Neresheim Abbey was founded in 1095 as a house of (secular) Augustinian Canons, and converted to a Benedictine monastery in 1106. In the 13th century, the abbey owned seven villages and it had an income from a further 71 places in the area. Ten parish churches were incorporated. During wars and conflicts the monastery was destroyed several times for example during the Thirty Years' War and during Napoleonic Wars of the beginning of the 19th century.
After much internal debate, in 1745, the decision was taken to build a new abbey church instead of rebuilding the old Romanesque church, which had been superficially updated to the Baroque style in the late 17th century. Abbot Amandus Fischer (1711–29) had brought in architect Dominikus Zimmermann to rebuild and redecorate the abbey's Festsaal, which was carried out in 1719-20 in a high Rococo style. Seeking stylistic continuity with his predecessor's building program, Abbot Aurelius Braisch (1739–55) commissioned architect and building engineer Johann Balthasar Neumann to rebuild the abbey church in 1747. Neumann, the most sought-after architect in central Europe at the time, had designed the pilgrimage church of Vierzehnheiligen and the Residenz at Würzburg, which were admired for their light formal invention, sumptuous materials and lightness of touch. Neumann's plan called for a conventional basilica consisting of nave, crossing and choir which were articulated as a series of oval-shaped bays surmounted with shallow domes.
Work commenced on the new church in 1750, but Neumann's premature death in 1753 necessitated the finding of new builders willing to carry out Neumann's plans. Subsequent architects altered or abandoned the original design, particularly the construction and profile of the domes, which slowed progress. The finished church, consecrated in 1792, should be attributed to Neumann with reservations or characterized as the work of disparate hands.
The domes were frescoed by Austrian painter Martin Knoller over the 6 summers of 1770-75. Seven scenes from the Life of Christ are depicted, including Christ among the Doctors, the Last Supper and the Ascension.
In 1802 the monastery was suppressed and secularized. Due to the disruptions caused by the Napoleonic invasion, custodianship over the abbey's assets and property was granted to the Princely House of Thurn und Taxis for the years 1803-06. Afterwards, the Bavarian state assumed ownership. Both the abbey and the County of Thurn un Taxis were annexed by the kingdom of Württemberg in 1810.
Precious objects were bought from Thurn und Taxis by Bavaria. The Prince of Thurn und Taxis funded and refounded the monastery, which opened in 1919. It was resettled by Benedictines from Beuron Archabbey and the Emaus Abbey in Prague. Today there are 13 monks in the monastery, Norbert Stoffels having been their guiding abbot between 1977 and 2012. Now since March 2012 P. Albert Knebel is Prior-Administrator. There is a bookshop and a restaurant for visitors.
The medieval monastery had a roman basilica but in 1695 it was transformed to a baroque church. The present abbey was erected between 1747 and 1792 from plans by Balthasar Neumann. After his death in 1753 his disciples and followers continued his work. It is a masterpiece of European baroque. its famous ceiling paintings were by Martin Knoller from Steinach, Austria. They shows Jesus Christ in the centre surrounded by scenes from his life.References:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.