Ottobeuren Abbey was one of the self-ruling imperial abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire and, as such, was a virtually independent state. It was originally founded in 764 by Blessed Toto, and dedicated to St. Alexander, the martyr. Of its early history little is known beyond the fact that Toto, its first abbot, died about 815 and that Saint Ulrich was its abbot in 972. In the 11th century its discipline was on the decline, until Abbot Adalhalm (1082-94) introduced the Hirsau Reform. The same abbot began a restortion of the decaying buildings, which was completed along with the addition of a convent for noble ladies, by his successor, Abbot Rupert I (1102-45).
In 1153, and again in 1217, the abbey was consumed by fire. In the 14th and 15th centuries it declined so completely that at the accession of Abbot Johann Schedler (1416-43) only six or eight monks were left, and its annual revenues did not exceed 46 silver marks. Under Abbot Leonard Wiedemann (1508-46) it again began to flourish: he erected a printing establishment and a common house of studies for the Swabian Benedictines. The latter, however, was soon closed, owing to the ravages of the Thirty Years' War.
Ottobeuren became an imperial abbey in 1299, but lost this status after the prince-bishop of Augsburg had become Vogt of the abbey. These rights were renounced after a court case at the Reichskammergericht in 1624. Within months of his election in 1710, the new abbot, Rupert Ness (Rupert II, 1710-1740), the son of a master blacksmith, succeeded in solving the centuries-old dispute over jurisdiction by paying 30,000 guldens to the prince-bishop of Augsburg for his renouncing the protection vogtei over the abbey, thus allowing Ottobeuren to regain its full status as an independent imperial abbey, although it did not become a member of the Swabian Circle. The War of the Spanish Succession not being yet over at the time, Abbot Rupert arranged to meet Emperor Charles VI who still occupied Bavaria, as well as Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough who were operating in the area.
Abbot Rupert ushered in the most flourishing period in the history of Ottobeuren which lasted until its secularization in 1802. From 1711-1725 he erected the present monastery, the architectural grandeur of which has merited for it the name of 'the Swabian Escorial'. In 1737 he also began the building of the present church, completed by his successor, Anselm Erb, in 1766. In the zenith of its glory, Ottobeuren fell victim to the German mediatization along with all the other imperial abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire. On 1 December 1802 Ottobeuren was securalized and its territory annexed to Bavaria. At the time, the territory of the imperial abbey covered 266 square kilometers and had about 10,000 inhabitants.
In 1834 King Ludwig I of Bavaria restored it as a Benedictine priory, dependent on St. Stephen's Abbey, Augsburg. It was granted the status of an independent abbey in 1918. As of 1910, the community consisted of five fathers, sixteen lay brothers, and one lay novice, who had under their charge the parish of Ottobeuren, a district school, and an industrial school for poor boys. Ottobeuren has been a member of the Bavarian Congregation of the Benedictine Confederation since 1893.
Ottobeuren Abbey has one of the richest music programs in Bavaria, with concerts every Saturday. Most concerts feature one or more of the Abbey's famous organs.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.