Landcommanderij Alden Biesen, situated in the Belgian province of Limburg, is a heritage site for culture, a conference centre and a regional, Flemish and international hub for training.
The heritage site
Count Arnold III donated the chapel ‘de Biesen’ (‘of the reeds’) to the Teutonic Order, which settled in the Belgian province of Limburg. In 1220 work began on the construction of the Landkommanderij Alden Biesen, the seat of the Order whose influence extended across Europe and the Mediterranean region.
In the 16th century the medieval fortress was replaced by a Renaissance-style castle, which was then transformed during the 18th century into a summer residence with late-baroque features and a garden in the English style. During the French Revolution the Teutonic Order’s assets were seized and sold. The site became the property of Guillaume Claes and his descendants, who did not have the financial means to maintain such a large estate. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1971, after which the Belgian government acquired it and spent 15 years restoring it and modernising the interior. The site was protected by the Royal Order of 16 September 1942 and classed as a historic monument in 2000. The Flemish community decided in 1980 to turn Alden Biesen into a centre for culture, training and international conferences, and invested around 40 million euros in the purchase and initial renovation. Today, Alden Biesen is one of the largest heritage sites in Flanders, welcoming thousands of visitors each year and attracting a large and diverse public. The historical and European influence of Alden Biesen reflects its past international role as a Grand Commandery.
The cultural project
Alden Biesen is renowned for its historical and contemporary European, cultural and tourism activities, which make it a popular venue for conferences and meetings. It holds an International Storytelling Festival which is recognised on the world stage, musical events from pop to folk, and professional training activities around key skills and artistic, heritage and cultural topics.
The Landcommanderij Alden Biesen bases its activities mainly around music and the art of storytelling. For over 30 years it has hosted the Festival of Early Music (Dag Oude Muziek), in collaboration with Musica AlbaNova. The historic Van Peteghem organ (1788) is brought back to life in concerts and other musical events organised in partnership with Organum. Alden Biesen is also the Flemish centre of expertise in storytelling, and organises events such as the International Festival of Storytelling and Verhalen in het Park. The centre also hosts numerous exhibitions.