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:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.