Göttweig Abbey was founded as a monastery of canons regular by Blessed Altmann, Bishop of Passau. The high altar of the church was dedicated in 1072, but the monastery itself not until 1083: the foundation charter, dated 9 September 1083, is still preserved in the abbey archives.
By 1094 the discipline of the community had become so lax that Bishop Ulrich of Passau, with the permission of Pope Urban II, introduced the Rule of St. Benedict. Prior Hartmann of St. Blaise's Abbey in the Black Forest was elected abbot. He brought with him from St. Blaise's a number of chosen monks, among whom were Blessed Wirnto and Blessed Berthold, later abbots of Formbach and Garsten respectively. Under Hartmann (1094–1114) Göttweig became a famous seat of learning and strict monastic observance. He founded a monastic school, organized a library, and at the foot of the hill built a nunnery where it is believed that Ava, the earliest German language poetess known by name (d. 1127), lived as an anchorite. The nunnery, which was afterwards transferred to the top of the hill, continued to exist until 1557.
During the 15th and 16th centuries however the abbey declined so rapidly that between 1556 and 1564 it had no abbot at all, and in 1564 not a single monk was left here. At this crisis an imperial deputation arrived at Göttweig, and elected Michael Herrlich, a monk of Melk Abbey, as abbot. The new abbot, who held his office until 1604, restored the monastery spiritually and financially, and rebuilt it after it had been almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1580.
Abbots distinguished during the Reformation were George Falb (1612–1631) and David Corner (1631–1648), who successfully opposed the spread of Protestantism in the district.
In 1718 the monastery burnt down and was rebuilt on a grander scale during the abbacy of Gottfried Bessel (1714-1749) to designs by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt inspired by the Escorial, a scheme so lavish that Abbot Gottfried was nearly deposed because of it. The fresco decorating the imperial staircase is considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture in Austria. Executed by Paul Troger in 1739, it represents the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI as Apollo.
The abbey has a library of 130,000 books and manuscripts, and a particularly important collection of religious engravings, besides valuable collections of coins, antiquities, musical manuscripts and natural history, all of which survived the dangers of World War II and its immediate aftermath almost without loss.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).