The abbey of Orval is located at the edge of the woods of the Ardennes, in a beautiful valley of the former county of Chiny. The site has been inhabitated from time immemorial. The famous well of Orval must once have had a Gallo-Roman sanctuary, which was the origin from which the valley received its sacred character.
The foundation stone for the new complex was laid in 1761, designed by the famous architect Laurent-Benoit Dewez. The church was consecrated in 1782. Almost two years to the day after the failed escape of the French royal family to Orval, on 23 June 1793, French troops bombarded both the old and new cloister, sacking the buildings and burning that which could burn. The entire estate was confiscated.
When the French hurricane ravaged the abbey, many of the monks fled to Luxembourg. Some felt that Luxembourg was not far enough and sought refuge in far-off Russia. For a very long time, the villagers of Villers-devant-Orval recounted how they had heard how the monks had been caught burying various objects in the fields, often at night, before they disappeared from the monastery themselves.The poor farmers had always been impressed by the enormous buildings that made up the abbey. The only gold they ever saw, was when it shone in the hands of the monks. They were therefore convinced that what the monks were hiding at night, were their treasures, no doubt including the French crown jewels, the personal fortune of the Bourbons, the wages for the soldiers of General de Bouillé and the war chest that would finance the counter-revolution.
Patrick Bernauw :
The Treasure of Orval | Socyberty
Translator & co-author: Philip Coppens