Orbe, Notre-Dame. Photo/Foto: TES.

The Notre-Dame of Orbe

Orbe is an ancient Roman city, situated on the road that connected Italy with Gaul via the Great Saint-Bernard Pass. The biggest Roman villa north of the Alps in Boscéaz/Orbe has nine mosaics of exceptional quality. A permanent exhibition presents the entire villa.

After Roman times and the first kingdom of Burgundy (443-534), Merovingian kings (534-751), Carolingians (751-888), and the Burgundian kings (888-1032) chose the city as a place for important meetings.

The castle was greatly enlarged in the 11th century under the last king of Burgundy Rudolf III (970-1032), after which the Lords of Montfaucon and Châlon completed the construction with walls, gates and four towers, two of which are still there today. The castle was destroyed in 1475 during the Burgundian Wars.

The 11th-century church Notre-Dame had already been destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 15th century. The reconstruction lasted for decades, until 1525, when Orbe was under the joint administration of Bern and Fribourg.

That was complicated because Bern was reformed and Fribourg remained Catholic. A troubled period followed until Protestantism became the formal religion in 1554. All six churches and chapels in the city, except for Notre Dame, were destroyed.

It was in this church that Guillaume Farel (1498-1565) and Pierre Viret (1511-1571) proclaimed the Reformation.

The church, including its beautiful sculptures, inscriptions, organ, and stained-glass windows, is still the Protestant parish of the city. (Source and further information: