Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in the village of Ettal close to Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It is one of the largest Benedictine houses and is a major attraction for visitors.
Ettal Abbey was founded in 1330 by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in the Graswang valley, in fulfilment of an oath on his return from Italy, on a site of strategic importance on the primary trade route between Italy and Augsburg. The foundation legend is that Ludwig's horse genuflected three times on the site of the original church building, where a statuette of the Virgin Mary of the Pisano School now stands, a gift from Ludwig to his new foundation. This statue soon became an object of pilgrimage. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
The original Gothic abbey church, built between 1330 and 1370, was a modest structure in comparison to the great churches of medieval Bavaria.
The abbey suffered great damage during the Reformation at the hands of the troops of Maurice of Saxony, but survived the troubles of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). In 1709, under Abbot Placidus II Seiz, the golden age of Ettal began with the establishment of the 'Knights' Academy', which developed into a highly successful school and began the educational tradition of the abbey. In 1744, the abbey and the abbey church were largely destroyed in a fire. The subsequent spectacular re-building in the Baroque style, with a double-shelled dome, was to the plans of Enrico Zuccalli, a Swiss-Italian architect working in Munich, who had studied with Bernini. The decoration was primarily carried out by Josef Schmutzer of the Wessobrunn School of stuccoists and Johann Baptist Straub, who was responsible for the altars and the chancel.
Ettal's importance as a place of pilgrimage grew with the new buildings and it became one of the most important monasteries in the Alpine region.
The abbey was dissolved in 1803 during the secularization of church property in Bavaria. The site was acquired in 1809 by Josef von Elbing and sold by his descendants in 1856 to Count Pappenheim. Some small building works were completed during the 19th century, principally the renovation of the façade and the twin bell towers.
In 1898, the buildings were acquired by Baron Theodor von Cramer-Klett and, in 1900, given to the Benedictines of Scheyern Abbey, who re-founded the monastery here. It has been a member of the Bavarian Congregation of the Benedictine Confederation since 1900. The abbey church of the Ascension was declared a basilica minor in 1920.
During the winter of 1940–1941, the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) spent some months at the monastery as the friend and guest of the Abbot. Like Bonhoeffer, a number of those in the Ettal community were involved in the conspiracy against Hitler. While at Ettal, Bonhoeffer also worked on his book Ethics. Catholic priest Rupert Mayer was kept at the Abbey from 1939 to 1945 by the Nazis to prevent him for further anti-Nazi preaching.
In 1993 Ettal re-founded the former Wechselburg Abbey in Saxony, an old monastery of the Augustinian Canons, as a Benedictine priory.
Ettal maintains a Byzantine Institute. The abbot of Ettal, Joannes Hoeck, made a significant contribution on the role of Patriarchs in Church government at the Second Vatican Council.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.