A frontal view of Ettal Abbey

Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in the village of Ettal close to Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany.

Middle Ages and Early Modern period

Ettal Abbey was founded on 28 April 1330, Saint Vitalis of Milan's day, by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in the Graswang valley, in fulfilment of an oath on his return from Italy, on a site of strategic importance on the primary trade route between Italy and Augsburg. The foundation legend is that Ludwig's horse genuflected three times on the site of the original church building, where a statuette of the Virgin Mary ("Frau Stifterin" or the "Ettal Madonna") of the Pisano School now stands, a gift from Ludwig to his new foundation. This statue soon became an object of pilgrimage. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

The foundation originally consisted of a Benedictine double monastery - a community for men and another for women - and also a house of the Teutonic Knights.

The original Gothic abbey church, built between 1330 and 1370, was a modest structure in comparison to the great churches of mediaeval Bavaria.

The abbey suffered great damage during the Reformation at the hands of the troops of Maurice of Saxony, but survived the troubles of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).

Baroque expansion

Frescos under the dome

In 1709 under Abbot Placidus II Seiz, the golden age of Ettal began with the establishment of the "Knights' Academy" ("Ritterakademie"), which developed into a highly successful school and began the educational tradition of the abbey. In 1744 the abbey and the abbey church were largely destroyed in a fire. The subsequent spectacular re-building in the Baroque style, with a double-shelled dome, was to the plans of Enrico Zuccalli, a Swiss-Italian architect working in Munich, who had studied with Bernini. The decoration was primarily carried out by Josef Schmutzer of the Wessobrunn School of stuccoists and Johann Baptist Straub, who was responsible for the altars and the chancel.

Ettal's importance as a place of pilgrimage grew with the new buildings, and it became one of the most important monasteries in the Alpine region.


The abbey was dissolved in 1803 during the secularization of church property in Bavaria. The site was acquired in 1809 by Josef von Elbing and sold by his descendants in 1856 to Count Pappenheim. Some small building works were carried out during the 19th century, principally the renovation of the façade and the twin bell towers.

Second foundation

Statue on the pulpit

In 1898, the buildings were acquired by Baron Theodor von Cramer-Klett and in 1900 given to the Benedictines of Scheyern Abbey, who re-founded the monastery here.

The abbey church of the Ascension was declared a basilica minor in 1920.

In the tradition of the "Ritterakademie" the abbey has established a secondary school ("Gymnasium") specialising in the humanities and modern languages, with a boarding house. Ettal also runs a brewery and distillery, a bookshop, an art publishing business, a hotel, a cheese factory joint venture and various other small businesses.

In 1993 Ettal re-founded the former Wechselburg Abbey in Saxony, an old monastery of the Augustinian Canons, as a Benedictine priory.

The abbey, with a community (as of 2005) of more than 50 monks, and another 5 at Wechselburg, is one of the largest Benedictine houses and a major attraction for visitors.

Ettal maintains a Byzantine Institute. The abbot of Ettal, Joannes Hoeck, made a significant contribution on the role of Patriarchs in Church government at the Second Vatican Council.

Ettal has been a member of the Bavarian Congregation of the Benedictine Confederation since 1900.

[Baroque Church Interior:[1]

Abbots (Second foundation)

  • 1907–1933 Willibald Wolfsteiner
  • 1933–1951 Angelus Kupfer
  • 1951–1961 Dr Johannes M. Hoeck
  • 1961–1973 Dr Karl Gross
  • 1973–2005 Dr. Edelbert Hörhammer
  • From 2005 Barnabas Bögle

World War II

During the winter of 1940-41, the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) spent some months at the monastery as the friend and guest of the Abbot. Like Bonhoeffer, a number of those in the Ettal community were involved in the conspiracy against Hitler. While at Ettal, Bonhoeffer also worked on his book Ethics. Catholic priest Rupert Mayer was kept at the Abbey from 1939 to 1945 by the Nazis to prevent him for further anti-Nazi preaching.

See also


  • Drößler, Adolf, 1930. Königsschloß Linderhof, Oberammergau und Kloster Ettal (Violette Bücher, vol. 7). Würzburg: Bonitas-Bauer.
  • Koch, Laurentius, 1996. Basilika Ettal. Kloster-, Pfarr- und Wallfahrtskirche. Ettal: Buch-Kunstverlag. ISBN 3-87112-074-X
  • Prosch, Magdalena, 1927. Die sonnige Not [historical novel about Ettal Abbey]. Regensburg: Manz.
  • Sarach, Rupert (ed.), 1970. Festschrift zum 300jährigen Weihejubiläum der Klosterkirche Ettal. Ettal: Buch-Kunstverlag.
  • Schenk, Clemens, c. 1960. Kloster Ettal bei Oberammergau. Eine kunstgeschichtliche Betrachtung. Würzburg: Triltsch.
  • Schnell, Hugo, 1960. Ettal. Kloster- und Marien-Münster (Große Kunstführer, vol. 3). Munich: Schnell & Steiner.
  • Seidel, Max, 1949. Ad gloriam dei. Neue Bilder vom Benediktinerkloster Ettal. Stuttgart: Belser.
  • Anon, 1860. Kloster Ettal. Kurzgefaßte Nachricht von dem Ursprunge, Fortgange und Ende des Benediktinerklosters Ettal. Munich: Weiß.

External links

Coordinates: 47°34′N 11°06′E / 47.567°N 11.1°E / 47.567; 11.1 no:Kloster Ettal th:แอบบีเอ็ททาล

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