A visit to the former Benedictine Abbey of Seligenstadt provides an impressive insight into monastic life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547). In the 66th of a total of 73 chapters, it says: „The monastery should, if possible, be laid out in such a way that everything necessary, namely water, mill and garden, is located within the monastery and the various kinds of craft can be practised there. Thus the monks need not wander about outside, for that is not good for them at all.“

Thus the Benedictine abbey founded in 828 by Einhard, Charlemagne‘s advisor, functioned like a city within a city until its dissolution in 1803. Within the abbey walls, the monks could provide themselves and their servants with everything that was necessary to live.

Benedictines as Self-Sufficient

Wells ensured the drinking water supply, fruit and vegetable plants were cultivated in the abbey garden and the apothecary garden provided medicinal herbs for monastic medicines. Farm animals were kept, there was a water-powered mill and a bakery. Craftsmen produced all the necessary goods. Extensive landholdings on this side and on the other side of the Main were an important basis of the economy.

The Benedictine abbey with its excellent location on the Main and on a highly frequented former Roman road experienced its first heyday in the 11th century. In the monastery, which was directly subordinate to the Roman-German rulers, the great of the Empire met for synods and court diets.

Destruction and Reconstruction in the Baroque Period

The second highlight of the abbey’s history began at the end of the 17th century when, after the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War, the abbey was gradually rebuilt in the Baroque style. This period can be relived today on a guided tour of the monastery.

Seligenstadt Abbey, prelature building

Across the abbey courtyard, the view goes to the prelature building built in 1699 with the abbot’s living quarters and stately guest rooms.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2012

Seligenstadt Abbey, mill

The abbey mill from 1574 is the oldest of today’s buildings of the former Benedictine abbey.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2012

Kloster Seligenstadt, Konventgarten

In the abbey garden, useful and ornamental plants alternate. In the background on the left is the orangery. In the middle is the Old Abbey, adjoined on the right by the convent building.

Foto: Olli Heimann, 2016

Seligenstadt Abbey, Apothecary Garden

The apothecary garden was reconstructed in 1999 according to old sources and shows the great importance that medicine and pharmacy had in the Benedictine monasteries.

Foto: Alexander Paul Englert, 2020

Abbey Today Again in the Appearance of the 17th and 18th Centuries

In 1803, the time of the Seligenstadt monks came to an end when church property was secularised under Napoleonic rule and the abbey fell to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. Until the 1960s, the abbey buildings served as the domicile of various authorities.

In the 1980s, the Hessian Castle Administration successively began restoring the abbey complex in the spirit of its last heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries. The abbey garden was also reconstructed in its Baroque structure and planting.

Special Attraction: the Convent Garden

Today, vegetables, lettuce and herbs are once again growing in the beds bordered with flowers and dwarf fruit trees in the former monastic kitchen garden. Dyer plants and espalier fruit are cultivated along the abbey wall. A special attraction is the apothecary garden, which was laid out in the style that has survived from the 18th century.

Seligenstadt Abbey, Einhard Group

Monastery founder Einhard holds his Seligenstadt basilica in his left arm. The former gable group of the abbey church now stands in the convent garden.

Foto: Fischer, 2010

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