The Scots Monastery (Schottenkirche) is the former Benedictine Abbey of St James in Regensburg. Irish missionaries first arrived in Regensburg in the 11th century, originally setting up camp just south of the city walls. Later the monks purchased a new site outside the western city gate and began building their monastery around 1100. The Church of St. James, a three-aisled basilica with three apses and two east towers, was dedicated in 1120. Only the east end survives of this early building.

The monastic church was expanded beginning around 1150, under Abbot Gregor. This second church, which stands today, was given a two-story transept or westwerk at the west end, an elaborate north portal, and a cloister to the south. Construction was completed by about 1185.

Regensburg became an important center for the missionary work of Irish monks in Europe; the Scots Monastery in Vienna is one of its daughter foundations. The St. Jakob monastery had close connections with the monastic school at Cashel back in Ireland and attracted the theologian Honorius of Autun (d.1151) towards the end of his life.

In 1577, shortly after the Scottish Reformation, a papal bull transferred the monastery from Irish to Scottish monks. The monastery was in decline by that time, with only one monk and one novice. The first Scottish abbot was Ninian Winzet (1518-92), an opponent of the reformer John Knox. Mary Queen of Scots ordered Abbot Winzet to train priests for Catholic missionary work in Scotland; the first priests were sent long after his death in 1623.

The monastery managed to avoid dissolution during the Napoleonic period, a rare accomplishment. It was demoted to a priory in 1820, but monks remained in residence until 1862, when the Bavarian government bought the property and turned it into a seminary for training Catholic priests.

The most famous architectural element of the church is its north portal (Schottenportal), which occupies a full third of the north wall, and is richly decorated with both ornamental and figural sculptures. The proper interpretation of this sculptural program has been debated since the beginning of the 19th century. Thorough examination of the structure seems to have demonstrated conclusively that the entire portal was assembled in the late 12th century, simultaneously with the construction of the second church.

The portal is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. At the lowest level, the door is framed at the center by richly decorated jambs, at each side of which stands a flat field interspersed with various relief sculptures. The second level is occupied by the tympanum and archivolt at the center and by blind arcades with caryatids at right and left. At the top, a frieze showing Christ with the twelve apostles stands at the middle, while figureless blind arcades stand at either side.

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Details

Founded: c. 1100
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Salian Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Benedikt Dolderer (21 months ago)
Schön warm und schöner Friedhof!
Maic Dillbahner (2 years ago)
Beeindruckend wie die Geschichte der ganzen Stadt.
S. Dheina (2 years ago)
Really nice and interessting church in Regensburg
tannie cheng (3 years ago)
Can view the entire city in a nice scenic
Joao Cesar Escossia (6 years ago)
The Schottenkirche St. Jakob (Scots Church of St. James) in Regensburg is a 12th-century Romanesque church famed for its fascinating north portal. Founded by Celtic missionaries from Ireland, the church shows northern influences in its art and architecture. The exterior of the Schottenkirche is difficult to see as a whole, due to tall trees on the north side and private buildings on the west and south sides. It is a basilica-style church with three aisles, twin east towers, and a two-story westwork. The east end and its towers date from 1100-20; the rest of the church and the cloisters from c.1150-85. The square east towers are plain and topped with pointed roofs. The west end is also plain, decorated only with Lombard bands around the top and Greek crosses incised in the gables. The most interesting aspect of the Schottenkirche is certainly the "Schottenportal," the large and elaborately carved north portal dating from about 1180. It has been badly blackened by pollution but is protected from further damage by a large glass enclosure installed in 1999. The tympanum above the north portal has busts of Christ, St. James and St. John. The six archivolts are undecorated but terminate in sculptures of seated bears (left) and lions (right) that face the viewer. The six jambs on each side alternate between: 1) columns carved with foliage and geometrical designs and topped with capitals of foliage with faces; and 2) grooved jambs left mostly plain except for awkwardly kneeling human figures carved at the top and bottom. In a wonderfully mind-bending image worthy of M.C. Escher, the figure on the inner bottom right jamb grasps the two solid grooves and pulls them around his neck like a scarf. The figure at top center right plays a stringed instrument, the one at bottom right holds a T-shaped staff associated with hermits, and the inner figure at top left holds a vessel draped with animal pelts.
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