Fulda Abbey was a Benedictine abbey as well as an ecclesiastical principality founded in 744 by Saint Sturm, a disciple of Saint Boniface. Through the 8th and 9th centuries, Fulda Abbey became a prominent center of learning and culture in Germany, and a site of religious significance and pilgrimage following the burial of Boniface. The growth in population around Fulda would result in its elevation to a prince-bishopric in the second half of the 18th century.
The monks of Fulda practiced many specialized trades, and much production took place in the monastery. Production of manuscripts increased the size of the library of Fulda, while skilled craftsmen produced many goods that would make monastery a financially wealthy establishment.
In 822, Rabanus Maurus became the fifth abbot of Fulda. He was previously educated at the monastery, and was very academically inclined, becoming both a teacher and head-master at the school before becoming abbot. Understanding the importance of education, the school became the main focus of Fulda under his leadership, and he would lead Fulda to the height of its importance and success. He established separate departments for the school, including those for sciences, theological studies, and the arts. Rabanus made an effort to collect various additional holy relics and manuscripts of historical significance to Fulda and the surrounding the areas to fortify their prominence in the Frankish Empire. With each relic, the significance of Fulda grew, and more gifts and power were bestowed upon the abbey. Power was, however, not Rabanus’s only intent; the increased holiness of the lands would also serve to bring his monks and pilgrims closer to God. The collection accumulated under Rabanus would largely be lost during the looting of Fulda by the Hessians during the Thirty Years' War.
Succeeding abbots would carry the monastery down the same path, with Fulda retaining a place of prominence in the German territories. With the decline of the Carlongian rule, Fulda lost its security and would rely increasingly on patronage from independent sources. The abbot of Fulda would hold the position of primate over all Benedictine monasteries in Germany for several centuries. From 1221 and onwards, the abbots would also serve as Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, given this rank by Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, and resulted in increased secular as well as monastic obligations. The increased importance of Fulda resulted in much patronage and wealth; as a result, the wealthy and noble would eventually make up the majority of the abbey's population. The wealthy monks used their positions for their own means, going as far as to attempt to turn monastic lands into their own private property. This caused great unrest by the 14th century, and Count Johann con Ziegenhain would lead an insurrection, alongside other citizens of Fulda, against Prince-Abbot Heinrich VI, 55th abbot of the monastery. The combination of responsibilities to the empire and corruption of traditional monastic ideals, so highly valued by Boniface and the early abbots, placed great strain on the monastery and its school.
In the later Middle Ages, a dean of the monastic school would functionally replace the abbot concerning scholastic management, once more granting it relative independence concerning ecclesiastical functions of Fulda. However, the monastery and surrounding city would never regain its status as a great cultural center it once held during the early medieval years. The monastery and the spiritual principality were secularized in 1803 after the German mediatisation, but the episcopal see continued.
The library held approximately 2000 manuscripts. It preserved works such as Tacitus' Annales, Ammianus Marcellinus' Res gestae, and the Codex Fuldensis which has the reputation of serving as the cradle of Old High German literature. Its abundant records are conserved in the state archives at Marburg. As of 2013 the Fulda manuscripts have become widely dispersed; some have found their way to the Vatican Library.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).