Located on a hilltop south of the Demer River near Diest, Scherpenheuvel was a small, simple village that attracted a few pilgrims each year to venerate a statue of the Virgin Mary... until it drew the attention of Albert and Isabella, who ruled the Spanish Lowlands (which included much of present day Belgium) from 1598-1621. Albert and Isabella commissioned a large basilica which still exists -- a rare intact monument from their reign. On the first Sunday after All Saints Day every year, thousands of pilgrims from across Europe gather at Scherpenheuvel for the annual candlelight procession.
The commune of Scherpenheuvel-Zichem lies 45 kilometers northeast of Brussels. Including all of its boroughs, it has a population of 22,000.
Averbode, Messelbroek, Scherpenheuvel (Montaigu), Testelt, and Zichem are boroughs within the municipal district of Scherpenheuvel-Zichem.