Vendresse, La Cassine, Le Mont-Dieu
A - The Carthusian Monastery Voir sur la carte
Here, at the heart of a lost valley, stand a few scattered buildings: this is all that remains of the Carthusian monastery of Mont-Dieu, once one of the largest monastic centres of western Europe. In 1084, Bruno of Cologne, in search of a life of solitude, austerity and prayer, withdrew to the heart of the alpine massif, to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, a virgin, isolated area. With his six companions, he founded a ‘wilderness’ here. The Order soon spread throughout France: the first prior of the ‘Grande Chartreuse’ came to the Ardennes and in Mont Dieu he found the ideal spot to live according to the rules of the Carthusians, observing total silence and living as hermits in small houses. The rows of shrubs that now adorn the site bear witness to the 180 arcades that led these solitary monks, three times a day, from their cell to the church.
In the 16th century, religious wars succeeded civil wars: the land was destroyed by massacres, pillaging and fires. The Grande Chartreuse was not to be spared, but withstood and enjoyed a golden age until the French Revolution. The Carthusian monastery, one of the largest in France, was a leading economic centre, envied and detested: it was to succumb to revolutionary fury. In 1790, the Carthusian monks were chased away and 4,000 works were burnt. The abbey was converted into a house of imprisonment under the Terror and the forest became part of an estate. A rich draper from Sedan, Poupart de Neuflize, bought the property before monastery was totally destroyed.
08390 Le mont dieu
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 29 79 91
Did you know?
The Carthusian monks worked the surrounding forest and supplied the Royal Navy with oak to build vessels. One of these trees still stands today. Four hundred years old, it dominates the wooded ridge. From the road, an explanatory panel indicates the path you should follow.
Walking Voir sur la carte
The Carthusian monastery loop
A walk leads around what was once the huge Carthusian monastery: the serenity of the site encourages meditation.
Distance: 2 km
Waymarking: follow the yellow signs and the GR signs
Time: 40 minutes
Start: from the car park, on the D 230.
To go further afield…
Topo guide, Les Ardennes à pied (The Ardennes on foot), published by the French Hiking Federation. Walk No 32.
À La Cassine
B - The castle and the Convent of the Cordeliers Voir sur la carte
The castle ruins, dating from the 16th century, no longer reflect the lavish property of Louis de Gonzague, father of the founder of Charleville, Charles. At the height of its glory, the vast French-style garden extended towards the canal. The estate was laid waste during the Second World War. Alongside it, the Convent of the Cordeliers, founded by the same owners, still stands today.
Couvent des Cordeliers
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 35 44 84
Web : www.la-cassine.com
A sound and light show takes place at the end of the week in summer among the magnificent castle ruins.
C - The ‘Haut Fourneau’ (blast furnace) estate Voir sur la carte
Another park, but what a park! In Vendresse, nature, the play of water and fishing grounds blend harmoniously with industrial history.
At the centre of the estate stands the old blast furnace built by Jean-Nicolas Gendarme. An eight-metre cube covered with a shell three metres thick, made of Dom-le-Mesnil stone and Ardennes quartzite. Starting in the 19th century, this monster propelled the Ardennes to the peak of the French metallurgical sector. Today, it lies at the centre of a great sound and light show. Virtual cast iron has replaced the flowing metal of yesteryear. But you’d think you were there!
11, rue du Haut Fourneau
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 35 57 73
Web : http://www.domaine-de-vendresse.fr/index.php
D - A Gothic fortified church Voir sur la carte
The ‘Bois de la Vierge’ (the Virgin’s Wood)
To explore part of the vast forest that stretches around the village.
Distance: 6 km
Time: 1.30 h
Start: Vendresse tourist estate
‘Walks along the ridges’ walking card available from all tourist offices and bookshops in the area.
E - The Romanesque church Voir sur la carte
Malmy church is a rigorous and balanced structure: the size of the rounded vaults and the verticality of the central space serve to raise the souls of the faithful. Harmony, serenity and plenitude: these are the feelings experienced by modern-day visitors to Malmy, the Romanesque church set among the singing skylarks.
08450 Chemery sur bar
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 35 41 94
F - The Romanesque church and the village square Voir sur la carte
The Church of Saint Sulpice is characteristic of the Romanesque architecture of the region, overlooking the old covered market and the village still dotted with typical Ardennes houses from the 16th and 18th centuries.
Place de l'Eglise
08450 Chemery sur bar
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 35 41 94