Cambron Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey, today site is now used as a zoo. Twelve monks from Clairvaux arrived at Cambron on August 1, 1148. They were sent by St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. Shortly after its foundation, the abbey grew substantially. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries of Hainault and variously founded, or was given the supervision of, several daughter houses.
By the end of the 14th century, there were more than 70 monks at Cambron. The monks increasingly recruited the aid of lay-brothers to tend the fields. The contribution of agricultural techniques to the local peasantry substantially improved both the status of the rural class and the local economy. After facing difficulties in the 15th century, the abbey contributed greatly in the 16th century to the renaissance in the arts and in theology.
By the 17th century, the abbey had become rich from years of gifts, legacies, and productive agriculture. The abbey enjoyed great renown, but strict adherence to monastic life had begun to loosen. At the end of the 17th century, the wars of King Louis XIV devastated the province of Hainaut and set off the abbey's first period of decline.
At the beginning of the 18th century, a period of peace allowed for new prosperity, and a spate of construction and renovation. The majority of structures still visible at the site today date from this period. The entrance gate of the abbey was given a statuary niche that held an image of the Virgin Mary. The abbey's tower, built under the direction of the architect Jean-François Wincqz, was constructed in a pure Neoclassical style. The carriage house, with five stalls and a dovecote in the center, is unique. The monumental staircase evokes the garden of a palace more than a monastery.
The abbey was still prosperous in 1782, at which time it had 58 monks. But in 1783, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II ordered Cambron to be dissolved. The decision took effect in 1789 and the monks were expelled from the abbey and went into exile in the Netherlands. The subsequent French occupation would put an end to nine centuries of Cistercian life. Expelled by the Revolutionary government, the monks left the abbey in 1797. The abbey's assets were sold and the buildings torn down by the succeeding owners.
Of the abbey buildings there still remain the tower of the abbey church of 1774, a monumental staircase of 1776, the entire medieval precinct wall and a 13th-century cellar that was formerly beneath the now-vanished lay brothers' quarters, measuring 12 metres by 18 metres with twelve pointed vaults, the main abbey gateway of 1722 and the former abbey farm with an 18th-century coach house. Remains of the former abbey church are kept in Attre Castle.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.