The Imperial Abbey of Irsee is a former Benedictine abbey, now a conference and training centre for Bavarian Swabia.
According to tradition, the monastery, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was founded in 1182 by Margrave Heinrich von Ursin-Ronsberg, to house a community that had grown up around a local hermit. The monastery was first established at the long-abandoned Burg Ursin, the margrave's ancestral castle, where St. Stephen Church’s cemetery is now located. A few years later, the monks headed by their first abbot Cuomo, decided to build a new monastery in the valley below where water was more readily available. The original name Ursin or Ursinium was eventually changed to Irsee.
During the troubled 14th century Irsee came close to collapse due to poor harvest, famine, war and excessive expenses by pleasure-loving abbots. It was saved only by the intervention in 1373 of Anna von Ellerbach, the second founder, sister of the Bishop of Augsburg, and her appointee, abbot Conrad III, known for his extreme frugality. Prosperity was restored within 20 years and during the late Middle Ages, Irsee Abbey had become one of the major abbeys in the diocese of Augsburg.
The abbey was nearly obliterated during the German Peasants' War and again during the Thirty Years' War. It was ravaged no less than five times by Swedish troops and then devastated by Imperial Croat troops and French troops. Its library as well as its archives were destroyed. For many years the monastery was so destitute that it could not accommodate even half a dozen monks. The abbey was finally able to put itself back on a stable footing in the later 17th century.
Irsee recuperated quickly but in 1662 the powerful prince-abbot of Kempten purchased the right of advocacy, which limited the autonomy of the abbey. In 1694, following the election of the energetic Romanus Köpfle as the new abbot in 1692, Irsee succeeded in obtaining the status of an Imperial abbey, which it will keep until it was dissolved in 1802.
In 1699 the dilapidated church tower collapsed and damaged the choir of the old Romanesque church built in 1194, which prompted Abbot Romanus to undertake the revamping of the church and monastery buildings. The construction project was greatly expanded by its successor, abbot Willibald Grindl and the monastery buildings were completely rebuilt. The plans have been attributed to Magnus Remy, an Irsee monk, who also created many of the paintings in the church. During the long rule of Abbot Bernard Beck (1731-1765), Irsee became a center of intellectual and scientific life in Swabia and beyond. Irsee’s natural history collection with its instruments of mathematics and physics were famous.
After 1849, the buildings served as an asylum and hospital for the mentally ill. Between 1939 and 1945 more than 2,000 patients, both adults and children, were transported by the then regime from Irsee and Kaufbeuren to death camps.References:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.