Ecclesiastic States: Part 5
Abbeys and Convents

Here is a record of some of the many ecclesiastic states which become autonomous within the Holy Roman Empire. It is by no means complete. As these are not monarchic governments in the usual sense of that term, I have tried to give the names in the local language, rather than adhere to an English standard.

This page covers Abbeys, Priories, and Convents. For the Archbishops go to Part 1. For the Bishops of Augsburg to Gurk go to Part 2. For the Bishops of Halberstadt to Posen go to Part 3. For the Bishops of Ratzeburg to Zeitz-Naumburg go to Part 4.

Contains: Bellelay, Berchtesgaden, Corvey, Ellwangen, Essen, Fulda, Herford, Kaisersheim, Kempten, Niedermünster, Obermünster, Prüm, Quedlinburg, St. Cornelismünster, St. Emmeran, Stablo-Malmedy, Thorn, Weingarten, and Werden-Helmstadt.

Other German Files:
Go to: Germany (overall survey)
Go to: German Indices - specific states and territories
Go to: German Kreisen Table
Go to: German Free Cities
Go to: German States A-E
Go to: German States F-H
Go to: German States I-M
Go to: German States N-R
Go to: German States S
Go to: German States T-Z
Go to: Teutonic Tribes

BELLELAY A Praemonstratensian monastery located in northwestern Switzerland, 9 miles (14 km.) north-northwest of Biel. Under the authority of the prince-bishops of Basel, the establishment nevertheless held considerable local autonomy. Noted for a variety of cheese called monks-head, which is still produced today, the abbey was secularized when France invaded the Swiss Confederation at the end of the 18th century. The buildings were looted, but remain standing - they are presently a psychiatric hospital.

BERCHTESGADEN An Augustinian Priory (granted Imperial Princely status in 1491) in the Austrian Alps, just inside Germany (in a valley surrounded on three sides by Austrian territory, in fact). The town has a salt mine, providing early economic rivalry with nearby Salzburg. The district is nowadays a vacation resort, though it retains some notoriety as the site of Adolf Hitler's private retreat before and during the Second World War.

CORVEY A Benedictine Abbey in northern Germany, on the Weser River, 27 miles (43 km.) east of Paderborn. Named for the monastery it's founders derived from (Corbie, in France), it became an Imperial Principality, and was noted for it's splendid library, it's core of innovative scribes and illuminators, and it's missionaries - the best-known of whom is probably St. Ansgar, Apostle to Scandinavia. It was briefly a Bishop's see before the Napoleonic interruptions.

ELLWANGEN A Benedictine Abbey in southwestern Germany, converted into a college of secular canons in 1460.

ESSEN The largest city in the industrial hub centered on the Ruhr coalfields, during the Middle Ages the district was governed to a large extent by a Benedictine Convent established in Carolingian times.

FULDA An important Benedictine Abbey with extensive temporal territories in central Germany, raised to the status of a Prince-Bishopric in 1752, only 50 years before its temporal rule was secularized.

HERFORD A large Benedictine convent in northwestern Germany, just north of the Teutoburger Wald. The establishment was granted Princely status in the 12th century, with a seat on the Imperial Diet. Aside from the convent, the town of Herford was an Imperial Free City and a member of the Hanseatic League; it was attached to Brandenburg-Prussia from 1648 (within the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia 1807-1814).

KAISERSHEIM (modern Kaisheim) A Cistercian abbey of Imperial rank. Located in western Bavaria about 60 miles (95 km.) northwest of Munich, roughly 25 miles (40 km.) north of Augsburg, in the hills overlooking the north bank of the Danube not far from the Bavaria-Wurttemberg frontier.

KEMPTEN A Benedictine abbey in the Allgauer Alps of Bavaria, on the Iller River. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance the Abbacy was in constant conflict with the city (a Free City from 1289), especially after the town turned Protestant in the 16th century. A new, Catholic, town grew up around the monastery (chartered 1714), which was eventually conjoined with the old city in 1818.

NIEDERMÜNSTER in Regensburg A Benedictine convent in Bavaria; Princesses of the Empire with a seat in the Imperial Diet from 1675. See also Obermünster in Regensburg, a closely associated convent in the same city.

OBERMÜNSTER in Regensburg A Benedictine convent in Bavaria with a seat in the Imperial Diet. See also Niedermünster in Regensburg, a closely associated convent in the same city.

PRÜM A Benedictine Abbey in far western Germany on the Cologne-Luxembourg road, about 7 miles (11 km.) from the Belgian frontier and 32 miles (51 km.) northwest of Trier. Founded in Merovingian times, it was a favoured establishment of the Frankish sovereigns, and heavily endowed by them. Raised to the status of an Imperial Principality, the Abbacy nevertheless slowly decayed during the later Middle Ages, and was eventually attached to the Archbishops of Trier, under whose authority it flourished once more.

QUEDLINBURG A town in east-central Germany, 9 miles (14.5 km.) southeast of Halberstadt and 29 miles (46 km.) southwest of Magdeburg. A Praemonstratensian Convent was established here at the behest of King Henry the Fowler, richly endowed and intended to house primarily noble Saxon ladies - it's first Abbess, St. Mathilde, had been his Queen. Granted full autonomy aside from Papal authority, the Convent's control of the town was a matter of continual squabbles with the Bishops of Halberstadt until the 16th century.

ST. CORNELISMÜNSTER (St. Kornelimünster) A Benedictine Abbey and village in far western Germany, 5 miles (8 km.) southeast of Aachen, 3 miles (5 km.) southwest of Stolberg, and a similar distance northeast from the Belgian frontier.

ST. EMMERAN in Regensburg A Benedictine Abbey, one of the oldest in Germany, in east-central Bavaria - although not an Abbatial Principality as such, it had a seat in the regional (Bayrischer Kreis) Diet.

STABLO-MALMEDY (Stavelot et Malmédy) A Benedictine Abbey, Princes of the Empire, in eastern Belgium. The two locales are about 5 miles (8 km.) from each other, both roughly 25 miles (40 km.) southeast of Liège. Malmedy is about 9 miles (14 km.) from the nearest approach of the German border to the east.

THORN A small village just inside the Netherlands, 22 miles (35 km.) north of Maastricht, at the point where the Maastricht corridor joins the main portion of the Dutch state - the Belgian frontier is immediately to the southwest, less than half a mile (1 km.) away. During the time of the Empire, the village hosted a sovereign Benedictine convent. This establishment, like Essen and Quedlinburg, was reserved for ladies of noble birth, as a place of education or retirement. Vows were not required, and in fact many inmates left to marry, including one of the Abbesses (Anna Katharina of Salm Reiffenscheid, who wed Count John of Rietberg in 1647, and had 5 children). The monastery is in a good state of preservation, and the High Altar in the church is one of the most splendid in Europe.

WEINGARTEN A Benedictine abbey, located 68 miles (110 km.) south of Stuttgart, in southern Germany.

WERDEN-HELMSTÄDT Two associated Benedictine houses in northwestern Germany. Werden is just across the Ruhr River from Essen, while Helmstadt (founded 809/27) is 20 miles (32 km.) east of Braunschweig, directly on the former border between East and West Germany (just inside the West) - it was governed locally by a Provost. An Imperial Principality from 877. In decline from the 13th century on (the nadir reached in the 1460's when the Houses were led by a married layman and Werden's community consisted of three brothers), The foundations were completely reformed in the 1470's and prospered thereafter until secularization in the Napoleonic era.