Marienberg Abbey

Marienberg Abbey (Abbazia Monte Maria, Kloster Marienberg) is a Benedictine abbey founded in 1149 or 1150 by Ulrich von Tarasp and other nobles. It has maintained a long tradition of education. Located in the municipal district of Mals (Malles Venosta) in Italy's Vinschgau (Venosta) Valley (in the province of Bolzano-Bozen), it is Europe’s highest abbey at 1340 m (4400 ft). The abbey retains a baroque style with Romanesque elements with some well maintained frescos.


The history of the founding goes back to Charlemagne, who established a Benedictine monastery between 780 and 786 near Taufers-Tubre, a town which is located on the Vinschgau-Val Venosta side of the border to Switzerland, in Val Müstair (Monastery valley).

Sometime after 880, the Benedictine monastery was dissolved and became a convent for both sexes. About two hundred years later there was a reorganization with Eberhard of Tarasp building the male portion the monastery of Schuls in the Engadin's Inn valley, while cloistered nuns remained at Taufers in the Adige valley. After being rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1131, Ulrich von Tarasp called monks from the German monastery of Ottobeuren to instill new life into the monastery, who with their addition made the then priory into an abbey. In 1149 or 1150 the community was settled at the hill near the village of Burgeis where the abbey was under the name of Marienberg.

About one hundred years after its founding the abbey suffered through serious strife. It was sacked twice by nobles under Abbot Konrad III (1271-98) and in 1304 Abbot Hermann was killed by Ulrich of Matsch. The Black Death killed all but four members of the abbey including Abbot Wyho and Goswin, a lay brother. Goswin would later become a priest and would chronicle the history of the monastery. This chronicle is divided into three books, the first which details the story of the founding and donations to the abbey. The second book of the chronicle is a history of the abbots, and the third the privileges conferred by popes and princes. It gives an account, without regard for order or chronology, of the founders, fortunes, benefactors, and oppressors of the monastery. Goswin later became a prior of the abbey and court chaplain to Duke Leopold III of Austria. In 1418 Marienberg was burned down and was later rebuilt.

After a period of decline in the sixteenth century, several German monks helped to restore and expand the abbey. Abbot Mathias Lang (1615-40), from Weingarten monastery, became the reformer of the abbey. In 1634 Marienberg joined the Benedictine Congregation of Swabia. Lang's successor, Jacob Grafinger (1640-53), enlarged the library, and made the younger members finish their education at schools of repute. In 1656 the abbey was again burned down. Abbot Johann Baptist Murr (1705-32) in 1724 founded a humanistic high school in Merano which is still administered by the monks of Marienberg. Abbot Pacidus Zobel (1782-1815) compiled a chronicle of the abbots. In 1807 Marienberg was dissolved by the Bavarian government, but was again restored by Emperor Francis II in 1816.

Today the monks specialise in adult education: weekend courses and longer retreats are held at the abbey. The abbey itself is available for tours.

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