Hirsau Abbey was once one of the most important Benedictine abbeys of Germany. In the 11th and 12th century, the monastery was a centre of the Cluniac Reforms, implemented as 'Hirsau Reforms' in the German lands. The complex was devastated during the War of the Palatine Succession in 1692 and not rebuilt.
A Christian chapel at Hirsau dedicated to Saint Nazarius had already been erected in the late 8th century. The monastery itself was founded in about 830 by the Rhenish Franconian count Erlafried of Calw at the instigation of his relative, Bishop Notting of Vercelli, who gave it the relics of Saint Aurelius of Riditio, an Armenian bishop who had died about 475, brought from Milan among other treasures; they were first placed in the oratory of St. Nazarius' Chapel, while the monastery at Hirschau was being built on the count's estates. A first aisleless church, dedicated to Saint Aurelius, was not completed until 838, when it was consecrated by Archbishop Odgar of Mainz, who at the same time translated the relics from their temporary resting place to the new church.
In the 11th century, under Abbot Wilhelm, Hirsau Monastery was part of the Cluny reform movement. From here, the reforms, which emphasised the independence of the Church, spread across much of southwestern Germany. As a loyal supporter of the Pope, Hirsau played an active role in the Investiture Controversy, a power struggle between the Church and European monarchies.
After the Reformation, the former monastery became a Protestant boarding school. In the late 16th century, a Renaissance-style hunting lodge was constructed for the dukes of Württemberg. A grand structure with three wings, the palace abutted onto the enclosed grounds of the monastery, on the site of the former abbot’s residence.
In 1692, while occupied by French soldiers, the palace and monastery was destroyed by fire. In the aftermath, local residents plundered the remains in search of building materials, partly for the reconstruction of the town of Calw, which had been damaged in the war.
Today, the former monastery complex is a beautiful but atmospheric place, with the striking Romanesque and Gothic ruins set against the scenic backdrop of the Black Forest. Rising above the landscape, the 37- metre high Eulenturm (owls’ tower) features a frieze of mysterious figures. The late Gothic Marienkirche (church of St Mary) and an assortment of monastic buildings offer a glimpse into everyday life at an abbey that was once one of the most influential spiritual and economic centres of the region.References:
Glimmingehus is the best preserved medieval stronghold in Scandinavia. It was built 1499-1506, during an era when Scania formed a vital part of Denmark, and contains many defensive arrangements of the era, such as parapets, false doors and dead-end corridors, 'murder-holes' for pouring boiling pitch over the attackers, moats, drawbridges and various other forms of death traps to surprise trespassers and protect the nobles against peasant uprisings. The lower part of the castle's stone walls are 2.4 meters (94 inches) thick and the upper part 1.8 meters (71 inches).
Construction was started in 1499 by the Danish knight Jens Holgersen Ulfstand and stone-cutter-mason and architect Adam van Düren, a North German master who also worked on Lund Cathedral. Construction was completed in 1506.
Ulfstand was a councillor, nobleman and admiral serving under John I of Denmark and many objects have been uncovered during archeological excavations that demonstrate the extravagant lifestyle of the knight's family at Glimmingehus up until Ulfstand's death in 1523. Some of the most expensive objects for sale in Europe during this period, such as Venetian glass, painted glass from the Rhine district and Spanish ceramics have been found here. Evidence of the family's wealth can also be seen inside the stone fortress, where everyday comforts for the knight's family included hot air channels in the walls and bench seats in the window recesses. Although considered comfortable for its period, it has also been argued that Glimmingehus was an expression of "Knighthood nostalgia" and not considered opulent or progressive enough even to the knight's contemporaries and especially not to later generations of the Scanian nobility. Glimmingehus is thought to have served as a residential castle for only a few generations before being transformed into a storage facility for grain.
An order from Charles XI to the administrators of the Swedish dominion of Scania in 1676 to demolish the castle, in order to ensure that it would not fall into the hands of the Danish king during the Scanian War, could not be executed. A first attempt, in which 20 Scanian farmers were ordered to assist, proved unsuccessful. An additional force of 130 men were sent to Glimmingehus to execute the order in a second attempt. However, before they could carry out the order, a Danish-Dutch naval division arrived in Ystad, and the Swedes had to abandon the demolition attempts. Throughout the 18th century the castle was used as deposit for agricultural produce and in 1924 it was donated to the Swedish state. Today it is administered by the Swedish National Heritage Board.
On site there is a museum, medieval kitchen, shop and restaurant and coffee house. During summer time there are several guided tours daily. In local folklore, the castle is described as haunted by multiple ghosts and the tradition of storytelling inspired by the castle is continued in the summer events at the castle called "Strange stories and terrifying tales".