Salem Abbey was a very prominent Cistercian monastery founded in 1136 by Gunthram of Adelsreute (d. 1138) as a daughter house of Lützel Abbey in Alsace. Blessed Frowin of Bellevaux, formerly the travelling companion and interpreter of Bernard of Clairvaux, became the first abbot of Salem.
The abbey soon became very prosperous. Extensive and magnificent buildings, erected in three squares, and a splendid church were constructed between 1182 and 1311. Salem was noted as the richest and most beautiful monastery in Germany, being particularly renowned for its hospitality. Amongst its greatest benefactors and patrons were Conrad of Swabia and Frederick Barbarossa. The former placed the abbey under the special protection of himself and his successors, whence the title of 'Imperial abbey' (Reichsabtei or Reichskloster — independent from all territorial lordship bar that of the emperor alone) which was renewed several times under Barbarossa and his successors. Pope Innocent II also took the abbey under his particular patronage.
Its growth was continuous; after having made three important foundations — Raitenhauslach Abbey (1143), Wettingen Abbey or Stella Maris (1227), and Königsbronn Abbey (1303) — it still numbered 285 monks at the beginning of the 14th century. Its abbot, from 1454 on, was privileged to confer subdeaconship on his monks.
The abbey gradually declined after Reformation, and with the exception of the church was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 1697. Rebuilding started immediately and Salem was reconstructed as an impressive Baroque complex. Later in the century the abbey undertook between 1746 and 1749 the development of the pilgrimage church of Birnau under the supervision of Peter Thumb.
Caspar Oexle, who, as librarian, had increased the library to 30,000 volumes and a great number of manuscripts, was elected abbot in March 1802. In September of the same year the abbey was suppressed and given to the Margrave of Baden, while the library was added to that of Petershausen Abbey, and finally sold to the University of Heidelberg.
The church, known as Salem Minster, a Gothic structure which escaped the fire of 1697, became a parish church; but the famous grand tower with its fifteen bells, the largest weighing 10,000 lb, was destroyed in 1805–07.
Following the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803 and the nearly complete secularization in Germany the history of the monastery ended and the monks left the abbey. The other abbey buildings were used as the castle of the Grand Dukes of Baden, and the site was from then on known as Schloss Salem. In 1920, part of the castle premises were acquired for use as a boarding school, which continues to this day as the Schule Schloss Salem.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.