Monasteries in Germany

Lüne Abbey

Lüne Abbey was originally built for Benedictine nuns and today is home to a chapter of Lutheran conventuals. It is one of several former monasteries administered by the Hanoverian monastic chamber. Lüne Abbey was founded in 1172 by Hildeswidis von Markboldestorp. In the founding document by Hugo, Bishop of Verden, there is no mention of the observances to be followed, so that it is assumed that it was a chapter ...
Founded: 1172 | Location: Lüneburg, Germany

Barth Abbey

Barth Abbey was originally a castle built around 1573 by Bogislaw XIII. After his departure, the castle was neglected, damaged in the various wars and was repaired only in a makeshift manner. In 1710/1711, it served as a court venue for the last time. After 1722, the Swedish King gave the ruins of the castle to the Swedish-Western Pomeranian knights as a present. From 1733 to 1741, the baroque building complex of the Aris ...
Founded: 1573 | Location: Barth, Germany

Polling Abbey

According to legend, the founder of Polling Abbey was Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria in about 750, but it seems more likely that the founders were members of the powerful Bavarian noble family of the Huosi. Initially this was a Benedictine monastery, but later became a house of Augustinian canons. The abbey was dissolved during the secularization of 1803 and the buildings were mostly demolished between 1805 and 1807. The i ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Polling, Germany

Rehna Abbey

Rehna Abbey is a former Benedictine (the 13th century) and Premonstratensian nunnery (until 1552). It was founded between 1230 and 1236. In 1254 the monastery was inaugurated and this year also began the construction of the cloister between church and convent. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the monastery was one of the most important monasteries Mecklenburg. Numerous Lübeck families had their daughters educated there an ...
Founded: 1230-1254 | Location: Rehna, Germany

Lichtenthal Abbey

Lichtenthal Abbey is a Cistercian nunnery founded in 1245 by Irmengard bei Rhein, widow of Margrave Hermann V of Baden. Her body was brought here in 1248 from Backnang Abbey for re-burial. She seriously over-reached herself financially on the project, however, and was obliged to ask her family for help. The imposing gateway, built in 1781, leads into a three-sided walled courtyard with a fountain dedicated to the Blessed ...
Founded: 1245 | Location: Lichtental, Germany

Engelberg Abbey

Engelberg Abbey is a Franciscan monastery located on the hill above the town of Grossheubach. The hill spur on which the abbey is situated was likely used in prehistoric times as a cult site. Around 1300, a chapel dedicated to St. Michael was built there and a statue of Mary erected. The likely location of this chapel was where the choir of today"s church stands. The first documented pilgrimage occurred in 1406. In 1469, ...
Founded: 1630s | Location: Grossheubach, Germany

Altomünster Abbey

A small monastery was founded in Altomünster by Saint Alto, a wandering monk, in about 750. The vita of Alto, likely written by Otloh of St. Emmeram after 1056 and ostensibly based on oral knowledge (written lore having been lost through plunder), reports that the monastery was visited by Saint Boniface, who dedicated the church. Another 11th-century text notes that Boniface also dedicated the church in nearby Benedi ...
Founded: 750 AD | Location: Altomünster, Germany

Cismar Abbey

Cismar Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded in 1238 by Count Adolf IV of Holstein as alternative accommodation for Benedictine monks from Lübeck. In the mid-15th century it was one of the six original members of the influential Bursfelde Congregation, a Benedictine reform movement. After three prosperous centuries, based largely on its possession of a relic of the blood of Christ and a healing spring dedicated t ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Cismar, Germany

Waldsassen Abbey

Waldsassen Abbey was founded by Gerwich of Wolmundstein, a Benedictine monk of Sigeberg Abbey, with the permission of his former abbot Kuno, then Bishop of Regensburg, and built between 1128 and 1132. The original community was sent to Waldsassen from Volkenroda Abbey in Thuringia, of the line of Morimond Abbey. The first abbot was elected in 1133, making this one of the earliest Cistercian foundations. Soon the abbey be ...
Founded: 1128-1132 | Location: Waldsassen, Germany

Aldersbach Abbey

Aldersbach Abbey was founded in 1127 by Saint Otto, Bishop of Bamberg, as a community of Augustinian Canons. It is located on a site near a church consecrated in 880 by Englmar, Bishop of Passau, in honour of Saint Peter. In 1146 Egilbert, the successor of Otto, gave the foundation and a new church of Our Lady to the Cistercians, and after the departure of the canons, Abbot Sefried, with monks from Ebrach Abbey, took poss ...
Founded: 1127 | Location: Aldersbach, Germany

Metten Abbey

Metten Abbey, or St. Michael"s Abbey, was founded in 766 by Gamelbert of Michaelsbuch. For many centuries Metten was under the lordship of the Dukes and Electors of Bavaria. When Charlemagne stayed in Regensburg for three years after 788, Utto turned his abbey over to the Frankish ruler, making the Ducal Abbey a Royal Abbey. After the Carolingians became extinct, Metten was turned into an Imperial Abbey. Besides the ...
Founded: 766 AD | Location: Metten, Germany

Tückelhausen Charterhouse

Tückelhausen Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery dedicated to Saints Lambert, John the Baptist and George. It was founded in 1138 by Otto I, Bishop of Bamberg, as a double canonry of the Premonstratensians. From 1351 it belonged to the Carthusians. The charterhouse was dissolved in 1803 during the secularisation of Bavaria and passed mostly into private ownership. The prior's lodging became the parish priest's ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Tückelhausen, Germany

Malchow Abbey

Malchow Abbey is a former Cistercian nunnery founded in 1298, when the nuns from Röbel settled in Alt-Malchow and took over the premises of the former Magdalene community here. Nicholas II, Prince of Werle, gave the new nunnery the patronage of the churches at Alt-Malchow, Neu-Malchow and Lexow. After the Reformation the abbey was a collegiate foundation for noblewomen from 1572 to 1923. The former abbey building co ...
Founded: 1298 | Location: Malchow, Germany

Elchingen Abbey Church

Elchingen Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Oberelchingen. For much of its history, Elchingen was one of the 40-odd self-ruling imperial abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire and, as such, was a virtually independent state that contained several villages aside from the monastery itself. At the time of its secularisation in 1802, the abbey covered 112 square kilometers and had 4000-4200 subjects. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary ...
Founded: 1128 | Location: Oberelchingen, Germany

Niederaltaich Abbey

Niederaltaich Abbey was founded in 731 or possibly 741 by Duke Odilo of Bavaria. The monastery, dedicated to Saint Maurice, was settled by monks from Reichenau Abbey under Saint Pirmin. Eberswind, the first abbot, is considered the compiler of the Lex Baiuvariorum, the first code of law of the Bavarian people. The monastery brought great areas of Lower Bavaria into cultivation as far as the territory of the present Czech ...
Founded: 731-741 AD | Location: Niederalteich, Germany

Stolpe Abbey Ruins

Stolpe Abbey was the first monastery in Pomerania. Ratibor I, Duke of Pomerania, founded the abbey on 3 May 1153 in memory of his brother Wartislaw I. Wartislaw, who had subdued the area and converted its people to Christianity in the late 1120s, was killed near the site of the future monastery; according to legend he was murdered by a Liutician pagan. The abbey was settled by Benedictine monks from Berge Abbey near Magd ...
Founded: 1153 | Location: Stolpe, Germany

Ellwangen Abbey

Ellwangen Abbey was the earliest Benedictine monastery established in the Duchy of Swabia. According to the monastery chronicles the abbey was established around 764 by Herulph and his brother Ariolf, both documented as Chorbishops of Langres. There is however some evidence that the foundation dates back to 732. The first monks may came from the Abbey of St. Benignus at Dijon. Ellwangen in its early days was home to Abbo ...
Founded: c. 764 AD | Location: Ellwangen (Jagst), Germany

St. Ottilien Archabbey

St. Ottilien Archabbey is a Benedictine monastery in Emming near Eresing and the Ammersee. It is the mother house of the St. Ottilien Congregation, otherwise known as the Missionary Benedictines. In the 16th century a small castle was built at Emming, including a chapel dedicated to Saint Ottilia. Both castle and chapel were made over in the Baroque style in the 17th century. After several changes of owner, and the demo ...
Founded: 1884 | Location: Eresing, Germany

Nütschau Priory

Nütschau Priory is a Benedictine house located in the former Nütschau manor house. The manor was built in 1577-1579 by Heinrich Rantzau, this community originated after World War II as a refuge for displaced persons, particularly Catholics from the former German territories. The church acquired the site in 1951 and at the request of Hermann Wilhelm Berning, the Bishop of Osnabrück, it was developed by and ...
Founded: 1577/1951 | Location: Nütschau, Germany

Königsbronn Abbey

Königsbronn Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1303 by Emperor Albert I. The first monks were settled from Salem Abbey. When the permanent buildings were constructed between 1310 and 1325, most of the stone came from the ruined castle. The new monastery was called Königsbronn, from which the town took its name. Albert granted it as part of its endowment the advowson of the church of Reutlingen, where th ...
Founded: 1303 | Location: Königsbronn, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.