Kloster Eberbach was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the east bank of the Rhine, on the site of a previous monastic foundation of Adalbert of Mainz, which had been occupied at first by Augustinian canons and then by Benedictine monks, which had however failed to establish itself.
Eberbach soon became one of the largest and most active monasteries of Germany. At its height in the 12th and 13th centuries, the population is estimated to have been about 100 monks and over 200 lay brothers.
Eberbach Abbey was also very successful economically, principally as a result of profits from the cultivation of vineyards and the production of wine. At least 14 members of the family of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen were buried in the church. Among them was Count Johann IV of Katzenelnbogen, who was the first to plant Riesling vines, in a new vineyard in the nearby village of Rüsselsheim, when the monks of Eberbach were still growing red grapes such as Grobrot, the earliest grape variety recorded in Eberbach.
The abbey suffered severe damage during the Thirty Years' War, beginning with the attack of the Swedish army in 1631. Many valuable items from the church and the library were looted, and the monks were forced to flee, of whom only 20 returned in 1635 to begin a laborious reconstruction.
The 18th century however was a period of great economic success: surviving accounts show that the abbey profits were regularly invested on the Frankfurt money market. The final decline set in with the French Revolution. After the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss the abbey was dissolved on 18 September 1803 and with its assets and territory became the property of Prince Friedrich Augustus of Nassau-Usingen.
The lands passed from Nassau-Usingen in 1866 to Prussia, and from 1945 have formed part of the State of Hesse. The premises were put to a variety of uses. A lunatic asylum was accommodated here until 1873 (the forerunner of the Zentrum für Soziale Psychiatrie Rheinblick) and until 1912 a prison. Management of the vineyards and wine production has continued in state hands. After considerable structural work Eberbach serves inter alia as a venue of international importance for cultural events and displays, and as a film location, as for example for Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1985).
The buildings form one of the most impressive monastic sites in Germany, preserving structures of the highest quality from the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods. A list of goods, the 'Oculus Memoriae', survives from as early as the year 1211, giving information on the possessions and premises of the abbey complex. The abbey church is a three-aisled Romanesque basilica with transept, containing the tombs of some of the Archbishops of Mainz.
On the night of 26 April 2005 the abbey suffered severe damage from flooding. This was due to heavy rain, which caused the Kisselbach river to overflow its banks, and the increased volume of water brought about the collapse of the 18th century storm drain under the abbey.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.