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:
Bamberg is located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz close to its confluence with the river Main. Its historic city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site.
Bamberg is a good example of a central European town with a basically early medieval plan and many surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings of the medieval period. When Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, became King of Germany in 1007 he made Bamberg the seat of a bishopric, intended to become a 'second Rome'. Of particular interest is the way in which the present town illustrates the link between agriculture (market gardens and vineyards) and the urban distribution centre.
From the 10th century onwards, Bamberg became an important link with the Slav peoples, especially those of Poland and Pomerania. During its period of greatest prosperity, from the 12th century onwards, the architecture of this town strongly influenced northern Germany and Hungary. In the late 18th century Bamberg was the centre of the Enlightenment in southern Germany, with eminent philosophers and writers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and E.T.A. Hoffmann living there.
Bamberg extends over seven hills, each crowned by a beautiful church. This has led to Bamberg being called the 'Franconian Rome'.