Last modified: 2007-11-24 by ivan sache
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The municipality of Florenville (5,448 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 14,691 ha) is located in the region of Gaume, in the valley of the Semois, on the border with France. The municipality of Florenville is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Florenville, Chassepierre, Fontenoille, Muno, Lacuisine, Sainte-Cécile and Villers-devant-Orval.
A flint axe excavated in 1953 during the revamping of the Hôtel de
France and dated 1500 BC is the oldest artifact found in Florenville.
In the Roman times, the region was crossed by the main way linking
Reims to Trier, built in 45 AD by Emperor Claudius. In the village of
Chameleux, the remains of an inn have been founded. The inn was indeed
a complex of buildings located on each side of the way; several coins,
tools, shards, sculpted stones and a key have been found there.
The name of Florenville most probably comes from Florentis Villa, "Florent's estate", and has certainly nothing to do with flowers (in French, fleurs). There are no remains of the Merovingian and Carolingian times; the political center of the region at that time was Chiny, located a few kilometers north of Florenville. The domain of Florenville, including Florenville, Martué, Chassepierre, Sainte-Cécile, Cugnon, Auby, Mortehan and Conques, was founded in the early XIIIth century for the marriage of Isabelle, the third daughter of Louis, the eight Count of Chiny. In the next generation, the domain was split, so that the domain of Florenville then included only Florenville and Martué.
In the XVIIth century, Louis XIV set up a series of fortifications along the river Semois; a list dated 1697 shows 28 redoubts, indeed small watch posts made of wood, earth and stone. The redoubt of Florenville, known today as Crainière or Poivrière, is a rectangular building with a demi-lune in facade.
The French Revolution was not welcome in Florenville; the school teacher Joseph Massart led the insurgents and was killed in 17 May 1793 by French soldiers in a house located near the church. On 23 June 1793, the abbey of Orval was burned down and plundered for five weeks.
In 1940, the Germans destroyed 85 of the 365 houses of the village and severely damaged another 135; the church was burned on 28 May 1940 and 23 villagers were killed. On 18 June 1944, several members of the anti-German resistance were slaughtered by the Germans in the border wood of Banel.
Florenville was granted the honorific title of town (ville) in 1997.
Source: Florenville tourist office website
The origin of the famous abbey of Orval, located on the municipal territory of Florenville, is linked to the Counts of Chiny. Arnoul II, the fifth Count of Chiny, like several feudal lords of the time, was in turn extremely violent and crual and extremely pious. He
founded the abbey of Orval but jailed the Bishop of Liège and sacked the town of Stenay; in 1097, he expiated all his crimes by founding the
St. Walburg priory in Chiny and taking the coat in the St. Hubert
abbey. In 1070, Arnoul II, then very pious, allowed a few Calabrese
monks to set up a priory in the middle of the forest. His aunt Mathilde
had just had her husband Godefroid murdered and a child dead in the
Semois. When staying in Chiny, she was brought by Arnoul to the new
priory; resting near a source, Mathilde list her marriage ring, which
was not found until the evening, when she asked the help of the Blessed
Virgin. A trout emerged out of the water holding the ring in its mouth.
The Countess said "This is really a Golden Valley" (in French, Val
d'Or). She funded the revamping of the priory that became the famous
abbey of Orval.
Arnoul fought for a while against Mathilde's nephew, Godefroid de Bouillon, but they eventually became close friends. When Arnoul left for the first Crusade in 1096, he left his sons Othon and Louis to Godefroid's care. Once Count of Chiny, Othon had to take care of the abbey of Orval, nearly ruined since the return of the Calabrese monks to Italy in 1108; the Archbishop of Trier sent canons to revamp the abbey, but they were not sucessful because of the harsh weather and the poor soil. When Albert succeeded Othon as the Count of Chiny, he asked his uncle, who was a bishop, to convince Bernard of Clairvaux to help him to save the abbey. Bernard sent Som Constantin and seven monks from the abbey of Troisfontaines (Champagne) to Orval; the monks were officially welcomed in Chiny on 9 May 1131 and the abbey was resurrected.
The more recent history of Orval is no longer related to the Counts of
Chiny. The abbey was threatened during the wars between France and Burgundy,
but Emperor Charles V protected it, allowing the set up of a forge
nearby; the nave of the church was rebuilt in 1533, when the community
was made of 24 monks. The unresty XVIIth century, paradoxally, was
Orval's Golden Age. Appointed in 1605 by the Archdukes Albert and
Isabel against the wish of the community, Abbot Bernard de
Montgaillard restored the finances and the buildings of the abbey, and
was eventually beloved by the monks; he reformed the rules of the
community, which attracted several new monks.
In August 1637, during the Thirty Years' War, however, the abbey and its dependencies were plundered and totally destroyed by the troops led by Marshal de Châtillon. The rebuilding lasted under the end of the XVIIth century in very unsafe conditions. From 1688 to 1707, the second great abbot of Orval, Charles de Bentzeradt, reformed the abbey as had did Abbot de Rancé in the Trappe abbey in Normandy, and set up the rule of Devout (Stricte Observance). He founded the abbey of Dusselthal, near Dusseldorf, and the Priory of Conques on the river Semois. After his death, the monks of Orval resettled and reformed the abbey of Beaupré, in Lorraine. In 1723, the Orval community had 130 members and was the biggest in the German Empire. In 1725, fifteen monks left Orval and founded the Jansenist monastery of Rhijnwijk, near Utrecht. The economic wealth of Orval also peaked: from the end of the XVIIth century to the middle of the XVIIIth century, the forges of Orval were among the leading iron industries in Western Europe.
From 1760 onwards, most resources were allocated to the rebuilding of the monastery, designed by the famous architect Laurent Benoît Dewez. The new church was consecrated in 1782 but the building stopped because funds lacked. After the French Revolution, all the goods owned by Orval in France were confiscated. On 23 June 1793, the troops led by General Loison plundered and burned down the abbey. The community withdreaw to the Priory of Conques and was officially dissolved on 7 November 1796.
In 1926, the Harenne family offerred the ruins of the abbey and the neighbouring land to the Cistercian Order. Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, Abbot of Sept-Fons, in the center of France, sent a few monks to rebuild Orval. Dom Marie-Albert van der Cruyssen, a Trappist from Ghent led the building of the new monastery, designed by architect Henry Vaes on the very site of the XVIII-th century abbey. The abbey was inaugurated in 1936 with Dom Marie-Albert as its abbot. On 8 September 1948, the consecration of the church celebrated the end of the rebuilding of the abbey of Orval. Dom Marie-Albert resigned and died in 1955.
The brewery of Orval still belongs to the monks, who brews themselves
the beer, which is therefore labelled "authentic Trappist product", as
is the cheese made in Orval. The modern brewery was founded in 1931 by
the German master brewer Pappenheimer and the Belgian master brewer
Honoré Van Zande. They set up very innovative production methods, some
of them of English origin, which are the origin of the fame of the
Orval beer. Thre recipe, the glas, the bottle and the label showing the
trout holding the ring have not been changed since the beginning of the
In October 2006, the Dutch Beer Sellers' Union (Alliantie van Biertapperijen) elected the beer of Orval "the best special beer to be found in the Netherlands".
Source: Orval abbey website
Ivan Sache, 5 July 2007
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, there is no municipal flag used in Florenville.
Pascal Vagnat, 5 July 2007