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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.