Near Essen Saint Ludger founded a monastery in 799 and became its first abbot. The little church which Saint Ludger built here in honor of Saint Stephen was completed in 804 and dedicated by Saint Ludger himself, who had meanwhile become Bishop of Münster. Upon the death of Ludger on 26 March 809, the abbacy of Werden passed by inheritance first to his younger brother Hildigrim I (809–827), then successively to four of his nephews. Under Hildigrim I, also Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, the new monastery of Helmstedt in the Diocese of Halberstadt was founded from Werden. It was ruled over by a provost, and remained a dependency of Werden till its secularization in 1803.
Werden was a wealthy abbey with possessions in Westphalia, Frisia, eastern Saxony and around the abbey itself, where it had a territory of 125 km².
On 22 May 877, under Hildigrim II, the monastery, which up to that time had been the property of the family of Saint Ludger, obtained, Imperial immediacy, which amounted to the right of free abbatical election and immunity. Henceforth the abbots of Werden were imperial princes and had a seat in the Imperial Diet. The abbey church of Werden, destroyed by fire in 1256, was rebuilt in the late-Romanesque style (1256–75). Two of the most obscure yet intriguing men to hold seats of authority in Werden Abbey (found in the Archives in North Rhine-Westphalia), were Abt Johann I., (1330–44) and Abt Johann II. von Arscheid (Arscheyt, Arschott-Brabant), (1344–60). Thereafter the monastery began to decline to such an extent that under Abbot Conrad von Gleichen (1454–74), who was a married layman, the whole community consisted of only three men, who divided the possessions of the abbey among themselves. After a complete reform, instituted in 1477, by Abbot Adam von Eschweiler of the Bursfelde Congregation, Werden continued in existence until its secularization in 1803.
Problems arose after the Reformation, when the Vögte (lords protectors) of the abbey were the Protestant rulers of Brandenburg, who had inherited the neighbouring County of the Mark.
The construction of Baroque abbey buildings, textile production and coal mining formed the economic basis of the territory of Werden in the 18th century.
During the secularization in 1803 the abbey and its territory became part of Prussia, but three years later it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Berg. In 1815 it became Prussian again, as part of the Rhine Province.
The buildings are now used by the Folkwang Hochschule.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.