The world of abbot De Loose

One of the periods in the Ename abbey history that we know very well is the time that Antonius De Loose acted as abbot.  He was a genuine manager who left us many documents, that help us today in the virtual reconstruction of this period.  We know the life of Antonius De Loose quite well, from a number of sources, but we only have one image of him.  He became abbot of the Ename abbey in May 1657.

Antonius De Loose

The only known depiction of abbot Antonius De Loose (Jan Bale, 1658)

As an abbot, De Loose left us a manuscript with the rules of the abbey (written in 1667 and published in 1999), his personal diary over the period 1671-179 (published in French by C. van den Haute in 1921) and a number of letters written to Pieter Hemony, who produced the carillon of the abbey (published by the Dutch carillon expert André Lehr in 2004).  He commissioned also other documents, such as maps of the abbey properties, which are today of paramount importance to reconstruct Ename and its evolution since the 10th century.  The creator of these maps was surveyor Jan Bale from Ghent.

Jan Bale in 1658

A self-portrait of Jan Bale in 1658

Jan Bale himself depicted this mapping process in a painting preserved today in the castle of Olsene, Belgium.  The scene shows us abbot De Loose (standing), Jan Bale (seated in the middle) and his team of surveyors. The painting is signed by Jan Bale and dated in 1658. On the table, new maps are being drawn and coloured.  Surveying equipment and documentation are lying on the floor.  Abbot De Loose is supervising the work.

team of Jan Bale

The team of Jan Bale working in the Ename abbey (Jan Bale, 1658, painting currently at the Meheus castle in Olsene, Belgium)

The maps that this team made are preserved today, both as drafts and in a final version, in the Beaucarne House in Ename.  These maps show in detail the abbey properties in the neighbourhood of Ename.  The colours depict the different property rights of the parcels.

draft of Ename map by Jan Bale

Draft of a part of the Ename map by Jan Bale (preserved at the Beaucarne House)

Ename map by Jan Bale

One of the two final maps of the abbey properties around Ename by Jan Bale (1661)

The abbey is depicted twice.  First of all, it is present in the final map (see detail below) showing, for example, the timber harbour and elm driveway at the entrance and the abbey belltower containing a carillon.

detail Ename map

Detail of the Ename map of Jan Bale depicting the abbey in 1660

Detail view on the abbey buildings

Detail view on the abbey buildings on the map of Jan Bale (1661)

The second depiction, drawn on parchment, shows the front side of the abbey and is preserved in the Beaucarne House in Ename.  This highly detailed drawing is very precise (as it fits very well with the excavation results) and of uttermost importance for our virtual reconstructions.

Drawing on parchment of the Ename abbey buildings

Drawing on parchment of the Ename abbey buildings in 1660 by Jan Bale (Beaucarne House)

detail abbey drawing by Jan Bale

Detail of the original drawing of the abbey by Jan Bale (Beaucarne House)

Based on these drawings and the archaeological remains that have been excavated in the period 1982 – 1995, we made a detailed virtual reconstruction of the abbot and guest quarters of the abbey, containing (see image below from left to right) the old gate and prison (with the abbey dovecote on top) , the meeting room (as depicted above), the entrance and staircase hall, the room of the doorkeeper/tailor and the former house of the abbot of which the function around 1660 is unknown (maybe house of the provost).  The upper floor on the left-hand side contains the apartment of the abbot.

Virtual reconstruction Ename abbey

Virtual reconstruction of the guest quarters of the Ename abbey (3D model: Cassandre Jean)

Augmented reality visualisation

Augmented reality visualisation of the virtual guest quarters on top of the archaeological remains (image: Cassandre Jean)

The highly decorated baroque entrance portal gave way to a staircase hall that provided access on the left-hand side to the meeting room (see image above) downstairs, and to the apartment of the abbot upstairs.  On the right-hand side, one goes to the dining room for guests (downstairs) and to the guest rooms upstairs.  Above the entrance door to the staircase hall is a door to the carillon tower.  The excavation results provided us with more information on the structure of the elaborated staircase.

virtual reconstruction of the central staircase hall

A draft virtual reconstruction of the central staircase hall (3D model: Cassandre Jean)

The virtual reconstruction of the carillon tower still needs more work and will hold, from top to bottom, the bells, the keyboard, the clockwork with drum and the weights of the clockwork.  The building of this carillon was one of the major works that abbot De Loose commissioned when being promoted to abbot in spring 1657.  The bells are being cast by Pieter Hemony between September 1658 and 1660 and the carillon is fully operational before August 1665, as mentioned by Pieter Hemony in a letter to abbot De Loose.

open carillon tower

Open 3D model of the carillon tower (3D model: Cassandre Jean) – work in progress

1000 years of history in one view

The archaeological site of Ename tells the story of a thriving medieval trade settlement that is replaced by a Benedictine abbey.  This story has been unravelled by 30 years of excavations and 80 years of historical studies and is shown in the local heritage centre and at the archaeological site in several ways.

Ename Timeline

The Ename Timeline shows the evolution of the site in connection with the excavated objects (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

One application is called Timeline showing this story in an interactive 4D way (i.e. 3D + time).  We have updated this application by adding the 1015 period (showing the trade settlement that precedes the abbey) but also by adding the current archaeological site through drone imagery.

Timeline - Ename 2017

The updated Timeline application includes a 3D view of the current archaeological site (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

To obtain the appropriate images, a drone flight was planned to visualise the site from the same viewpoints as the virtual reconstructions, so that the virtual and real images fit together seamlessly.


The DJI drone ready to take off (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

drone flight

The drone taking off for another recording session of the archaeological site (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

aerial view of the site

High-resolution drone view of the archaeological site (photo: Rpaswork Drone Solutions)

By recording site images that fit with the existing virtual reconstruction images, an interactive visualisation of the site allows the visitors to experience and explore the evolution of the site.  As the abbey has been preceded by an Ottonian trade settlement, we also have added the virtual reconstruction of the site around 1015.

Ename 1015

The Ename trade settlement around 1015 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In this way, the Ename Timeline visualises not only 1000 years of evolution of a site but links also all available historical and archaeological information (I-symbol) and the excavated objects (excavation symbol) on display around the application.

Timeline Ename 1015

The Timeline application links the virtual reconstruction of Ename in 1015 to context information and objects on display (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

Reconstructed staff

The story of a Masterpiece – part 4

The ivory crosier of Ename is an outstanding masterpiece of Flemish Romanesque art. It probably carries a complex and rich symbolism which makes it even more special.  Therefore we have made the crosier the main subject of the Eham 1291 educational game and virtual tour.  This game is completely based upon historical facts, but we have taken the freedom to put some causal links between some facts which are not proven by any historical source.

repaired crosier

The repaired crosier is the main subject of the Eham 1291 game (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

For example, we know that at some point, the Ename crosier had been broken, but continued to be used as it has been meticulously repaired.  We know also that the local lord remained very long in power, not transferring the power to his son.  We link the breaking of the crosier to a quarrel between father and son, although we don’t have any historical proof of that, which is quite normal, even today this kind of information could remain under the radar.


In the game, you need to get the repaired crosier to the abbot (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

The game is a small quest for the keys of the box, in which the crosier is brought back from the goldsmith who repaired it, and can be played in an hour by a group.  In the game, the symbolism of the crosier is briefly explained.  On the front side, Christ as Saviour (Saint Saviour) symbolises the power of the abbot over his monks.

Saint Saviour

On one side, Christ as Saint Saviour symbolises the power of the abbot over his monks (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

This symbolism is best represented by the 12th century drawing below, showing the abbot as Christ at the Last Judgement (aka Majestas Domini). The abbot is holding his staff as the symbol of this power to judge and punish monks (the knob is the the symbol for this juridical power) while the staff resembles the stick of a shepherd (that provides guidance and support for the sheep). Note the biting dragons and caged devil!


An abbot depicted as Christ in Majesty (British Library, Arundel Ms. 91, f. 86r)

On the other side, the Bride of Christ carries a lily staff as symbol of virginity, but symbolises also the role of the abbot as caring mother, guiding and protecting his monks. At the same time, she points at the text that probably says “The Bride of Christ, trampling the neck of the dragon”.

Bride of Christ

On the other side, the Bride of Christ symbolises the care of the abbot for his monks (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

The dragon is the medieval symbol of the evil in man, so it’s very present in many medieval manuscripts.


King David writing, influenced by the spirit of God (dove) and the evil of man (dragon) (British Library, Cotton Ms. Nero C IV, f. 46r, 1150 AD)


This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Virtual Life in Ename


Eham 1291 has animals, such as sheep and pigs, that are roaming around automatically with AI (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In the first version of the Ename educational game – called Ename 1290 –  virtual animals where already present everywhere in the game, having some AI (artificial intelligence). One of the major improvements of the Eham 1291 game is the use of virtual humans. Although no dialogue can be started with these characters, they are influenced by the actions and decisions of the player(s) of the game.  We have introduced two kinds of interaction.


When playing the game, you can end up at the pillory (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The first kind are cutscenes, which in fact are small real-time movies that are played out as a result of an action of the player.  For example, if the player takes a certain object that he should not take away, the player is put at the pillory for theft, resulting in game over. This not only makes the players think about the rules of a medieval world but also shows the strict social control within a medieval village and the medieval juridical system.

medieval court

Medieval open-air court and pillory (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

A guide playing this educational game with a group of children – target group for Eham 1291 are 10-12-year-olds – can expand on such aspects as other elements of justice are also visualised in the game such as the open air court benches (vierschaar).


The Ename timber harbour shows in one scene the work flow from supply of tree trunks to transport of the timber by boat (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In the game, such elements have been constructed in a very readable way. For example, in the timber harbour, the production of timber is shown from beginning to end, so the guides can explain it in a very visual way.


The carpenter finishes his beam… (image: Visual Dimension bvba)


…but reacts if you interfere with his work (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The second kind of interactions are changes in the behaviour of NPCs (non-player characters). For example, if you try to take the wooden beam the carpenter is finishing at the timber harbour, he will not only blame you for trying to take away this object, but also will give you extra information that is useful later on in the game.


The ferryman gets you across the river Scheldt (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

You need to pay the ferryman to get over the river, but you also need to get back to the abbey to finish the game… So you need to find a way to get over the river yourself, which turns out not to be easy, so the game not only defies the knowledge and correct judgement of the children but also their ability to perform the physical action of getting over the river…

3D goose

3D digital goose ready for animation (3D model and images: Kvakling @TurboSquid)

Also animals are playing a crucial role in the game. For example, you only get free passage if you can divert the geese that block your way when leaving the abbey farm, without it you cannot finish the game.


The animated geese at the abbey farm (image: Visual Dimension bvba)


This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

abbey gardens

VR tour of the Ename abbey gardens

On the recent Heritage Day in Flanders (Sept 10, 2017), we organised a unique guided tour on the archaeological site of Ename, using a virtual reality visualisation of the abbey gardens in 1663 and 1730.  Such a VR guided tour is one of the possible ways of providing GroupVR (see also our WTCB presentation earlier this year).

abbey Ename 1730

Virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey gardens in 1730 (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

This virtual reconstruction of the abbey gardens in 1663 and 1730 uses spherical panoramas in a large number of points, allowing to go from one virtual location to the other and in this way, walking around in the gardens, admiring its (reconstructed) beauty from different points of view.


Virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey entrance in 1663 (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

By walking around on the archaeological site in the same way, going from point to point in the physical space (indicated by traffic cones), a guide can explain how the abbey gardens looked like in a certain period, and the members of the guided group can see these virtual features through a cardboard VR viewer (in which they have put their smartphone) or on a tablet.

guided group VR

A guided tour on the archaeological site VR using visualisation of a virtual reconstructions in 1663 and 1730 (photo: Veerle Delange)

Although the cardboard viewer without strap gives the best results, it turned out that tablets are the easiest to use, as they require less configuration.  In any case, all participants to the six guided tours were very confident that they were much better experiencing the site and learning about its history.

Participants VR tour

Participants to the guided tour were using both VR cardboard viewers and tablets (photo: Veerle Delange)

This approach is another way to implement GroupVR and turn 3D and VR into a support for site guides, not a replacement, with the additional benefit of social interaction and better communication between the members of the group.

Ename 1730 fish pond

View on the garden pavilion and the fish pond in the Ename abbey garden in 1730 (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

Interactive access to digital archives

In the last 5 years, many outstanding medieval manuscripts have been made accessible in a digital way, for example at national libraries such as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) or British Library.  Also the Royal Library of Belgium has digitised many outstanding manuscripts that are of paramount importance to our research for 3D virtual reconstructions (as can be seen in this blog).  One exceptional document is the Veil Rentier, a rent book describing the properties of the lord of Oudenaarde and the rent for each parcel or service (such as transport, water- and windmills). The document resides currently in the Royal Library in Brussels.

Veil Rentier

The Veil Rentier d’Audenarde, a 13th century rent book in the Royal Library of Belgium (photo: Businarias)

This medieval document, written in 1275 and updated and illustrated around 1290, is exceptional for two reasons. First of all, it contains a wealth of drawings depicting daily life, specific sites and objects (for example the market cross that we reconstructed and documented in this blog).


Depictions of a windmill (one of the earlierst) and a watermill next to their yearly rental cost (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 15r)

Secondly, it is a secular document from the 13th century, one of the very few that have been preserved, giving insight in the secular real estate and customs of that time.  For these two reasons, the full document has been translated in Dutch and published in 2011.


The harbour of Oudenaarde, with the list of taxes on transported goods (KBR, Ms. 1175, ff. 11v and 12r)

As the book has been updated and illustrated around 1290, possibly in the Ename abbey, we have added the book to the Eham 1291 game, putting it on one of the desks of the scriptorium.

Veil Rentier updating

The Veil Rentier rent book in the scriptorium for updating (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

With gestures only, a museum visitor can take the book, open it, browse through it (from folio 5 to 15) and read specific parts of the text (one hears that part of the text in modern Dutch), using the available translation by Businarias.

Veil Rentier reading

Reading about the taxes in the harbour of Oudenaarde in the Veil Rentier (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

In this way, we not only allow the general public to look at this outstanding manuscript and enjoy its unique illustrations, but also understand and appreciate the text, that provides an unprecendented window onto the daily live in Ename and its surroundings in 1290.  This new TimeGate application helps the museum not only to provide a better context for the museum objects and the archaeological site, but also to provide interactive and intellectual access to manuscripts in digital libraries, which are considered to appeal to experts only.


Properties at Ogy (including a watermill) in the Veil Rentier; with text corrections (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 98v)

As the museum visitor using this Eham 1291 application can also visit virtually a reconstructed windmill and watermill, these constructions depicted in the Veil Rentier get again an appealing and rich context.


The reconstructed 13th century watermill, based upon French INRAP data (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

Again, these virtual reconstructions allow to bring both archaeological results and images from digital libraries to the wider public, such as the splendid depictions below of a medieval watermill in manuscript from 13th and 14th century.

medieval watermill

Depiction of the interior of a medieval watermill around 1225-1250 (Ms. 764, f. 44r, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)


Interior of a watermill around 1310-1320 (British Library, Royal Ms. 2 B VII, f. 046r)


This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Enjoy the Ename abbey gardens in virtual reality

Ename abbey gardens 1665

The Ename abbey gardens around 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

We recently made a virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730, which is now available onlien and in multiple forms in the context of the free exhibition Old Love at the Ename Heritage Centre.

Ename Heritage Centre

The Ename Heritage Centre and archaeological site (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The 3D virtual reconstruction can be superimposed on the real landscape by looking through “peep boxes” containing a transparant 3D print of the reconstruction.

peep boxes and VR

18th century peep boxes combined with 21th century VR on the 2nd floor of the Heritage Centre (photo: Veerle Delange)

Additionally, an interactive walktrough of the abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730 can be experienced with any VR headset and any tablet (and can be viewed also on any desktop).

Ename abbey gardens in 1665

Ename abbey gardens in 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

Here is the 1665 tour on VR headset and tablet or desktop (for the headset version, push START on both sides before you put your smartphone in the cardboard viewer).

abbey gardens 1730

Overview of the French gardens in the Ename abbey in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

And here is the 1730 tour in the new French gardens of the abbey on VR headset and tablet or desktop.

garden pavilion 1730

Garden pavilion in the French gardens in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)