Benediktbeuern Abbey is a monastery of the Salesians of Don Bosco, originally a monastery of the Benedictine Order. The monastery, dedicated to Saints James and Benedict, was founded in around 739/740 as a Benedictine abbey by members of the Huosi, a Bavarian noble clan, who also provided the three brothers who served one after the other as the first three abbots, traditionally named as Lanfrid, Waldram, and Eliland, for nearly a century. It is possible that Saint Boniface had an involvement in the foundation; he may have consecrated the church (to the holy Trinity), though this is not widely accepted. There was here a school of writing, whose work survives in the form of numerous codices of the 8th and 9th centuries. In 955 the monastery was destroyed by the Hungarians. It was restored in 969 by Wolfold, a priest, as a house of canons.
Under the influence of Emperor Henry III it was rebuilt by Saint Ulrich, Bishop of Augsburg, and in 1031 returned to the Benedictine rule and re-settled by monks from Tegernsee Abbey under the first abbot of the new foundation, Ellinger. Under the second abbot, Gothelm (1032–1062), and the monks Gotschalk and Adalbert the school and scriptorium were re-established. Gotschalk, later third abbot, was responsible for the translation of the relics of Saint Anastasia here in 1053, which by making the abbey a place of pilgrimage added substantially to its fame and prosperity; he was also its first historian.
Benediktbeuern suffered four serious fires, in 1248, 1377, 1378, and 1490, but was prosperous enough to re-build each time.
The abbey enjoyed for centuries an extremely high reputation as a place of learning and research. Botanical research and the establishment of a medicinal herb garden in about 1200 are also evidenced. In about 1250 the library covered the whole range of higher education as it then existed. The abbey also excelled at theological, philosophical and scientific studies. In the 1530s Dom Antonius Funda made considerable advances in the systematic writing of monastic history.
In 1611 many of the community died of the plague. During the Thirty Years' War the grammar school was suspended and in 1632 Dom Simon Speer was tortured and put to death by the Swedes for refusing to surrender the goods of the abbey. The school had reopened by 1689, when the study of languages, music, mathematics and botany was especially emphasised. Shortly before, between 1669 and 1679, the abbey was given its present Baroque form. In 1698 the school in the north wing was opened. The library complex dates from 1722.
In 1684 the Bavarian Congregation of Benedictine monasteries was founded by Pope Innocent XI, to which Benediktbeuern belonged until its dissolution in 1803. During the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803 the abbey, then comprising thirty-four monks, was dissolved.
The library and archives had contained many priceless manuscripts and charters. Ziegelbauer printed a catalogue of the library, dated 1250, in which more than one hundred and fifty books and manuscripts are enumerated. At the suppression the library comprised 40,000 volumes. A number of these, and many of the codices, were added to what is now the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and the remainder left to be dispersed over time by the neglect or indifference of subsequent owners. There were reports, however, that, some books where used to fill holes in the cart tracks of the moor between the monastery and the river Loisach.
In the course of the disposal of the library and archives, there came to light the manuscript of the Carmina Burana, a 13th-century collection of songs by wandering scholars. The manuscript, also known as the Codex Buranus, is also now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
The abbey premises were acquired by Josef von Utzschneider, who in 1805 set up an experimental glassworks here, known as the Optical Institute. He was joined by Joseph von Fraunhofer, who was able here among other things to develop flawless or 'waveless' flint glass and discover the Fraunhofer lines which have become of importance in the development of spectroscopic analysis.
In 1818 the Bavarian State took over the buildings, which from then on were used for military purposes, initially as a stud-farm for the rearing and training of cavalry horses, and thereafter as a barracks, invalid home, military convalescent home and prison.
Since 1930 the buildings have been used by the Salesians, of whom about 45 now live and work here. The abbey church was declared a 'basilica minor' in 1972.References:
Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.
At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.
During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.
In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.
The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.
The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.
After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.
When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.