After the creation of the Bishopric of Bamberg by Emperor Henry II, the first Bishop of Bamberg, Eberhard I, founded the Michaelsberg abbey in 1015 as the bishop's private monastery. Accordingly the abbot answered directly to the bishop of Bamberg, and to no-one else. The monks for the new establishment were drawn from Amorbach Abbey and Fulda Abbey.
The chronicler and author Frutolf of Michelsberg was prior here until his death in 1103. The abbey flourished under Bishop Otto (d. 1139), whose burial in the abbey church and subsequent canonisation in 1189, together with the papal protection granted to the abbey in 1251, was of enormous advantage in increasing the independence of the abbey from the bishops. The award to the abbots of the pontificalia had taken place some time before 1185. The abbey's financial status rested securely upon its great ownership of lands in 441 places in the bishopric.
In 1435 the abbey came into conflict with the townspeople of Bamberg and was plundered. It also suffered during the German Peasants' War of 1525, the Franconian Margrave War (Markgräflerkrieg) in the 1550s and from an occupation of several years' duration by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War. In the 17th and 18th centuries the abbey recovered, and enjoyed a new period of prosperity.
By the time of the secularisation of Bavaria of 1802 the abbey still owned substantial property in Bamberg itself as well as estates in no fewer than 141 places in the surrounding area. On 30 November 1802 Bavarian troops confiscated the abbey's assets. Valuable books were removed to the library of the Bavarian court, the predecessor of the present Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The 24 monks then resident were obliged to leave the monastery. The abbey buildings passed into the possession of the city of Bamberg, who by popular request transferred into them the old almshouses from the city centre; these are still located there.
The first church on the site, dedicated to Saint Michael, was built in about 1015 and was destroyed by an earthquake, probably in 1117. The present building is basically a Romanesque church, consecrated in 1121. In 1610 it was badly damaged by a fire, as a result of which the nave (with its ceiling paintings of the Garden of Heaven, completed in 1617) and the westwork, with the two west towers, had to be more or less rebuilt from scratch. The still-extant organ-loft was also constructed very soon after the fire, in 1610, and is a significant work of the German Late Renaissance. From 1696 Leonhard Dientzenhofer, under the instructions of abbot Christoph Ernst, created a two-storey Baroque exterior façade. Johann Dientzenhofer built the terrace in 1723.
In 1833, on the orders of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the gravestones and memorials of the bishops of Bamberg from the 16th to the 18th century were removed from Bamberg Cathedral and set up in the Michaelskirche.References:
Bamberg is located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz close to its confluence with the river Main. Its historic city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site.
Bamberg is a good example of a central European town with a basically early medieval plan and many surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings of the medieval period. When Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, became King of Germany in 1007 he made Bamberg the seat of a bishopric, intended to become a 'second Rome'. Of particular interest is the way in which the present town illustrates the link between agriculture (market gardens and vineyards) and the urban distribution centre.
From the 10th century onwards, Bamberg became an important link with the Slav peoples, especially those of Poland and Pomerania. During its period of greatest prosperity, from the 12th century onwards, the architecture of this town strongly influenced northern Germany and Hungary. In the late 18th century Bamberg was the centre of the Enlightenment in southern Germany, with eminent philosophers and writers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and E.T.A. Hoffmann living there.
Bamberg extends over seven hills, each crowned by a beautiful church. This has led to Bamberg being called the 'Franconian Rome'.