Nizelles Abbey originated as a little college set up by the monks from Moulins-Warnant Abbey to educate younger members of the local nobility. Over the years a succession of donations from grateful former pupils, backed up by generous financial support from Christine de Franckenberg, abbess over the canonesses at nearby Nivelles, made it possible for the little priory at Nizelles to be expanded into an abbey. A new church was consecrated in 1441.
Unfortunately the generous benefactress died the next year, in 1442, and the money stopped flowing. There followed more than three centuries during which the abbey finances were never on an entirely secure footing. Privations became part of the monks' daily routine. Indebtedness was compounded by natural and political catastrophes. There was a destructive fire in the winter of 1502/03. The abbey was torched again in 1577 after being pillaged by French soldiers participating in the religious wars of the period. There was a third destructive fire at the start of the 17th century. On several occasions during the three centuries prior to 1782 plans were drawn up at Cîteaux Abbey (the Cistercian mother house) to decree the closure of Nizelles: nevertheless each time the place was burned down it somehow proved possible sufficiently to rebuild or restore the abbey.
The first years of the 17th century found the abbey in a condition of particular ruin and devastation. It was saved by Cambron Abbey. On 4 December 1601 Robert d’Ostelart, abbot of Cambron, sent over three of his monks, including one named Jean d’Assignies, to re-establish Nizelles. The Nizelles annals of the time record that initially they had to eat their meals standing up, and because there was no table they had to turn over the barrel in which they had brought over some provisions from Cambron and eat their meals off that. In 1602 the three monks at Nizelles were joined by Bernard de Montgaillard who was sent by the chapter at Cîteaux to serve as abbot. Personally austere, and experienced as a monk, Bernard proved an energetic administrator: born in 1562, by the time he came to Nizelles he was already well known to the secular authorities locally. He obtained for the abbey the protection of Archduke Albert, then governor of the Spanish Netherlands (approximately modern-day Belgium) and of Albert's duchess, Isabella. As abbot, Bernard contributed much to restoring the fortunes of Nizelles, although the abbey never returned to its 1442 prosperity. The rebuilding he instigated came to an abrupt halt in 1605 when the Cistercian authorities redeployed him to Orval Abbey.
The decree of 18 March 1783 by which Joseph II, the archetypal enlightened despot, closed down monasteries identified as 'unnecessary', was the death knell for the abbey at Nizelles. The abbey was deconstructed and divided into two farms, one of which occupied the monastic buildings.
In 1787 monks returned to Nizelles during the Brabant Revolution when the Habsburgs were briefly removed from power in the Southern Netherlands, but the return of monks to Nizelles and (at this stage) the removal of the Habsburgs proved temporary. With the impact of the French Revolution, one of the monastic farms was sold. The abbey church was converted for use as a grain store: it was later largely destroyed by fire, in 1845.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.