Niederaltaich Abbey was founded in 731 or possibly 741 by Duke Odilo of Bavaria. The monastery, dedicated to Saint Maurice, was settled by monks from Reichenau Abbey under Saint Pirmin. Eberswind, the first abbot, is considered the compiler of the Lex Baiuvariorum, the first code of law of the Bavarian people.
The monastery brought great areas of Lower Bavaria into cultivation as far as the territory of the present Czech Republic, and founded 120 settlements in the Bavarian Forest. In the reigns of Charlemagne and Louis the German the abbey extended its possessions as far as the Wachau. Abbot Gozbald (825-855) was the latter's arch-chancellor.
In 848 the monastery received the right of free election of its abbots, and in 857 became reichsunmittelbar (free of all territorial lordship except that of the monarchy itself). By the end of the 9th century over 50 monks had become abbots in other monasteries or been appointed bishops. The 10th century however brought the turmoil of the Hungarian incursions, and between 950 and 990 the monastery was a residential foundation (Kollegiatstift).
Under Abbot Gotthard or Godehard of Hildesheim (996-1022), better known as Saint Gotthard, the monastery entered a renewed golden age. Saint Gotthard, who along with Duke Henry of Bavaria, later Emperor Henry II, was a key supporter of contemporary monastic reform, was probably the abbey's best-known abbot. He later became Bishop of Hildesheim, where he was buried.
The abbey was granted by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to the Bishop of Bamberg in 1152, and as a consequence lost its reichsunmittelbar status. In 1242 the Wittelsbachs inherited from the Counts of Bogen the office of Vogt (lord protector) of the abbey.
Important abbots from this time on were Hermann (in office from 1242 to 1273), the author of the 'Annales Hermanni', and the Reformation abbots Kilian Weybeck (1503 to 1534) and Paulus Gmainer (1550 to 1585). Vitus Bacheneder, abbot between 1651 and 1666, created after the Thirty Years' War the foundations of the economic prosperity of the abbey in the Baroque period. Under Abbot Joscio Hamberger (1700–1739) the creation of the Baroque abbey and church took place, as well as the construction of the school. The church was the first commission for the later famous Baroque architect Johann Michael Fischer, who worked on it from 1724–1726.
The abbey was dissolved at the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803. A fire in the church in 1813, caused by a bolt of lightning, signalled the beginning of the demolition of the Baroque complex. The monastery buildings were sold off to private individuals. The side chapels of the abbey church, the Gothic cloisters and adjoining buildings, as well as the parish church, were demolished.
In 1918, with the help of a legacy from the theology professor Franz Xaver Knabenbauer, a native of Niederalteich, a monastery was re-established here and settled from Metten Abbey. In 1932 the monastery church received from the pope the title of Basilica minor.
In 1949, under Abbot Emmanuel Maria Heufelder, the monastery became once again an independent abbey.
In 1946 the St. Gotthard Gymnasium was refounded after having been closed by the Nazis. The remaining parts of the Baroque buildings were incorporated into new buildings in 1953–1954 and gradually renovated. In 1959 the Catholic State Secondary School was established here, and between 1971 and 1973 a new school building was erected for the St. Gotthard Gymnasium because the number of pupils had continually risen in the 1960s. Its boarding facilities, however, were shut down in 1994 and converted in 1999–2001 into the St. Pirmin Conference and Hospitality Centre.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.