Tegernsee Abbey, officially known as St. Quirinus Abbey for its patron saint St. Quirinus, was founded either in 746 or around 765 AD. It was settled by monks from St. Gall and dedicated to Saint Quirinus of Rome, whose relics were brought here from Rome in 804. Soon, the monastery spread the message of Christianity as far as the Tyrol and Lower Austria. Until 1803, it was the most important Benedictine community in Bavaria.
After the fall of Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria (748-788), Tegernsee became a Carolingian Empire royal monastery during the Carolingian Renaissance. The community was greatly weakened by Hungarian raids and by repeated attempts at secularisation during the reign of Arnulf I, Duke of Bavaria (907-937) and in the course of the 10th century suffered a sustained decline, culminating in the fire of around 970.
Restored and re-founded, however, under Emperor Otto II (973-983) as an Imperial Abbey in 978, and re-settled by monks from St. Maximin's Abbey, Trier, Tegernsee entered a new period of growth. With the activities of the monk Froumund (1006-1012) and Abbot Ellinger (1017-1026 and 1031-1041), the abbey became a centre of literature, manuscript production and learning, and was also active in the resettlement of other Benedictine houses in Bavaria, including the newly founded abbey of Saints Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg in c. 1012.
This golden age of the abbey lasted almost to the end of the 12th century. Many literary and scientific works produced at that time. Tegernsee was largely spared the political and ecclesiastical confusions arising from the conflict between Pope Alexander III (1159-1177) and Emperor Frederick II, and even managed to acquire substantial privileges from both pope and emperor. However, despite those privileges and its early status as an imperial abbey, Tegernsee lost that status as it was never able to effectively enjoy Imperial immediacy. Therefore, it remained subordinate to Bavaria throughout its existence.
The shape of the future was made plain with the appointment of Abbot Manegold of Berg, son of the Count of Berg, to this Bavarian abbey in 1189, as the result of political intrigue by the Counts of Andechs, Vögte (lords protectors) of Tegernsee, and Bishop Otto of Freising. The political and economic interests of the noble families of Berg, Andechs and Hohenstaufen, now came to dominate the abbey and as a result, it declined during the 13th and 14th centuries into little more than a private monastery dependent on a small number of noble families. To make matters worse, it burnt down in 1410.
However, in 1426, Tegernsee received a Visitation from the Vicar-General, Johannes Grünwalder, which marked a new beginning. Over the next decades, with the support of the Papal Legate Cardinal Nikolaus von Kues, it became a focus of the Reforms of Melk Abbey, which opened Benedictine houses hitherto restricted to the nobility to a wider range of social classes. In 1455, monks of Tegernsee settled Andechs Abbey and were appointed abbots at Benediktbeuern, Oberalteich, Wessobrunn and others. In 1446, a Passion altar was dedicated. Johannes Keck (who was the Tegernsee delegate at the Council of Basle and died in 1450) wrote a work on music, and the Prior of Tegernsee, Bernhard von Waging (d. 1472) composed his mystical writings.
This second flowering continued into the Early Modern period. From 1573, the monastery had its own printing press, which thanks to Imperial privileges was allowed to print many books on theology, liturgy and the theory of music. The community survived the confusion of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), when the abbey was raided by Swedish soldiers. Tegernsee Abbey was also a prominent member of the Benedictine Bavarian Congregation, established in 1684.
During the abbacy of Abbot Benedikt Schwarz (to 1787), the first signs began to show of the secularisation which eventually took place on 17 March 1803, thus bringing the abbey to an end. Gregor Rottenkolber, the last Abbot of Tegernsee, died on 13 February 1810. The greater part of the site was bought by Baron Drechsel for his brewery, but he later sold a small part back to an unofficial monastic community, who remained until 1861.
The buildings of the monastery itself were acquired in 1817 by king Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and later became a possession of the Dukes in Bavaria (a side branch of the ruling Wittelsbach family, the kings of Bavaria), attracted by the unusually beautiful location, and turned it into their summer residence. Known since then as Schloss Tegernsee, it is still the property of that family, the present owner is Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria.
The former Carolingian style abbey church built at the end of the 10th century had been converted in the 11th to a Romanesque basilica, which in its turn had been re-fashioned between 1455 and 1460 into a Gothic church. The monastic buildings and the church were refurbished in the Baroque style between 1684 and 1688.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.