A ‘refugie’ (house of refuge) is a pied-à-terre – a second home – for rural monasteries. The monks or nuns could take refuge in them when war broke out, or during cold winters. The refuge at Herckenrode used to belong to the sisters of the Herckenrode monastery. They received guests and stored grain there. Nowadays, it belongs to the Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo (Zusters Onder de Bogen).
The Refugie van Herckenrode comprised a number of buildings on a very large site. Nowadays, it is diagonally opposite ‘Kommel’, a road that used to run right past the Crosiers (Kruisheren) monastery.
Two of the facing bricks date back to 1574. It is likely that the buildings already belonged to the monastery before this. The year seems to point to construction or rebuilding work, rather than the purchase of the building. Until 1797, the refuge was owned by the Herckenrode monastery. That year, the buildings were expropriated and sold by the French. The abbess’ house went to Claire Rijvers. The other buildings were purchased by A. F. Roemers.
In 1863, the Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo bought part of the garden and, a decade later, the rest of the complex. The abbess’ house was initially used by the Van Oppen-De Beaumont hardware factory, but passed into the sisters’ hands in 1917.
The main building of the refuge has been retained, but the abbess’ house has gone. Only the rectangular wing remains standing. Around that wing, buildings have repeatedly been demolished, added, and rebuilt.
The wing is a rectangular building with two turrets. It has two floors and an attic. In the turrets – both on the Kommel side and on the garden side – are facing bricks into which the year 1574 has been carved. There is also a brick with the initials B.H. and the coat of arms of Abbess Barbara van Hinnisdael from 1651. The building still has the old roof construction, but has otherwise been fully modernized. In its time as a monastery, it served as a women's boarding house and a guesthouse. Now, it is living accommodation for the monastery of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo.