Marienberg Abbey was founded in 1149 or 1150 by Ulrich von Tarasp and other nobles. It has maintained a long tradition of education and, at 1,340 m, it is Europe’s highest abbey. It retains a Baroque style with Romanesque elements, and has some well-maintained frescos.
The history of the foundation goes back to Charlemagne, who established a Benedictine monastery between 780 and 786 near Taufers, a town which on the Vinschgau side of the border with Switzerland. In 1149 or 1150 the community was re-settled on the hill near the village of Burgeis, under the name of Marienberg.
About one hundred years after its foundation the abbey suffered from serious conflict. It was sacked twice by nobles under Abbot Konrad III (1271–98) and in 1304 Abbot Hermann was killed by Ulrich of Matsch. The Black Death killed all but four members of the abbey including Abbot Wyho and Goswin, a lay brother, who later became a priest and chronicled the history of the monastery. This chronicle is divided into three books, the first of which details the story of the foundation and donations to the abbey. The second book of the chronicle is a history of the abbots, and the third recites the privileges conferred by popes and princes. It gives an account, without regard for order or chronology, of the founders, fortunes, benefactors and oppressors of the monastery. Goswin later became a prior of the abbey and court chaplain to Duke Leopold III of Austria. In 1418 Marienberg was burned down and was later rebuilt.
After a period of decline in the 16th century, several German monks helped to restore and expand the abbey. Abbot Mathias Lang (1615–40), from Weingarten Abbey, reformed it, and in 1634 Marienberg joined the Benedictine Congregation of Swabia. Lang's successor, Jacob Grafinger (1640–53), enlarged the library, and made the younger members finish their education at schools of repute. In 1656 the abbey was again burned down. Abbot Johann Baptist Murr (1705–32) in 1724 founded a humanistic high school in Meran which is still administered by the monks of Marienberg. Abbot Placidus Zobel (1782-1815) compiled a chronicle of the abbots.
In 1807 Marienberg was dissolved by the Bavarian government, but was restored by Emperor Francis II in 1816.
Today the monks specialise in adult education: weekend courses and longer retreats are held at the abbey. The abbey itself is available for tours.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.