The Benedictine abbey of Saint Mang was founded in the first half of the 9th century as a proprietary monastery of the Prince-Bishops of Augsburg. The reason for its foundation goes back to the hermit Magnus of Füssen (later Saint Mang) and his Benedictine brother Theodor, both from the Abbey of Saint Gall, who built a cell and an oratory here. The saint"s body, amid miracles, was discovered uncorrupted, a proof of his sanctity, and the veneration of St. Mang was the spiritual basis of the monastery.
The foundation was not however solely spiritually motivated; there were practical political reasons underlying it as well. The monastery"s key position not only on the important medieval road from Augsburg across the Alps to Upper Italy but also in the Füssen Gap (the point where the Lech River breaks out of the Alps) gave it an immense strategic value, which made it of political concern both to the Bishops of Augsburg and to the Holy Roman Emperors.
The history of the abbey in the Middle Ages is principally marked by the efforts of the religious community to maintain a life true to the Rule of St. Benedict amidst the various pressures caused by external social developments. Over time therefore the monks repeatedly embraced various reforms and reforming movements intended to bring about a return to the essentials of the Benedictine life. These reforms mostly resulted in spiritual and economic growth and an increase in the headcount, which in turn brought more building and commissions of artwork.
The energy of the Counter-reformation found lasting expression in the construction of an enormous Baroque abbey complex between 1696 and 1726, commissioned by Abbot Gerhard Oberleitner (1696-1714), which still today, along with the High Castle (Hohe Schloss), characterises the town of Füssen.
The architect Johann Jakob Herkomer (1652-1717) succeeded in turning the irregular medieval abbey premises into a symmetrically organised complex of buildings complex. The transformation of the medieval basilica into a Baroque church based on Venetian models was intended to be an architectural symbol of the veneration of Saint Magnus. The entire church represents an enormous reliquary. For the first time in South German Baroque construction the legend of the local saint inspires the suite of frescoes throughout the entire church. The community at the time also set out to make the new church the envy of connoisseurs for the quality of its artworks. Among the artists who contributed various forms of decoration for the building were Anton Sturm, Franz Georg Hermann, Jakob Hiebeler and Paul Zeiller, whose only extant oil paintings are in the Chapter Hall.
Although the abbey was never able to obtain the independence, it had a decisive influence as a centre of lordship and economy, cultural and faith life, on Füssen and the whole region.
On 11 December 1802, during the secularisation that followed the Napoleonic Wars and the Peace of Lunéville, the princes of Oettingen-Wallerstein were awarded possession of St. Mang. On 15 January 1803 Princess Wilhelmine ordered Abbot Aemilian Hafner to dissolve the abbey and vacate the premises by 1 March of that year.
The contents of the library were shipped off to the new owners down the Lech on rafts. Most of the items are now in the library of the University of Augsburg, except for a small collection of especially valuable manuscripts, which are in the Augsburg Diocesan Archives.
In 1837 the former abbey church was transferred as a gift to the parish of Füssen. In 1839 the Royal Bavarian chamberlain, Christoph Friedrich von Ponickau, bought the remaining lordship of St. Mang. In 1909 the town of Füssen acquired the Ponickau estate, including the former abbey buildings (apart from the church).
The north wing was used as the town hall. In the south wing the Füssen Town Museum is now located, with displays on the history of the abbey and of the town, particularly of the traditional manufacture of lutes and violins in Füssen. It is also possible to view the Baroque reception rooms of the abbey in the museum.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.