The Countess Mathilde de Canossa, who reigned over northern Italy and Tuscany in the 11th Century stopped for a drink of water at this spring and her gold wedding ring dropped in the water. Legend says that she prayed and promised that she would start an Abbey in the area if her ring was found. A fish sprung out of the water with the ring in its mouth! Doesn’t the past have beautiful legends 😊
This was the founding of Abbey Orval. A Cistercian abbey was built near the spring in 1132. The spring still supplies the abbey and the brewery with water. The world famous beer Orval has the ring and the fish on its label. It is one of 11 beers in the world (6 in Belgium) that claim to be a Trappist beer as its still brewed by hand at the Abbey under the supervision of monks. This is also the case for Chimay and Rochefort. Dom kindly offered all of these beers to Adu to taste.
When we visited the Abbey the shop was closed for a week of stock taking but its biggest business is the beers that are sold, as well as the tourist attraction of the Abbey. There is a whole section on how the beer is brewed.
The actual Abbey was just magnificent. It also had this incredibly large tree in the courtyard that must be stunning in Spring and Summer.
We were very impressed at how the abbey has been separated into sections to keep with the Covid pandemic. There is a hall which gives the history of the abbey in 4 different languages. Each section gives the talk for 5 minutes before you then move to the next part. So many historic places have been closed and this was a pleasure in terms of how it was organised.
The Abbey has quite a history and was burned down in 1252 and rebuilt. It was then pillaged by French soldiers during the Thirty Years’ War in 1637. In 1793 monks gave hospitality to an Austrian army during the French Revolution, and it was then again burned to the ground by French Revolutionaries, who forcibly evicted the monks. The Abbey then sat in ruins until 1926, when private owners donated it to the Cistercians. A new Abbey and church was then built and consecrated in 1948.
Inside the main area there was also a very inspiring black and white photo collection of adults who have Down Syndrome.