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)

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