From the late 16th century onward, the Abbey of St. Ulrich and St Afra was one of the 40-odd self-ruling imperial abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire and, as such, was a virtually independent state. The territory of that state was very fragmented: the abbey of St. Ulrich and St Afra proper enclaved within the Free Imperial City of Augsburg, and several small territories disseminated throughout the region. At the time of its dissolution in 1802, the Imperial Abbey covered 112 square kilometers and had about 5,000 subjects.
The Benedictine monastery was preceded by an original foundation established at an uncertain date, but at least as early as the 10th century (and in its turn quite possibly a refoundation of a still earlier one from the 5th or 6th centuries), by the Kollegiatstift St. Afra, a community of the priests charged with the care of St Afra's Church (now the Basilica of Saints Ulrich and Afra), where the relics of Saint Afra were venerated, and next door to which the community premises were built.
Between 1006 and 1012, Bruno, Bishop of Augsburg, removed the canons to the cathedral chapter and gave the premises to Benedictine monks whom he brought from Tegernsee Abbey, thus turning it into a Benedictine monastery. It was granted Imperial immediacy as an Imperial abbey in 1577, but this status was bitterly contested by the bishops of Augsburg, and the legal conflict was resolved in favour of the abbey only in 1643/44.
The abbey was dissolved in 1802 during the secularisation of Bavaria. The city of Augsburg and the state of Bavaria divided its territory between them. The monks however were permitted to remain in the premises of the dissolved monstery. In 1805 a French military hospital was installed here; after six monks, including the abbot, had died of infectious diseases, the remainder moved into a private house. The hospital was replaced in 1807 by a Bavarian cavalry barracks, known as the Ulrichskaserne.
The barracks remained here until World War II, when in 1944 the buildings were largely destroyed. The remains were not cleared until 1968–71. On the site the 'Haus St. Ulrich' has stood since 1975, an academy and pastoral centre of the Diocese of Augsburg. The sarcophaguses of Saint Afra and Saint Ulrich are preserved in the crypt.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.