Marchtal Abbey is a former Premonstratensian monastery founded in the 8th century. In 776 the noble clan of the Ahalolfinger made a gift of the monastery founded by their ancestor Halaholf and his wife to St Gall"s Abbey. By 993 the monastery had become a collegiate foundation of canons dedicated by Herman II, Duke of Swabia, and his wife Gerberga to the apostles Peter and Paul.
During the 12th century the monastery passed through the possession of a series of Swabian nobles, including the Staufen and particularly Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. These constant changes of proprietor caused a severe decline in the monastery.
In 1171 the monastery was refounded by Pfalzgraf Hugo II of Tübingen as a Premonstratensian double abbey for men and women and given an adequate endowment. The canons were brought from Mönchsrot Abbey in Rot an der Rot. The existing premises were extensive and large-scale construction was not immediately necessary.
The first prior of the new foundation was Eberhard von Wolfegg from Mönchsrot Abbey. Between 1204-1208 Prior Meinhardt had the walls rebuilt. Prior Walther II had the old church extended to a three-aisled basilica, which was dedicated on 2 May 1239 by Henry I, Bishop of Constance. In 1273 Prior Konrad (1226–75) forbade any more admissions to women, and the double monastery soon became one for men only.
Under Prior Heinrich Mörstetter (1436–61) Marchtal was raised to the status of an abbey, in 1440. In 1500 it was made an Imperial abbey, with a place and vote in the Reichstag. In 1609 the abbot received the right to bear the pontificalia (mitre, ring and pectoral cross). At this period more than 20 places and estates belonged to the territory of the abbey, besides houses in the towns of Reutlingen, Ehingen, Munderkingen and Riedlingen.
The Thirty Years" War caused much distress in the southwest of Germany. In 1632 the canons had to flee from the Swedes. The buildings survived the war, but in a very dilapidated state. It was left to the 15th abbot, the young Nikolaus Magnus Wierith, to undertake the restorations. Planning for the construction of the new church began in 1674; the first stone was laid in 1686, and the dedication took place in 1701.
The abbey was dissolved in 1803 during the secularisation, and with its territories became the possession of the Princes of Thurn und Taxis, who administered it as part of the Principality of Buchau.
In 1806 the former abbey was mediatised by the Kingdom of Württemberg. The abbey church became the parish church and the monastery became a 'castle' (Schloss) or country house.
In 1919 a group of sisters of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, also sometimes known as 'Salesian sisters', from Chotieschau Abbey in Bohemia (now Chotěšov Abbey, Czech Republic) were given accommodation in the north wing. The sisters ran a secondary school for girls here until 1992, when it was taken over by the 'Stiftung Katholische Schule der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart'. The convent moved in 1997 to Untermarchtal.
In 1973 the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart bought the entire monastic complex from the Princes Thurn und Taxis, and converted it into a teacher training academy, opened on 8 September 1978. On 16 September 2001, to mark the 300th anniversary of the dedication of the church, Bishop Gebhard Fürst raised the abbey church to the rank of a minster church.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.