Abbey of Our Lady of Orval

A legend tells that Countess Mathilda of Tuscany dropped her wedding ring in the water while she was sitting on the edge of a fountain. After a long and fruitless search, she prayed to God and a trout emerged from the water with her ring in its mouth. (Today this is the symbol and coat of arms of the abbey). The Countess exclaimed: „Truly, this place is a Val d’Or“ (Val d’Or translated from the French means Golden Valley). And to express her gratitude, she decided to build a monastery on the spot.

According to the historical data, the first monks to settle in Orval were the Benedictines in 1070, who came from Calabria, Southern Italy. They were granted land by Count Arnould of Chiny and the construction of a monastery and a church began. However, they left after 40 years. They were replaced by Canons and later Cistercians from Champagne joined the new inhabitants.

The Cistercian Order is an order that separated themselves from the Benedictines in 1098. Its most prominent member is Bernard of Clairvaux, who, according to some sources, turned the Knights Templar into homosexuals, that is to say, his rules were very strict.

After repeated devastations and burning-downs over the centuries, the monastery was completely destroyed during the French Revolution (maybe I don’t need to mention this well-known fact) and it was not until a century and a half later when the then family-owner of the property donated it to the Cistercian Order and the new buildings of the abbey were built (between 1926 and 1948).

Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval

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They are not open for visitors.

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The reconstruction was executed by a representative of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, to which the monastery belongs to this very day.

This Order separated in its turn from the Cistercians in 1663 through the abbot of the Cistercian Monastery in Soligny-la-Trappe in France and thus, it took the name Order of Trappists. It is an order with even more rigorous rules and is well known for the goods that the monks produce by themselves in accordance with these rules. Their most famous product is the so-called Trappist beer. Maybe it is so famous mainly due to the fact that only a few monasteries in the world are allowed to brew it. Today the number of them is 11, to wit: 6 in Belgium (one is Orval and soon I will show another one), 2 in the Netherlands, 1 in Austria, 1 in the USA, and 1 in Italy. Once Trappist beer was brewed in some monasteries in France and even in Banja Luka in Bosnia.

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The medicinal herb garden in front of the Pharmaceutical Museum.

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To the right is the guest lodge where many highly placed guests like members of the parliament of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, kings, and other persons of importance were received in the past.

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The ruins of the old abbey and the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, generously placed for free access. At first sight – nothing of great interest…

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One rosette on the north façade, three windows, and the ‘dead gate’ leading to the graveyard.

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This stone in the middle of the choir is part of the sarcophagus of Wenceslaus I (1337-1383) – the first Duke of Luxembourg. (In 1354, his half-brother Charles IV granted Luxembourg the rank of a duchy.)

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Shortly after I visited Orval, I read a book (all by chance, but quite synchronously at the same time) that Nostradamus has spent some time in Orval where he has been let in on secret knowledge. The book was in Bulgarian language, so I first decided that there was a spelling or translating mistake and this information cannot be referred to Orval.

But in search of more information on the subject, a whole different story of the abbey revealed itself gradually before me, a story that is closely linked to all the conspiracy theories about the orders, the mysteries and the truth about the history of the mankind.

The Countess in question – Mathilda of Tuscany was an aunt (or foster-mother) of Godfrey of Bouillon – the first Ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the First Crusade. She and Count Arnold of Chiny (a close friend of Godfrey) welcomed the monks from Calabria who were led by a man, presumably an heir of the Merovingians, as it is said in „The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail“, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln. In the book is also said that among the monks was Peter the Hermit himself – one of the most important propagandists for the First Crusade and tutor of Godfrey.

In 1108, the monks vanished mysteriously. There aren’t any historical records why and where they departed for. It is assumed that they left for Jerusalem and the king title of Godfrey was offered by a mysterious conclave, led by a Calabrian monk….

And what about Nostradamus? Between 1542 and 1544, Michel de Nostredame or “Notre-Dame” spent some months in the Abbey of Orval, where he was presumably given an ancient Templar book on which all of „his“ prophecies were based. After his researcher, Gerard de Sede, during his 18-month stay in the abbey Nostradamus was let in on a secret teaching and became subordinate to the Order Priory of Sion.

It is said, that there were at least two hidden treasures in Orval (the Golden Valley) – one of the Knights Templar and one of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, that, unlike its owners, managed to reach the abbey in their attempt to flee from Paris during the French Revolution….

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The detail that I like most on the open territory of the abbey – because of its unusual and unconventional form.

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