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.
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.