Orval is one of the best beers in the world, no doubt! While you're visiting it would be inexcusable not to have a glass at the source! It's a darkish beer with an intense and complex flavour. Compared to it, Molson Canadian (and other beers like it) are nothing but yellow water. ***. The monks put much care into brewing this delicious beverage!
Also, the cheese is delectable and hearty, and hard to find outside the Abbey. Try some, with some unique brown Orval bread! I can imagine this is the stuff keeping monks and travellers healthy for centuries!
From 1668 to 1707 Charles de Bentzeradt, a native of Echternach (Luxembourg) became Abbot of Orval. This austere monk was above all a reformer. Taking as model what Abbot de Rancé had accomplished at the Abbey of La Trappe in Normandy, Charles established the "Strict Observance" in his own monastery.
17th til first half of 18th century:
The iron industry bloomed at Orval and the revenues were mainly used to the building of a new monastery for which the plans had been drawn by the famous architect Laurent-Benoit Dewez.
The new church was consecrated in 1782.
In 1789 the French Revolution broke out and all the possessions of Orval across the border were immediately confiscated (as happened all over the country).
23rd June 1793: the revolutionary troops, led by General Loison, burned the monastery. Everything was wiped out and the community was forced to withdraw to its refuge in Luxembourg and then to the Priory of Conques.
7th of November 1795, the community was officially suppressed and its members disbanded, leaving the walls and remainings of the monastery to the mercy of the weather. What was not been wiped out and eroded fell in the hand of stone- and treasure-seekers.
wars between France and Burgundy and later between France and Spain brought big devastation to the Luxembourg region and to Orval.
Low Countries suffering but Orval bloomed and reached its highest point of development.
Abbot Bernard de Montgaillard, from southern France, managed, despite the opposition of the community, to have himself appointed Abbot of Orval by Archduke Albert and Isabelle (1605). He restored the cured the economical situation of the Monastery and restored the buildings.
But more especially he was a precursor in giving his community reform constitutions which led to an increase in fervour. That led to a growth in the amount of novices:
in 1619 the community was counted 43 members: 27 professed monks, 8 lay brothers and 8 novices.
In 1637 at the height of the Thirty Years War, the troops of the Maréchal de ChâtiIlon pillaged and completely destroyed the monastery and its dependencies. The reconstruction happened at the end of that century, in uncertain times.
On the 9th March 1132, seven monks under the leadership of Constantin arrived at Orval from Trois-Fontaines. Together with the
Canons they formed one single community and began immediatly with the adaptation of the buildings to Cistercian usages.
The new church was completed before 1200.
The Cistercians had to live according to their observances:
"The monks follow in the footsteps of those whom, in times past, God called into the desert to engage in spiritual warfare. As citizens of heaven, they become strangers to worldly behaviour. Living in solitude and silence they aspire to that interior quiet in which wisdom is born. They practise self-denial in order to follow Christ. Through humility and obedience they struggle against pride and the rebellion of sin. In simplicity and labour they seek the blessedness promised to the poor. By generous hospitality they share with their fellow-pilgrims the peace and hope which Christ has freely given."
To be able to live in solitude they needed to be able to support themselves. They started to farm but the soil nearby the monastery was too poor to have good harvests. In 1132 the monks received a small domain about 20 kms. from the monastery near Carignan, it would be the first of several land donations in the succeeding years.
Orval led a hidden life during the next five centuries, but it was not safed from calamities over the years. Following what seemed to be a prosperous time during the 12th century, from 1252 on, the abbey was victim of several disasters: that year it got gutted by fire. The consequences weighed on the community for almost the period of a century. Some buildings needed to be reconstructed entirely . The state of misery was so severe that for a time the authorities of the Order were considering as to envisage the suppression of the monastery.
The first monks to settle in Orval arrived from the south of Italy in 1070. They started to build a church the moment they settled. For unknown reasons they left the area after about 40 years later.
The unfinished building work of the monks got completed in 1124 by Canons.
The church got consecrated by Henri de Winton, Bishop of Verdun.
You can see the picture of it in the openingspage.
Bad luck turned up again when the Canons faced economic difficulties, that forced them to request affiliation to the Order of Cîteaux, at that time in full expansion.
Their request was transmitted to Saint Bernard who accepted it. He entrusted the re-establishment of Orval to the eldest of his daughter-houses, the Abbey of Trois-Fontaines in Champagne.
In the newer part of the abbaye you can enter into the basement. There is a small museum that you can visit.
You also can visit the church, mounting the stairs. It will lead you to a balcony of which point you have a nice view on the church. Last time we went it was opened in the afternoon.
The door to this balcony is however opened on temporary hours, between 2 and 4 pm, and not even daily.
If you are staying in the Luxembourg Province of Belgium you should pay a visit to the Orval monastery.
The Monastery consists out of different parts as seen on the map at the opening page:
-cloister (with church)
On this picture you can view the cloister and t he huge madonna with child statue that decorates the wall.
The renewed monastery opened at 1926.
The monastery of Orval has a nice legend.
One day a princes called Mathilde dropped her engagement ring in this water.
She was still crying when all of a sudden a fish came on the surface, carying her ring on the top of it's head.
Ever since, the symbol of Orval is the fish with the ring. This picture shows you the exact location of the event.
In 2001, Prince Filip of Belgium asked his princess Mathilde to become his wife at this very spot (as she is named the same as the princess of the legend).
Life can be a fairy tale `-)
Only on appointment and with motivation, you can ask for a guided tour at the brewery.
If you are into brewing yoursel, then this might be very interesting.
It is about the only trappist brewery that is so open to the public.
Inside you can buy all kinds of stuff related to the orval beer.
Wenceslas (1337-1383) was the son of John the Blind. He was First Duke of Luxembourg from 1354-1383