Liberal Arts Blog — Monasteries (V) Germany — Ettal, Corvey, Reichenau

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Today’s Topic: Monasteries (V) Germany — Ettal, Corvey, Reichenau

The more research I do on monasteries, the more I am impressed by their resemblance to luxury hotels or palaces and the more amazed I am that there was a time, not so long ago, that so many found this grandeur inspiring in a spiritual way and gave huge financial support to single gender (mostly male) institutions devoted to prayer, but not just prayer, also to music, industry, charity, and what would later be called science. Today, the world tour moves on to Germany. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

ETTAL — Benedictine monastery in Bavaria, outside of Oberammergau, near Austrian border)

1. Founded in 1330 by Emperor Ludwig as a double monastery — one for men and one for women.

2. Famous for its brewery which has been in continuous operation for 400 years producing the “liquid bread of Bavaria.” The fifty monks also run a boarding school, a bookstore, and an art publishing house.

3. “The stuccoed and painted sacristy is considered the most beautiful rococo sacristy in southern Germany,”

NB: Secularized in 1803, re-founded in 1900. Accusations of sexual abuse at the boarding school during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s led to a settlement in 2011 involving payment of 700,000 euros to 70 former pupils.

CORVEY ABBEY — Benedictine, Westphalia (north western Germany)

1. Founded in 844. First Abbot was a cousin of Charlemagne.

2. The west front (above) is “the earliest medieval structure in Westphalia, but most of the abbey church is now Baroque.”

3. The monastery was secularized under Napoleon and passed on to a Landgrave (a noble title roughly equivalent to a Duke, I think) who turned it into a palace.

NB: Between the 9th and 11th centuries, the abbey was a center for the evangelization of Northern Europe.

REICHENAU ABBEY — on an island in Lake Constance (bordering Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

1. Founded in 724 by Saint Pirmin “who is said to have fled Spain ahead of the Moorish invaders.”

2. “The Abbey stood along a main north–south highway between Germany and Italy, where the lake passage eased the arduous route.”

3. “The Abbey of Reichenau housed a school, and a scriptorium and artists’ workshop, that has a claim to having been the largest and artistically most influential centre for producing lavishly illuminated manuscripts in Europe during the late 10th and early 11th centuries, often known as the Reichenau School.”

NB: “In the second half of the 11th century, the cultural importance of the Abbey started to wane owing to the restrictive reforms of Pope Gregory VIII, and also to rivalry with the nearby St. Gall; in 1540, the Bishop of Constance, an old rival of the Reichenau abbots, became lord of Reichenau, and, under the control of the succeeding bishops, the abbey’s significance dwindled.”

Ettal Abbey

Ettal Abbey — the cultural hub of the Ammergau Alps

Princely Abbey of Corvey

Corvey, Abbey of |

Reichenau Abbey

Reichenau Island

Lake Constance


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