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:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.