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:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.