Beinwil Abbey was founded in 1085, probably by the local nobility. After conflicts arising from the territorial claims of the towns of Solothurn and Basle against the Counts of Thierstein, who acted as the abbey's Vögte (lords protectors), it was burnt down in 1445. After Beinwil had been taken over by Solothurn in 1519, the town authorities impounded much of the abbey's possessions.

By the 16th century only a few monks were left in the abbey, and it was formally dissolved in 1554. A small community remained, the care of which was assumed firstly by Einsiedeln Abbey, in 1589, and then, from 1622, by Rheinau Abbey. As no monastic revival could be achieved in the remoteness of its situation, it was decided to re-settle the community at Mariastein Abbey, a new foundation in a pilgrimage centre, which took place in 1648. In anticipation of this, Mariastein became a member of the Swiss Congregation, now part of the Benedictine Confederation. From Mariastein, at the end of the 18th century, it was at length possible to revive Beinwil, and at that time the church and the monastic premises were rebuilt.

The abbey was however suppressed in 1874 by plebiscite during the Kulturkampf, and the community of Mariastein went into exile.

The abbey church, dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa was destroyed by fire in 1978. It has now been comprehensively restored and a high altar has been installed, dated about 1700, from Bellwald. Today the former abbey is used as an ecumenical conference and retreat centre.

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Founded: 1085
Category: Religious sites in Switzerland

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Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.