It's dominant position in town, adjacent to the Basilica points to the tremendous amount of power the abbey had before the French Revolution. It all began in 817, when the Bishop of LiÃ¨ge sent a group of Benedictine monks to the village of Andage to take over the Christianization. Eight years later, they brought in the remains of Saint Hubert. The locals knew him since he had lived with them over a century ago. It was here, by a spectacular miracle, he converted to Christianity. The divine healing powers (rabies) of Saint Hubert during almost a millennium created the glory of the abbey. The original sanctuary evolved into a church, the monks built and rebuilt and remodeled into a large Cathedral. Over time, the name of the village changed into Saint Hubert.
During the religious wars of the 16th century, the monks evacuated the remains of Saint Hubert. Although the monks proclaimed they knew where the 'body' was hidden, nobody has seen it since. Remodeled in the early 18th century, and refurbished in the last few years, the abbey's stunning classic renaissance features invite to visit. The abbey survived the French Revolution in contrast with most other Walloon abbeys (Orval, Rochefort, etc), because the French Revolutionary army occupied it as its headquarters in the Luxembourg territory.
When Napoleon is finely defeated in 1815, the monks don't come back. In 1830 a separation war splits Belgium off the Netherlands. The French speaking part of the Duchy of Luxembourg joins Belgium in 1839. The abbey buildings fall in the hands of the Belgian State. After over hundred years being a youth prison, the abbey is converted into a cultural center in 1956. It holds now an important part of the Belgian archives.
That's it for the history, what is there to admire besides the historic building? A fence creates an inside square in front of the central entrance to the abbey. This fence depicts the ten Roman months a woman is pregnant, from 25th of March to the 25th of December. Different flowers, each typical for a specific month depict the different stages of the pregnancy. In the middle of the fence, just above the gate, shines the summer in the image of the sun.
The abbey is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, and during every festival in Saint Hubert. The mythological griffin, half eagle, half lion, is a recurring feature in signs, on the wooden doors, on fountains and on the antique staircase. Some of the high ceiling rooms feature sophisticated vaulting and big fireplaces. The archives consist of 25,000 foot of shelves in a climate controlled environment, and a library of over 4,000 microfilms. The oldest document dates from 1079, and is a deed to the abbey by the count of Flanders of two territories in the Ardennes. The archive hold every document related to the history of the abbey, and all Church and Civilian registers from before and after the French Revolution.
The long attic, with huge wooden beams, is not open to the public. It was used as the dormitory during the prison time. Character and goodness inducing slogans, written in the old spelling of Dutch and French, are burned into the beams. Thou shall not steal! Laziness is the devil's pillow! Repentance is a second innocence!