St. Peter's Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey in Ghent, now a museum and exhibition centre. St. Peter's was founded in the late 7th century by Amandus, a missionary sent by the Frankish kings to Christianize the pagan inhabitants of the region, who founded two monasteries in the area, St. Bavo's, and St. Peter's on the Blandijnberg. During the winter of 879-80, the abbey was raided and plundered by the Normans, and it remained relatively poor until the 10th century, when donations of property and relics by Count Arnulf I considerably enriched it, as did further donations by Arnulf's cousin King Edgar of England. By the second half of the century it was the wealthiest abbey in Flanders, and the reputation of the abbey school extended far beyond the town.
In 984, Gerbert of Aurillac, director of the cathedral school of Reims, (later Pope Sylvester II) inquired whether students from Reims could be admitted to St. Peter's, and its renown as a centre of artes liberales continued into the 11th century. St. Peter's, through its ownership of large tracts of land, also played a pioneering role in cultivation during the 12th and 13th centuries, transforming forests, moors and marshes into farmland. In the 15th century a large scale programme of construction created the abbey library and scriptorium, enlarged the refectory, and the abbey church and other buildings were considerably beautified.
St. Peter's first decline began following the Revolt of Ghent in 1539, and by the 1560s the Low Countries were plunged in a religious crisis that resulted in an attack by iconoclasts in 1566 in which the abbey church was wrecked, the library looted, and other buildings badly damaged. The infirmary was pressed into service as a temporary home for the monks and the refectory used as a place of worship. However opposition continued and in 1578 the abbot and monks were forced to flee to Douai. The abbey buildings were sold at public auction and were partly demolished, the materials being used to construct the city walls. The abbey finally came back into the hands of the church in 1584, and it was eventually rebuilt, with a new abbey church, begun in 1629, in the Baroque style, as well as several other new builds and refurbishments. During the 18th century, the abbey was once again flourishing, as new buildings were constructed and older ones enlarged, including the conversion of the old dormitory into a library with more than ten thousand books.
However, the end was not far off, first with the Brabant Revolution of 1789–90, then the French invasion of 1793. Finally, on 1 September 1796, the Directory abolished all religious institutions. In 1798 the library was emptied and eventually taken to the University of Ghent. From 1798 the abbey church was used as a museum, but was returned to the ownership of the church in 1801. In 1810, the rest of the abbey became the property of the city of Ghent, and was partially demolished for the construction of a military barracks, which remained on the site until 1948.
Around 1950 the city launched a programme of restoration, which is still ongoing, which began with the cloister and chapter house, then the west wing, including the old refectory and kitchens. Work on the wine cellars and attics was completed in the 1970s, and in 1982 work on the abbey gardens was completed, and in 1986 the terrace. In the 1990s restoration of the refectory wing began.
The abbey is now used as a museum and exhibition centre, which in 2000 housed a major exhibition as part of the Year of Emperor Charles, and in October 2001 hosted the 88th meeting of the European Council.References:
The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.
The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.
In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.
During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.