Abbaye d’Orval

15 Jun 2011 by fabdestin, 14 Comments »

After much begging and pleading, I finally found a victim willing to take me to the Orval abbey in Belgium. Country hopping is natural for Europeans, but it still amazes me that I live less than an hour from Belgium! A few country roads later, we were in one of six trappist breweries in Belgium.

Orval is essentially a monastery; the area where the monks live is closed to the public. The monks that live there choose to leave their worldly belongings behind, and devote their lives to prayer. What amazes me is their strong sense of community – not only through worship, but in their daily tasks in the kitchen or in the office. Above you can see part of their herb garden, which stems from a former chemist and pharmacist monk who lived in Orval during the 18th century.

My favorite part of the visit was the ruins from an old church, created before 1200. You can see the new one in the background towering over the ruins. Over time, the church was destroyed by fire and reconstructed, but never completely. The Cistercian Order was given the land in 1926, after hundreds of years of habitation.

Underneath the new abbey, there is a museum revolving around religious artwork and architectural history of the two buildings. There is also a small museum explaining the beer-making process, which was really well presented and organized.

The most interesting part of the abbey is that beer-making has always been a part of its history. Only after the first world war, when the monks needed income to sustain themselves, and started selling their beer and cheese. Now, the monks cherish their sense of hospitality and their beer is known across the world, and it comes from this little abbey in Belgium. The profits go to the upkeep of the site, as well as to charities. They only have one type of beer – and you can taste it across the street with some cheese also made by the monks.

I would highly recommend a trip to Orval – it is the perfect oasis for a tired traveler or for a relaxing afternoon. Have you ever heard of trappist beer (trust me, it’s good)? Check out other trappist breweries in Belgium here.

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14 Comments

  1. Selma says:

    I want to go there! Right now! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Katherina says:

    Any place with a beer-making background should be on one’s list – you’re lucky that you’re so near from Belgium! The little I saw from the cab was really beautiful.

  3. minhzie says:

    omgosh i LOVE trappist beer. ironically enough, it was my french friends who introduced me to this magical brew. bises from dc!

  4. I love visiting old monasteries and abbeys. I find the dichotomy of the intricacies of the architecture combined with the simplicity of the furnishings fascinating.

    I dragged my husband on a day trip to Mont St Michel when we were on our honeymoon and I fell in love with the abbey.

  5. I so want to go there now:) What a fantastic post, sweetie. Have a great day

    Ps: I’m hosting a great summer GIVEAWAY today! Don’t miss it:)

  6. Krista says:

    Oh this post made me happy. :-) I had my first trappist beer in a Belgian restaurant and was smitten at first sip. :-) Those ruins are quite wonderful.

  7. jiji says:

    Yay I finally know what trappist beer is! This is why I love your blog. Not only is it highly entertaining but highly informative as well!

  8. Elise says:

    My mouth just started watering when I saw that bottle of beer! Bring me home a bottle! Beautiful monastery!

  9. Kristin says:

    Only an hour away from another beautiful country…You lucky lady you!

  10. I am a fan of Belgian beer, but now that I know more about the history and how beautiful the area is, I like it even more! Thanks for sharing the pictures and such great info!

  11. Amanda says:

    Yay! A fellow Francophile :) I’m preparing to leave for a year long exchange in France (in August), so I’m currently spending all my spare time reading expat blogs, looking at photos, and just dreaming about getting to France!

    Your photos are gorgeous – I want to leave for France right now!!

  12. Woo! A fellow Francophile! I’m reading to France for a year long exchange in August, so I’m really excited to have found your blog!

    Belgium looks amazing – I’m definitely adding it to the list of places to go!

  13. Emily says:

    Hello! I just stumbled across your blog – I’m glad you made your way to Orval! I live in Brussels and recently made a beergrimmage to the abbey a few weeks ago (You can read about it here if you want: http://thepetitfour.com/?p=1200)

    Orval is the best and it was a lot of fun to visit. You should make your way back to Belgium again and make your way around the other Trappist abbeys. Other than the five others in the country, there’s also Villers-la-Ville – a ruined Cisceterian abbey near Waterloo. It looks very similar to Glastonbury.

    Happy travels!

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