are teeming with water birds. Its best to come equipped with binoculars and bird guide.
“Zevenbronnen” is a culturally and historically important place which makes you reminisce about days gone by. In 1388 an Augustinian monastery was founded by a few devout men in “Zevenbronnen”. The area was then still part of the “Zoniënwoud” (the Sonian forest). The Priory soon became very successful. The Priory took its income, either directly or through tithes, from agriculture and forestry, from the operation of mills and from fish farming in the ground’s ponds. Nothing much is left of the original Priory nowadays, apart from the ponds which still form an important element in the grounds.
Although the name “Zevenbronnen” refers to ‘seven sources’ the monks in the 18th century made use of no less than nine ponds, named ‘Crommen Vijver’ (‘Vijver’ meaning pond), ‘Ruytersvijver’, ‘Oude Molenvijver’, ‘Eysputvijver’, ‘Kerkvijver’, ‘Vetvijver’, ‘Fonteynvijver’, ‘Vierkantvijver’ and ‘Blonten vijver’.
The monastery had a famous scriptorium, where monks and brothers copied books and embellished them with artistic miniatures.
The Austrian King Joseph II dissolved the Priory on 17 March 1783, along with monasteries from other contemplative orders. According to him, in the Priory ‘only a purely contemplative life was led, whereby religion was completely useless to the State and fellow man’. A few years later the grounds were sold. The new owners demolished almost all the buildings. Only the old ‘vreemdelingenkwartier’, a place for visitors, was left standing.
The wooded eastern flank, with mainly coniferous trees, is thinned every eight years. The last thinning took place in 2011. The lawns are mown four times a year. A part of the large lawn is mown three times and once during the summer for hay making.