The Niedermünster was a house of canonesses in Regensburg. At the height of its power it was one of the wealthiest and most influential in Bavaria. The church is still in use as the parish church of Regensburg Cathedral.
This women's religious community, dedicated to Saint Erhard of Regensburg at its founding and later to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as well, was recorded for the first time in about 889. However, the first church, if the traditional foundation by the seventh-century Saint Erhard is credited, would have already existed by about 700, and a religious community had been founded by 788 by Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria. The foundation tradition also credits Saint Erhard with the foundation of a nunnery here. It is not clear in fact whether at first the community was for men or for women, but it soon developed into one of the most important women's religious houses in Germany.
The church was entirely rebuilt on a grand scale by Henry I, Duke of Bavaria, in about 950. Henry was buried here and his widow Judith, who by virtue of her and her husband's generous endowment of the community, is counted as the founder, took the veil here, became abbess and was herself buried here in 990.
This close connection with the ruling and Imperial Ottonian house made Niedermünster powerful and wealthy. The treasures of Niedermünster include the Rule of about 990 and the Uta Codex or Evangeliary of about 1025 with its casket of chased gold, commissioned by an abbess of Niedermünster and containing an illumination showing Saint Erhard presiding at Mass. There is also the magnificent cross given by Queen Gisela, daughter of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, and wife of King Stephen I of Hungary, for the tomb of her mother, Duchess Gisela of Bavaria, who was buried here in 1006.
In 1002 Emperor Henry II, son of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, granted the community Reichsfreiheit (territorial and judicial independence of all save the Emperor) and it became an Imperial abbey, or Reichsstift.
Emperor Henry II later favoured his own foundation of Bamberg Cathedral over Niedermünster, which accordingly lost prominence and influence.
The present Romanesque church was constructed after a fire in 1152 destroyed the previous one. The crypt of Saint Erhard remains from earlier buildings, however.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the church was modernised, although very modestly, and fitted out with some important works of art, including a monumental bronze crucifix and a sorrowing Mary Magdalene by Georg Petel. The silver shrine of the relics of Saint Erhard dates from the 19th century.
The community was dissolved in 1803 during the secularisation of Bavaria. From 1820 the premises were partly rented out. In 1821 the Bishop of Regensburg was given rooms here for his residence, and the episcopal offices were also transferred here. Also in 1821 the former canonry church took over from St. Ulrich's the role of cathedral parish church.
During excavations the foundations of Roman military buildings and predecessors of the church were uncovered. These may be seen only on guided tours, but it is planned to make these unique and well-preserved discoveries more accessible to the public.References:
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.
A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.
In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.
In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.
In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.
From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.
The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.
In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.