Seeon Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded in 994 by Pfalzgraf Aribo I of Bavaria and settled by Benedictine monks from St. Emmeram's Abbey, Regensburg. The monastery is on an island in the lake Seeoner See. The abbey soon developed a significant scriptorium, producing manuscripts not only for the abbey's own use but also for other monasteries and churches. Their most important client was Emperor Henry II, who presented many volumes to the Bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded.
Toward the end of the 11th century the abbey church was re-built in the Romanesque style, but this building stood for only 100 years or so, before in about 1180 it was replaced by the present church, terminating in the east with an apse.
More alterations in the late Gothic style were carried out between 1428 and 1433 by Konrad Pürkhel of Burghausen. The Romanesque basilica was given a vaulted ceiling and a new choir. In 1579 the church was decorated with unusual Renaissance frescoes, showing, alongside scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the patrons, Saints Benedict and Lambert, and the founders, Aribo and Adala. Also of special note is the red marble gravestone of Abbot Honorat Kolb and the gravestones of the abbots of the 15th and 16th centuries lined up against the walls of the castle chapel. In the middle stands the tomb of the founder, Count Aribo I, made by Hans Heider in about 1400. The restored cloisters are also worth seeing.
The original of the Madonna and Child (created in 1433 by the 'Master of Seeon') is considered one of the most beautiful representations of the subject. Since 1855 it has been in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, but a copy has stood since 1947 on the high altar of the present parish church. The sacristy at Seeon contains a far older Madonna of about 1380.
The church originally had only one tower, that is, the north one, built to the model of that at Frauenchiemsee. The second tower was added at the end of the 12th century. The Romanesque towers are reminiscent of Freising Cathedral and, like the Frauenkirche at Munich, have copper 'onion towers', which were added after a fire in 1561. Between 1657 and 1670 the church was extended by the construction of a sacristy in the Lady Chapel, an oratory and a crypt beneath the chapel of Saint Barbara.
Until the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803 Seeon was a place of learning and culture: Haydn was a guest here, and Mozart was active here between 1767 and 1769.
After 1803 the abbey was dissolved and the buildings were turned into a castle, and used later at various times as a medicinal spa, convalescent home and barracks. The infirmary and the library were demolished, and a causeway constructed connecting the island to the mainland.
In 1989 the premises were eventually acquired by the government of the administrative region of Oberbayern and after a lengthy restoration reopened in 1993 as a cultural and educational centre, which is now used for concerts, exhibitions, seminars, conferences and workshops.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).