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  Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

Image credit: Patrick Bernauw

Mysteries of Orval, the Valley of Gold

Posted on Friday, 24 April, 2009 | 5 comments
Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

The abbey of Orval, in Belgium's Ardennes Forest, is truly a place of mystery. The name "Orval" means "Valley of Gold", Nostradamus seems to have written a number of his prophecies here, and it is possible that once there were no less than two treasures hidden: the Treasure of the Knights Templar and the War Chest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette...

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln) we are told that in 1070, 29 years before the First Crusade, some monks from Calabria, southern Italy, arrived in the Ardennes Forest that belonged to Geoffrey of Bouillon. The monks were led by and individual named Ursus, who – according to the so-called "Priory Documents" – was consistently associated with the Merovingian bloodline, or in other words: with the descendants of Jesus Christ.

The monks were welcomed by Count Arnould of Chiny and by Geoffrey's aunt and foster-mother Mathilde of Tuscany, Duchess of Lorraine. From Mathilde they received the land that is now known as Orval, not far from Stenay, where once King Dagobert II was assassinated. Before these monks settled in Orval, there wasn't any human habitation, although there were some Merovingian tombs discovered near a well.

A well-known legend says that the monastery was born out of gratitude. Mathilde, a widow, had lost her golden wedding ring, which was accidentally fallen into the fountain. She prayed to the Lord and suddenly a trout rose out of the water with the precious ring in its mouth. "Truly," Mathilde exclaimed, "this place is a Val d'Or, a Valley of Gold!"

You still can visit the well, where she established a monastery.

A Merovingian Play
Interestingly, the theme of the wedding ring which fell into the water also shows up in the play Pelléas and Mélisande (1892) by the Belgian Nobel Prize Winner (1911) Maurice Maeterlinck. His work, characterized by fatalism and mysticism, forms an important part of the Symbolist Movement. The play was first performed in 1893 and several composers made music for it. Claude Debussy's impressionist opera is perhaps the best known adaptation.

It is said that Debussy was Grand Master of the Priory of Sion – the keepers of the Bloodline Secret – and this in the period the parish priest of Rennes-le-Château, Bérénger Saunière, found "something" in his church, that sent him to the occultist and even satanist circles of Paris. These secret societies included other "renegade priests" such as Louis Van Haecke, Chaplain of the Holy Blood Chapel of Bruges, the famous opera singer Emma Calvé, and writers such as Oscar Wilde, André Gide, W.B. Yeats or… Maurice Maeterlinck.

Pelléas and Mélisande was called a fairy tale and "a Merovingian play". Prince Golaud finds Mélisande by a river in the woods, weeping because she has lost her crown in the water. She does not wish to retrieve it, marries Golaud in a hurry and wins the favour of the old King Arkel, who is very ill. But then she falls in love with Pelléas. They meet at a fountain and Mélisande now loses her wedding ring in the water...

The main theme of the work is the cycle of creation and destruction. The prologue – servants can't wash the dirt from the steps of the castle – and the illness of Arkel, the famine in his kingdom and the foul-smelling waters under Arkel's slowly disintegrating castle remind us of the Grail romances, the Fisher King, the Waste Land.

The abbey in ruins
One of the monks who lived in Orval seemed to be Peter the Hermit, Geoffrey's tutor. Together with Pope Urban II he preached the need for a crusade which would reclaim the Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Land. In 1108 the monks disappeared mysteriously. There is no record of their destination, but it may have been Jerusalem. Peter the Hermit embarked for Jerusalem and in 1099 Geoffrey of Bouillon was offered the throne of the Crusader Kingdom by an anonymous conclave, led by a monk from Calabria.

By 1131 Orval became one of the fiefs owned by Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote the rule of the Knights Templar. He entrusted the re-establishment of Orval to the Abbey of Trois-Fontaines in the Champagne region and for five centuries, the Cistercians of Orval led a hidden life. Nevertheless, the abbey prospered.

In 1605 Bernard de Montgaillard, born in southern France, managed to have himself appointed abbot by Archduke Albert and Isabelle. He restored the buildings, reformed the constitutions of the community and put the monastery economically back on its feet. Bernard died in 1628. His last will was kindly granted: he was buried "at the foot of the stairs of the dormitory to the church". Thus his brothers "would walk all over him", whether they went up or down, and would be constantly reminded to pray for him.

During the French Revolution the abbey lived through various alerts. But on June 23 of the year 1793, revolutionary troops led by General Loison sacked and burned the monastery down. The community withdrew to its refuge in Luxembourg. For more than a century the charred walls of Orval were at the mercy of the weather and the treasure hunters...

You still can visit the impressive ruins of the old abbey.
Nostradamus and the Bourbon War Chest
The fervour of General Loison, and of the treasure hunters, was caused by rumours of a Royalist War Chest, hidden somewhere on the domain of Orval.

In the spring of 1791, the French King Louis XVI was a prisoner in his own country. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was begging her brother the Austrian Emperor to help them. But the messages of her couriers were intercepted and the codes broken. The royalist General de Bouillé turned the fortress town of Montmédy, in the northeast of France, into a safe place for the royals. In the case of an emergency, the royals could cross the border with the Austrian Netherlands and find a refuge in the nearby abbey of Orval.

The famous prophet Nostradamus seemed to have foreseen a flight of the French King and his Queen in one of his dark verses. In quatrain 20 of the ninth century (Q20, C9) he spoke of two parts that would come, by nightfall, through the forest of Reims, to Orval. In Varennes a Capet would be the cause of storm, fire, blood and axe. General de Bouillé realized it could be very helpful if you only had to speak about 20 and 9... and your fellow conspirators would understand you fully. Such a code could not be broken. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could indeed take the route through the forest of Reims, to Montmédy and Orval. In Varennes, a descendant of Hugh Capet, would bring storm and fire upon these bloody republicans!

The Fortune of the Bourbons was entrusted to Leonard, the royal hairdresser. He had to bring this War Chest in safety in the abbey of Orval. What General de Bouillé couldn't imagine, was that Louis XVI would be arrested in Varennes, and that the King of France and his wife, Marie Antoinette, would lose their head under the bloody axe...

The Kind and the Queen never reached Orval, but the royal hairdresser did. And together with Leonard, the Bourbon Treasure disappeared somewhere in the realms of Orval...

Nostradamus and the Knights Templar
The retired professor Rudy Cambier published some years ago the book Nostradamus and the Lost Templar Legacy. He discovered that the French used by Nostradamus was in fact 14th century Picard. Reading the Centuries like they were supposed to be read, the verses turned out to be written by the Cistercian monk Yves de Lessines. He was the prior of the abbey of Cambron, where the Knights Templar - at the moment their Order got suppressed - entrusted certain documents regarding their secrets and their treasure. De Lessines, not wanting to take the secret into his grave, wrote the story down in dark verses, describing the location of the Templar Treasure. Cambier located the position detailed in the quatrains. Groundscans showed that there were indeed barrels in the underground, but the Belgian authorities denied permission and blocked the enterprise.

Nostradamus seems to have destroyed the original manuscript of the Centuries. For Cambier, it was obvious why he did this: he wanted to destroy the evidence of his theft. P.V. Piobb once was a well-known occultist. In his book The Secret of Nostradamus (1927) he already stated that the prophecies of Nostradamus were in fact written by the Templars. The true nature of the quatrains was that of "instructions, given to future individuals". The Centuries were, in other words, a coded manual.

There are certainly a bunch of quatrains speaking of a Temple and a treasure. In Q1, C5 we hear about a "celtic ruin" and two who argue in the Temple - the great one, mounted on a steed, is murdered and buried without making noises. Q7, C9 tells us of a curse, or a booby trap: evil will come to the person who opens the tomb. Q81, C11 speaks of a treasure in the secret place of a temple and Q9, C6 says that in sacred temples scandals will be perpetrated, but they will be seen as honours.

In Q13, C10 soldiers are hidden - their arms are making noises - beneath the food of ruminating animals (hay, for example). The animals lead the soldiers to a subterranean place or a city with a name that has "grass", "herb" or "weed" in it. On Friday 13 October 1307, immediately after the arrests of the Templars in their Paris headquarters, the agents of the French King discovered that the Templar treasure had vanished, and so had almost the entire Templar fleet. A Templar sergeant confessed that the Order was tipped off about the arrests. A small group of knights managed to sneak the treasure out of Paris in three carts covered with hay. They fled to La Rochelle, a port on the Atlantic coast, destination unknown.

Nostradamus in Orval
It is known Nostradamus spent some time in the castle of Fain, one hour's walk from Orval. And he also spent some time in the abbey. The French writer Patrick Ferté believes Nostradamus was known as the "Solitaire d'Orval", a prophet who predicted the coming of the Great Monarch which also shows up in Nostradamus' Centuries. However, during the French Revolution this Great Monarch also was – and still is – the hotel in Varennes where Louis XVI got arrested!

Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln – and Gerard de Sède – have stated that, in Orval, Nostradamus was exposed to secret teachings, linked to Priory of Sion. He is said to have been shown an ancient and arcane book, on which he based all his subsequent work. This book was given to him in Orval and it was donated to the abbey by Mathilde, the foster-mother of Geoffrey of Bouillon.
There are three quatrains that could easily be interpreted as talking about a treasure in Orval. Q27, C1 is about a treasure that for many centuries has been gathered and was hidden beneath an oak tree that got struck by lightning. When the treasure is found, a man must die, his eye pierced by a spring. A legend says that Nostradamus often was sitting under an old oak tree, near the botanical garden of the monastery. The tree got struck by lightning but you can take a seat now on the wooden bench under another oak tree and look at the herbs in the garden...

Q66, C8 mentions an "inscription D.M. that is to be found in an ancient cave, revealed by a lamp". And Q27, C2 tells us about a divine word, struck from the sky, and when you can't proceed any further, you will see the "secret that is closed up with the revelation, as if one will march over it and ahead". Well, under the oak tree, near the herb garden, you are only a few steps away from "the inscription D.M.", and there, where the Secret is closed up with the revelation, you can walk over and ahead it.
I'm talking of the grave of Bernard De Montgaillard... Only these stones are left, but it was here the abbot was buried...

Copyright article and photo’s (except where noted) by Patrick Bernauw (Mysteries of the Valley of Gold: Orval).

The Lost Dutchman’s Historical Mysteries

Patrick Bernauw’s Haunted World

Article Copyright© Patrick Bernauw - reproduced with permission.

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