Home Travel The Val-Notre-Dame abbey in Wanze: Heritage and education

The Val-Notre-Dame abbey in Wanze: Heritage and education

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The commune of Wanze, in the province of Liège, is located near Huy, equidistant from Liège and Namur. Camped in the valley of the Meuse, in the heart of the Hesbaye of Liège, it is also part of the Burdinale-Mehaigne country; part of its territory is located in the natural park of the same name.

By Frédéric Marchesani

Among the ten monuments and listed sites of the town, we must count the ruins of the castle of Moha as well as the site of the Roches aux Corneilles and the rocks of the Marquise in Huccorgne. Among other local nuggets is the old Cistercian abbey of Val-Notre-Dame, now converted into a place of education.

At the origins of the abbey

At the end of the 12th century, Count Albert III de Moha wanted to establish a monastery on his land, at a place called Val de Rodum. The abbey, now called Val-Notre-Dame, was offered successively to the Augustinian canons of Flône, then to the Cistercians of the prestigious abbey of Villers-la-Ville. The latter, particularly gifted in hydraulic engineering, dig a reach bypassing the Mehaigne in order to supply a mill. In 1209, the site was transferred to a community of nuns who, the following year, joined the order of Cîteaux.

Dedicated to the Virgin, the monastery is placed under the authority of the abbots of Villers and Val-Saint-Lambert in the Middle Ages, then under that of the abbot of Aulne or of the abbot of Moulins in the modern era. . The estate was built up throughout the 13th century. Widely located in Hesbaye, it ensures great prosperity for the community. Burned down at the end of the 15th century, the church was immediately rebuilt.

In the first half of the 17th century, under the abbatial of Nicole de Waha (1624-1648), an important construction campaign took place: today the monumental porch (1629) remains, which is also the entrance and the logis de la ferme, the dovecote (1633), the cloister (1646) and the guest house (undated). A century later, under Abbess Lutgarde de Boileau (1722-1762), the nuns undertook the reconstruction of the abbey buildings, the Abbess’s quarter (1741) and the Saint-Michel wing (1751).

As in many other places, the nuns were driven out by the Revolution at the end of the 18th century. The abbey was sold as national property in 1797 and bought by a Herstalien industrialist, Jean Gosuin, a gunsmith by trade. The church was destroyed and the abbey transformed into a pleasure castle. Sold in 1901, the site was acquired by the Ladies of the Assumption who set up a boarding school there, opened in 1905, and rebuilt a chapel there in 1932-1934, roughly on the site of the old abbey church. The site has since hosted a place of education.

Discover the places

The buildings of the old abbey extend over a large site, between the roadway and the reach of the Mehaigne. To the north-east, along the road, is the old guest house, formerly intended to welcome visitors. On the courtyard side, the facade from the middle of the 17th century is characterized by its colonnade, whose limestone pillars are topped with Tuscan capitals. An alley then leads to the abbey buildings.

To the west of the complex and preceded by a main courtyard animated by a fountain, there is a remarkable H-shaped buildings forming the abbey district, rebuilt in 1741. The two perpendicular wings house, on the right, the wing of the pater and, on the left, the wing of the abbess. These prestigious wings were devoted to the most important figures of the site: the abbess and the pater. The abbess was the mistress of the place and had the task of directing the abbey as well as the nuns. The pater was the only man present on the site. It was to him that the liturgical work fell, in particular to say mass.

The abbess’s wing has preserved splendid 18th century interior decorations. It opens onto a second courtyard, known as the Spanish courtyard. It is bordered by buildings on three sides and is adorned, in its center, with an octagonal basin dated 1671 and flanked by the arms of the abbess Marie de Hemricourt. There is a surviving wing of the old cloister, the Neo-Romanesque chapel and the wing known as Saint-Michel. At the rear of the abbey house stretches a long garden adorned at its end with a charming cul-de-four gazebo, erected in 1742. Further on is the reach of the Mehaigne, which we cross by a small bridge in limestone rubble dating from 1699 and restored in 1984. Apart from this first series of imposing constructions, there is also a vast agricultural complex which, in the past, allowed the community to live in autarky.

School today

Nowadays, the site mainly houses a boarding school reserved for young girls. These follow, on the site of Val-Notre-Dame, the courses in general humanities or artistic techniques given by the Free Institute of Condroz Saint-François. Day students, girls or boys, can participate in the activities and workshops organized by the boarding school. This offers, in an exceptional heritage setting, a pleasant environment in the countryside. Managed by lay people since 1984, the school is part of a large educational entity. Educational activities require, the site is not accessible to visitors.

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