Weingarten Abbey was founded in 1056 by Welf I, Duke of Bavaria. The name Weingarten (vineyard) is documented from about 1123. He settled it with monks from Altomünster Abbey. In 1126, Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria, withdrew here after his abdication; he died the same year and was buried in the abbey church.
The monks worked, among other things, at manuscript illumination. Their most famous work is the Berthold Sacramentary of 1217, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Also of especial note is the Welfenchronik, written and illustrated in about 1190, chronicling and glorifying the House of Welf which had its seat at Ravensburg nearby.
The monastery was elevated to the status of a Reichsabtei, independent of all territorial lordship except that of the emperor, in 1274. It acquired territory of 306 km2, stretching from the Allgäu to the Bodensee and including many forests and vineyards, and was one of the richest monasteries in southern Germany.
From 1715, the Romanesque abbey church, constructed between 1124 and 1182, was largely demolished, and replaced between 1715–24 by a large and richly decorated Baroque church, which since 1956 has been a papal basilica minor. This church was intended to stand within a monastic site built to the ideal layout, but this undertaking was only partially completed as the north wing would have blocked the via regia or imperial road. Following the order on April 27, 1728 to stop construction on the north wing, the southern wing was extended and the east wing was completed.
In 1803, during the German Mediatisation, the abbey was dissolved. At first, it became part of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda, and then in 1806 part of the Kingdom of Württemberg. The buildings were used inter alia as a factory and as a barracks.
In 1922, Weingarten was re-founded and re-settled by Benedictines from Beuron Archabbey and from the English Abbey of Erdington (in a suburb of Birmingham) which had itself been settled from Beuron. In 1940, the monks were expelled by the National Socialists, but were able to return after the end of the war.
The abbey and the St. Martin's Basilica are a major attraction on the tourist route known as the Upper Swabian Baroque Route. The current church was built between 1715 and 1724 in the Italian-German Baroque style according to plans by Franz Beer. The church is the second largest church in Germany, and is the largest Baroque church in Germany. The 102 meter long church is known as the 'Swabian St. Peter's' since this church is almost exactly one-half the size of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Within the church is the famous Gabler Organ, a church organ that was built between 1735 and 1750 by Joseph Gabler. The organ has over 60 registers, 169 ranks, 63 voices and over 6600 pipes. It is considered the 44th largest organ in the world.
A wing of the abbey precincts accommodates the present monastery. Other parts of the former abbey house the Pädagogische Hochschule Weingarten and the Academy of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.
The greatest treasure of Weingarten was its famous relic of the Precious Blood, still preserved in the church of Weingarten. Being miraculously discovered in 804, the relic was solemnly exalted by Pope Saint Leo III, but again buried during the Hungarian and Norman invasions. In 1048 it was re-discovered and solemnly exalted by Pope Saint Leo IX in the presence of the emperor, Henry III, and many other dignitaries. It was divided into three parts, one of which the pope took to Rome, another was given to the emperor, Henry III, and the third remained at Mantua. Henry III bequeathed his share of the relic to Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, who gave it to his daughter Juditha. After her marriage to Welf I, Duke of Bavaria, Juditha presented the relic to Weingarten. The solemn presentation took place in 1090, on the Friday after the feast of the Ascension, and it was stipulated that annually on the same day, which came to be known as Blutfreitag, the relic should be carried in solemn procession.
The procession was prohibited in 1812, but since 1849 it has again taken place every year. It is popularly known as the Blutritt. The relic is carried by a rider, der heilige Blutritter, on horseback, followed by many other riders, and many thousands of people on foot. The reliquary, formerly of solid gold, set with numerous jewels, and valued at about 70,000 florins, was confiscated by the Government at the suppression of the monastery and replaced by a gilded copper imitation.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.