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:
The Château d'Olhain is probably the most famous castle of the Artois region. It is located in the middle of a lake which reflects its picturesque towers and curtain walls. It was also a major stronghold for the Artois in medieval times and testimony to the power of the Olhain family, first mentioned from the 12th century.
The existence of the castle was known early in the 13th century, but the present construction is largely the work of Jean de Nielles, who married Marie d’Olhain at the end of the 15th century.
The marriage of Alix Nielles to Jean de Berghes, Grand Veneur de France (master of hounds) to the King, meant the castle passed to this family, who kept it for more than 450 years. Once confiscated by Charles Quint, it suffered during the wars that ravaged the Artois. Besieged in 1641 by the French, it was partly demolished by the Spaniards in 1654, and finally blown-up and taken by the Dutch in 1710. Restored in 1830, it was abandoned after 1870, and sold by the last Prince of Berghes in 1900. There is also evidence that one of the castles occupants was related to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the person Alexandre Dumas based his Three Musketeers charictor d'Artagnan on.
During the World War I and World War II, the castle was requisitioned first by French troops, then Canadian and British soldiers. The current owner has restored the castle to its former glory.