In the early Middle Ages, the Ardennes Forest was an inhospitable region of wild beauty that offered an ideal place for solitude and reflection to hermits and monks. Abbeys were founded in the most inaccessible valleys, such as Saint-Hubert, Orval and Elan, or on the banks of magnificent rivers, such as Laval-Dieu and Hastière. The monks felled trees and drained marshland, bringing daylight flooding into the forest. The uncultivated land of the Ardennes would be mastered just like the souls of its inhabitants would be converted. The abbeys would completely change the Ardennes and their influence would spread far and wide over many centuries.