Orval Abbey is a Cistercian monastery founded in 1132. The abbey is well known for its history and spiritual life but also for its local production of the Trappist beer Orval and a specific cheese.
The site has been occupied since the Merovingian period, and there is evidence that there was already a chapel here in the 10th century. In 1070, a group of Benedictine monks from Calabria settled here, at the invitation of Arnould, Count of Chiny, and began construction of a church and a monastery, but after some forty years, possibly because of the death of Count Arnould, they moved away again. They were replaced by a community of Canons Regular, who completed the construction work: the abbey church was consecrated on 30 September 1124.
In 1132, a group of Cistercian monks from Trois-Fontaines Abbey in Champagne arrived, and the two groups formed a single community within the Cistercian Order, under the first abbot, Constantin. Around 1252, the monastery was destroyed by a fire; the rebuilding took around 100 years.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the various wars between France and various neighbouring regions (Burgundy, Spain) had an important impact on Orval. At one stage a foundry was established on the site. In 1637, during the Thirty Years' War, the abbey was pillaged and burnt by French mercenaries.
In the 17th century, the abbey converted to the Trappist branch of the Cistercian order, but reverted to the Rule of the main order in around 1785. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the abbey was completely burnt down by French forces, in retaliation for the hospitality it had provided to Austrian troops, and the community dispersed.
In 1887, the land and ruins were acquired by the Harenne family. They donated the lands to the Cistercian order in 1926 so that monastic life could resume on the site. Between 1926 and 1948, under the direction of the Trappist monk Marie-Albert van der Cruyssen, the new monastery was constructed, and in 1935 Orval regained the rank of abbey. On 8 September 1948, the new church was consecrated.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.