Münsterschwarzach Abbey, dedicated to the Holy Saviour, the Virgin Mary and Saint Felicity, was founded before 788 as a nunnery. It was a private foundation of the Carolingian ruling house: the abbesses were daughters of the imperial family, for example Theodrada (d. 853), a daughter of Charlemagne. After the death of the last Carolingian abbess, Bertha, in 877, the nuns left the abbey and it was taken over by Benedictines.
Münsterschwarzach became a centre of monastic reform during the 12th century, when Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg, who was in close contact with the reform movements of Cluny, Gorze and Hirsau, appointed Egbert of Gorze as abbot. Egbert not only reformed and renewed the spiritual life of Münsterschwarzach but then, through the spread of the subsequent Münsterschwarzach Reforms, exerted an influence far beyond it, from Harsefeld Archabbey near Stade in the north to Melk and Lambach in the south.
In the 18th century a Baroque basilica was commissioned from Balthasar Neumann, with frescoes in the cupolas by Holzer; it was dedicated in 1743 by Bishop Friedrich Karl von Schönborn.
In 1803 the abbey was dissolved in the course of the secularisation of Bavaria. The monastic buildings were auctioned off. In 1805 the abbey church was sold and deconsecrated. In 1810 the buildings were struck by lightning and severely damaged by the subsequent fire, and between 1821 and 1827 the remains of the church were entirely demolished, and those of the monastic buildings largely demolished.
In 1913 the remains of the old abbey were re-acquired by the Missionary Benedictines, along with the necessary land to support it. The first abbot after the restoration was Dom Placidus Vogel (1914-1937). He was followed by Dom Burkhard Utz (1937-1959) and Dom Bonifaz Vogel (1959-1982), a nephew of Abbot Placidus. The monumental abbey church with its four towers was built between 1935 and 1938, when it was dedicated. The architect was Albert Bosslet.
Between 1941 and 1945 the abbey was confiscated by the National Socialists and used as a military hospital. Although the monastic community had been expelled, some monks were able to remain as workers in the hospital. It reopened after the war.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.