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:
The Kalozha church of Saints Boris and Gleb is the oldest extant structure in Hrodna. It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall.
The church is a cross-domed building supported by six circular pillars. The outside is articulated with projecting pilasters, which have rounded corners, as does the building itself. The ante-nave contains the choir loft, accessed by a narrow gradatory in the western wall. Two other stairs were discovered in the walls of the side apses; their purpose is not clear. The floor is lined with ceramic tiles forming decorative patterns. The interior was lined with innumerable built-in pitchers, which usually serve in Eastern Orthodox churches as resonators but in this case were scored to produce decorative effects. For this reason, the central nave has never been painted.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact, depicted in the 1840s by Michał Kulesza, until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses. Remains of four other churches in the same style, decorated with pitchers and coloured stones instead of frescoes, were discovered in Hrodna and Vaŭkavysk. They all date back to the turn of the 13th century, as do remains of the first stone palace in the Old Hrodna Castle.
In 2004, the church was included in the Tentative List of UNESCO"s World Heritage Sites.