Orval Abbey and the famous Orval Brewery

Abbaye d'Orval, Orval, Florenville, Belgija

Website of the Sanctuary

+32 61 31 10 60

Daily 9.30 am – 6.30 pm

Orval abbey is a Cistercian monastery founded in 1132 in the Gaume region of Belgium and is located in Villers-devant-Orval. You are welcome as the Rule of St. Benedict says: Let all guests that come be received like Christ, for he will say, ” I was a stranger and you took me in.”

Orval abbey

Monastic Museum

The museum’s prime originality lies in its location, as its collections are housed in vaulted cellars dating from the 18th century.

The visitor is thus taken back to the sole vestiges of the neo-classical buildings elected on plans by the architect Laurent-Benoît Dewez, which then served as the foundation when Orval was reconstructed in the beginning of the 20th century.

Museum of History, Iron and Steel Industry, Relgious Art

The collections of the Orval Museum were put together for an exhibition to commemorate the 900th anniversary (in 1970) of the arrival of the first monks in 1070. They feature three sections: architecture, the iron and steel industry, and monastic religious art.

The architectural history of the Abbey is celebrated through several mock-ups, one of which reconstitutes the state of the monastery right before it was destroyed during the Revolution in 1793.

At that time, there were two buildings next to each other: the old, medieval Abbey, and the new complex built by Laurent Benoît Dewez. Stone remnants from various periods recount the various architectural styles from pre-Roman capitals to Baroque cherubs.

Typical Cistercian elements remain: tiles, wooden piping work, and above all, an acoustic pot, a rare peace found in one of the walls of the church’s choir. It attests to the care that 12th century Cistercian monks took for the acoustics of their chants.

Orval Abbey

The Orval Brewery

Located within the confines of the Orval Abbey, the Orval Brewery was created in 1931 to finance the enormous reconstruction works of Orval. It has hired lay workers from the outset, including the master brewer, Pappenheimer, who invented the recipe.

The brewer’s commercial policy is adapted to the values of the monastic community. Income from Royalties generated from the brand name go to social welfare works and the maintenance of the buildings.

Cheese Factory

Orval cheese has been made on the premises of the Abbey since 1928, using a recipe concocted in 1816 by Trappist monks from Port du Salut Abbey.

The cheese is pressed, uncooked with a natural washed crust distinguished by its creaminess. The current dairy is situated in the old farm building erected by the architect Vaes on the model of the Cistercian barn of Ter Doest. Each production represents about 320 blocks of about 2 kilos.

Coming to Orval abbey and having the best stay:

Guides and tours in Belgium:

History of Orval abbey

Orval abbey is the fruit of a long history. One hundred and sixty-five million years ago, when the sea still covered our regions, the yellow ocre stone called “pierre de France” was already forming in the depths of these waters; later, it would be used in the construction of the monastery Fifteen thousand years ago the valley destined to receive the monastery was being hollowed out by the effects of the last Ice Age.

Orval Abbey

Three thousand years later, the first trees began to appear, woodland pine, birch, and beech; a whole forest which man began to clear between 1800 and 1200 B.C. Was there any human habitation or village on this site before the monks settled ? At the present stage of research, nothing proves it. Only Merovingian tombs have been discovered in the surroundings of the spring.

Orval Abbey is in Belgium, on the edge of the forest in Gaume, close to the borders with France and Luxembourg.

By road:
From Brussels (180 km), take the motorway E411, direction Arlon; at junction n°26, take direction Neufchâteau, and then Florenville. Orval is 8 km from Florenville, in the direction of Virton.
From Paris (290 km), take the motorway A4; leave the motorway at Reims. Take the direction Charleville – Sedan – Carignan – Margut – Orval.

From Luxembourg (60 km), take the motorway E411, direction Brussels; at junction n°29, take direction Etalle. At Etalle, continue in direction of Florenville. At Jamoigne, take a left turn in direction of Orval.Depuis Bruxelles (180 km), prendre l’autoroute E411 en direction d’Arlon ; sortie n°26 en direction de Neufchâteau, puis Florenville. Orval se situe à 8 km de Florenville, en direction de Virton.

By train:
From Brussels, service 162 to Arlon and Luxembourg. Change at Libramont and take the connection to Florenville (direction Bertrix and Virton). TEC Bus 24 station “Orval carrefour”.
From Paris (Gare de l’Est), service to Charleville-Mézières. Connection via Sedan for Carignan (20 km from Abbey).
From Liège, service to Jemelle. Change at Jemelle for Libramont; at Libramont, take the connection to Florenville (direction Bertrix and Virton).

Monastic Museum

The museum’s prime originality lies in its location, as its collections are housed in vaulted cellars dating from the 18th century. The visitor is thus taken back to the sole vestiges of the neo-classical buildings elected on plans by the architect Laurent-Benoît Dewez, which then served as the foundation when Orval was reconstructed in the beginning of the 20th century.

Museum of History, Iron and Steel Industry, Relgious Art

The collections of the Orval Museum were put together for an exhibition to commemorate the 900th anniversary (in 1970) of the arrival of the first monks in 1070. They feature three sections: architecture, the iron and steel industry, and monastic religious art.

The architectural history of the Abbey is celebrated through several mock-ups, one of which reconstitutes the state of the monastery right before it was destroyed during the Revolution in 1793. At that time, there were two buildings next to each other: the old, medieval Abbey, and the new complex built by Laurent Benoît Dewez. Stone remnants from various periods recount the various architectural styles from pre-Roman capitals to Baroque cherubs.

Typical Cistercian elements remain: tiles, wooden piping work, and above all, an acoustic pot, a rare peace found in one of the walls of the church’s choir. It attests to the care that 12th century Cistercian monks took for the acoustics of their chants.

The Orval Brewery

Located within the confines of the Orval Abbey, the Orval Brewery was created in 1931 to finance the enormous reconstruction works of Orval. It has hired lay workers from the outset, including the master brewer, Pappenheimer, who invented the recipe. The brewer’s commercial policy is adapted to the values of the monastic community. Income from Royalties generated from the brand name go to social welfare works and the maintenance of the buildings.

Cheese Factory

Orval cheese has been made on the premises of the Abbey since 1928, using a recipe concocted in 1816 by Trappist monks from Port du Salut Abbey.

The cheese is pressed, uncooked with a natural washed crust distinguished by its creaminess. The current dairy is situated in the old farm building erected by the architect Vaes on the model of the Cistercian barn of Ter Doest. Each production represents about 320 blocks of about 2 kilos.

Orval Abbey is in Belgium, on the edge of the forest in Gaume, close to the borders with France and Luxembourg.

By road:
From Brussels (180 km), take the motorway E411, direction Arlon; at junction n°26, take direction Neufchâteau, and then Florenville. Orval is 8 km from Florenville, in the direction of Virton.
From Paris (290 km), take the motorway A4; leave the motorway at Reims. Take the direction Charleville – Sedan – Carignan – Margut – Orval.
From Luxembourg (60 km), take the motorway E411, direction Brussels; at junction n°29, take direction Etalle. At Etalle, continue in direction of Florenville. At Jamoigne, take a left turn in direction of Orval.Depuis Bruxelles (180 km), prendre l’autoroute E411 en direction d’Arlon ; sortie n°26 en direction de Neufchâteau, puis Florenville. Orval se situe à 8 km de Florenville, en direction de Virton.

By train:
From Brussels, service 162 to Arlon and Luxembourg. Change at Libramont and take the connection to Florenville (direction Bertrix and Virton). TEC Bus 24 station “Orval carrefour”.
From Paris (Gare de l’Est), service to Charleville-Mézières. Connection via Sedan for Carignan (20 km from Abbey).
From Liège, service to Jemelle. Change at Jemelle for Libramont; at Libramont, take the connection to Florenville (direction Bertrix and Virton).

MASS Sunday 10.00 am
MASS Saturday 11.30 am
MASS Monday to Friday 5.30 pm
Vigils Monday to Sunday 5.00 am
Lauds Monday to Sunday 7.30 am
Opening hours Winter (Nov.to Feb.) 10.30am – 5.30pm
Opening hours Mid-season (March-May, October) 9.30am – 6.00pm
Opening hours Summer (June to Sept) 9.30am – 6.30pm

History of Orval Abbey

Orval Abbey is the fruit of a long history. One hundred and sixty-five million years ago, when the sea still covered our regions, the yellow ocre stone called “pierre de France” was already forming in the depths of these waters; later, it would be used in the construction of the monastery Fifteen thousand years ago the valley destined to receive the monastery was being hollowed out by the effects of the last Ice Age.

Three thousand years later, the first trees began to appear, woodland pine, birch, and beech; a whole forest which man began to clear between 1800 and 1200 B.C. Was there any human habitation or village on this site before the monks settled ? At the present stage of research, nothing proves it. Only Merovingian tombs have been discovered in the surroundings of the spring.

The first monks to settle in Orval arrived from the south of Italy in 1070. Count Arnould de Chiny, lord of the manor, welcomed them and granted them land from his own domain. Construction was immediately begun of the church and conventual buildings.

For reasons we do not know these pioneers moved away after about forty years. Othon, son of Arnould, replaced the monks by a small community of Canons who were able to complete the construction work begun by their predecessors ; in 1124 the completed church was consecrated by Henri de Winton, Bishop of Verdun. Soon afterwards, however, the Canons ran into economic difficulties, a situation which led 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.

On the 9th March 1132, seven monks under the leadership of Constantin arrived at Orval from Trois-Fontaines. Monks and Canons formed one single community and began at once on the adaptation of the buildings to Cistercian usages. The new church was completed before 1200.

The Cistercians were particularly careful to establish a farm and a forestry domain ; these forms of work would allow them to live according to their observances. The land immediately around the monastery is poor and unsuited to farming. As early as 1132, the monks received a small domain about 20 kms. from the monastery near Carignan ; this was to become the hub of their finest grange, that of Blanchampagne. In the following years, the monks received further land in donations. Of these lands, mention must be made of the group of Bure-Villancy, in the Meurthe-&-Moselle region, which would be the centre of OrvaI’s iron industry.

For five centuries, Orval led a hidden life, like so many other monasteries of the Order. During the 12th Century, the abbey seems to have been prosperous ; from the middle of the following century, calamities were often to be its lot for long periods. In 1252 the abbey was gutted by fire and the consequences weighed on the community for almost a century. Certain buildings had to be entirely reconstructed. So serious was the state of misery that for a time the authorities of the Order went so far as to envisage the suppression of the monastery.

Posted in Belgium and Europe