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:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.