Salem Imperial Abbey

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Salem Imperial Abbey
Salem Palace (north facade of the abbey building)
Salem Palace (north facade of the abbey building)
location GermanyGermany Germany
Coordinates: 47 ° 46 '34 "  N , 9 ° 16' 38"  E Coordinates: 47 ° 46 '34 "  N , 9 ° 16' 38"  E
Serial number
according to Janauschek
founding year 1137
Year of dissolution /
Mother monastery Lützel Monastery
Primary Abbey Morimond Monastery

Daughter monasteries

Raitenhaslach Monastery (1143)
Wettingen Monastery (1227)
Königsbronn Monastery (1303)

Salem Castle with park and garden
The Salem Imperial Abbey in 1798

The Salem Imperial Abbey in today's municipality of Salem in Linzgau ( Baden-Württemberg ) was a monastery of the Cistercian order and one of the wealthiest and most important imperial abbeys in the Lake Constance area .

The monastery, which was founded in 1137/1138, was able to expand its privileges and position within the order in the late Middle Ages. Troubled by wars in the 17th century and almost completely destroyed by fire, it experienced its second heyday in the 18th century as the center of southwest German Rococo with the construction of the Birnau pilgrimage church and the founding of Germany's first savings bank .

The extensive baroque monastery complex (built 1697–1706 by Franz Beer ) with the high Gothic Salem Minster (approx. 1285–1414) passed into the possession of the margraves of Baden through secularization in 1802 . Since then, the complex has been called " Schloss Salem " and has served as the residence of the margravial family and, since 1920, as the seat of the Schloss Salem boarding school . In the spring of 2009, the House of Baden sold most of the facility to the state of Baden-Württemberg.


See also: List of Abbots of Salem

middle Ages


Coat of arms of Bernhard von Clairvaux (left) and Abbot Johannes Stantenat (term of office 1471–1494) from a Salem manuscript (Cod. Sal. IX c, Bl. 18v, 1494. Heidelberg University Library)

Salem was founded during the time of Bernhard von Clairvaux (* around 1090; † 1153), who within a few decades succeeded in spreading the Cistercian order across Central Europe . (Bernhard von Clairvaux never visited Salem himself; Frowin , the first abbot of Salem, is said to have known Bernhard and accompanied him as an interpreter on the advertising trip for the Second Crusade in 1146. ) The Cistercians were organized in five primary abbeys and populated by France systematically and almost comprehensively the Roman Empire and the neighboring countries. Salem was created through filiation from the monastery Lützel in Alsace (founded 1123/1124), which was a foundation of the monastery Bellevaux (Franche-Comté). Bellevaux, in turn, was the first daughter monastery of the Morimond primary abbey . Salem was the first Cistercian settlement in the northern Lake Constance area and one of the first foundations in the Roman Empire to descend from Morimond.

The chronicles of the monastery report that the baron and knight Guntram von Adelsreute (see Herrschaft Adelsreuth ) turned to the abbot von Lützel in 1134 to donate part of his property to found a monastery. Guntram's donation comprised a few scattered plots of land totaling around 200 hectares , some of which were already settled or cultivated as fields. The piece of land on which the monastery was built was six kilometers inland from the shores of Lake Constance in the valley basin of the Linzer Aach . The Franconian settlement Salemanneswilare (later: Salmannsweiler ) with a small chapel was already located there . The monastery was not located in a secluded wilderness, as the order actually prescribed for start-ups, but in the midst of a fragmented and widely ramified system of territories divided into tenure rights. Nevertheless, the swampy land still offered opportunities to satisfy the colonization ambitions. The Lützel Monastery initially had concerns about the small size and wide spread of the donated properties. Finally, in 1137, the necessary founding convention of twelve monks and a few lay brothers under the designated Abbot Frowin was sent to Salmannsweiler to build accommodation and workshops.

In 1137 or 1138 Salem was elevated to an abbey . To this day there are different opinions about the actual year Salem was founded. Both the dating of the foundation (1134) and the elevation to the abbey are not recorded in documents , but only in a chronicle from the 13th century. Recent research names May 15, 1138, the Sunday after Ascension Day , as the day of the foundation. In the monastery tradition 1134 (but partly also 1137) was designated as the year of foundation, so that the 850th anniversary of the abbey was celebrated in 1984. This question is not only interesting for historiography, but was also important for the monastery itself, since the age of the abbey determined the order of precedence of the monasteries within the order.

The name "Salem"

The monastery in Salemanneswilare was given the spiritual name “Salem” after the biblical “place of peace”, which is mentioned in the Old Testament as the seat of King Melchizedek ( Genesis 14:18; Ps. 76,2). The biblical Salem was interpreted as the older name of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages . The Salem Monastery has therefore always been associated with the heavenly Jerusalem in artistic allegories .

The names Salem and Salmannsweiler were used equally alongside each other until the 18th century. Of all things, the secularization in 1804 let the secular name fall into oblivion and made the spiritual name the place name of the community.

Salem and the Hohenstaufen

Confirmation of Konrad III. by 1142

Guntram's foundation was politically motivated: Through it, Salem, like the mother monastery in Lützel, was connected to the Staufers . In the power struggle between Staufern and Welfen , the founding ensured that the former, who already had important bases of their power in the Lake Constance region in Altdorf , Ravensburg , Buchhorn , Reichenau Island and Kreuzlingen , were able to expand their influence over the northwestern Lake Constance area. The legal consolidation followed quickly: In 1142 Salem was taken over by the Staufer King Konrad III. elevated to imperial abbey ; his heir to the throne, Friedrich Barbarossa, confirmed the privileges. The immediate neighbors of the monastery approved the establishment, as it offered support against the Guelph Counts of Pfullendorf . Due to the documented rights, Salem was exempt from other bailiwicks and had the king of the Roman-German Empire as the direct patron - a position that the Salem abbots knew how to secure and develop over time.

When in 1198 the Staufer Philipp von Schwaben and the Guelph Otto von Braunschweig were elected by their respective factions as rival kings of the Roman-German Empire, Salem sided with the Staufer. Pope Innocent III however, confirmed Otto IV as the new king in 1201. Abbot Eberhard von Rohrdorf therefore sought support from Eberhard II , the Archbishop of Salzburg . Together they tried to pope Innocent III. to move to recognize the Hohenstaufen succession, but this did not succeed. When Philipp von Schwaben was murdered in 1208, Salem officially confessed to Otto IV, who in return confirmed the abbey in its rights. Nevertheless, Salem kept in secret contact with the Hohenstaufen throne Friedrich II. The loyalty paid off: The Staufer, elected emperor in Bamberg in 1211 and finally recognized by the Guelphs in 1219, thanked Salem for his loyalty with a wealth of protective documents.

The Salemer Pflegehof in the former imperial city of Esslingen am Neckar dates from the first heyday of the monastery and was first mentioned in 1229.

The protection of the Hohenstaufen helped Salem under Abbot Eberhard von Rohrdorf (1191–1240) to an astonishing economic prosperity. Eberhard succeeded the existing free float in monastic managed granges merge. For the first time, the monastery generated large surpluses that were reinvested in real estate. The overproduction of fruit, grain and fish was sold in duty-free town yards in Constance , Überlingen , Ehingen and Esslingen, among others . With Gut Maurach , located directly on the shore of Lake Constance, Salem also secured access to freight shipping and trade routes to sell the goods produced. Numerous nobles transferred part of their property to the monastery. Among them was a salt works near Hallein , which Archbishop Eberhard II of Salzburg donated to the monastery in 1201 and at the same time guaranteed the duty-free transport of the extracted salt, which opened up an important source of income. Well-trained Salem lay brothers gradually took over the administration of the entire archbishopric salt pans. In return, new sales markets opened up for salt mining in the west of the Reich.

Salem as a consistorial abbey

In terms of canon law, the newly founded Salem Monastery was in the diocese of the Bishop of Constance . After Pope Innocent II had recognized the monastery in 1140, Pope Alexander III raised it . in 1178 to the consistorial abbey , which made it directly subordinate to the Holy See and newly elected abbots no longer had to be confirmed by the local bishop, but only by the pope.

Abbot Eberhard von Rohrdorf continued to secure his monastery against claims by the Bishop of Constance by entering into an alliance with the Archdiocese of Salzburg and transferring the land of the monastery to him. In 1201, Salzburg therefore became the “mother and mistress” of Salem. However, it is questionable what the change in canonical law consisted of, since Salem continued to maintain its rights as a consistorial abbey. The real benefits were mainly political assistance and mutual economic advancement. Eberhard II also became the unofficial successor to the founding family, whose last descendant Mathilde von Adelsreute died in 1192. As a result, he was therefore venerated in Salem as the “second donor”.

The good relations between the monastery and the Holy See gave the monastery the rarely granted privilege in 1384 to include the pontifical insignia miter , pectoral cross and papal ring in the coat of arms of the monastery and its filiations.

Founding of subsidiaries

Within the first century and a half of the history of the monastery, Salem delegations settled three filiations : The first was the Bavarian Raitenhaslach Monastery , founded in 1143 , the settlement of which by Salem monks is not directly documented, but is sufficiently evidenced by the undisputed right to visit. The Tennenbach Monastery near Freiburg im Breisgau , settled by the Frienisberg Monastery around 1158, was incorporated into Salem in 1182 as a "fake" daughter. The second own foundation was Wettingen, founded in 1227 in northern Switzerland. The great expansion of the order had already slowed down when the Habsburg Albrecht I founded the Königsbronn monastery in 1303 and offered Salem to be settled in order to continue Rudolf I's church policy.

Abbot Eberhard von Rohrdorf in particular also made a name for himself by the Cistercian women. The Cistercian order's leadership found it difficult to accept women's monasteries in the years around 1200, so that even bans on founding new ones were issued. Abbot Eberhard did pioneering work here and in 1217 took the Wald nunnery into his care, which had been founded five years earlier . In the course of the 13th century, other women's monasteries followed in Rottenmünster , Baindt , Heiligkreuztal , Heggbach and Gutenzell in Upper Swabia as well as the Thurgau convents in Feldbach and Kalchrain . Salem retained the right to visit these monasteries, unless they had previously been dissolved, until its own closure. In the Swabian Imperial Prelate College , some of the women's monasteries were even to receive political weight later.

Salem and the Habsburgs

First known representation of the Salem Minster ( Augustin Hirschvogel , 1536). Construction began under the protection of the Habsburgs.

After the fall of the Staufer, the political chaos of the interregnum (1254-1273) began, in which Salem was dependent on self-protection and suffered severe economic losses. The regional nobility challenged previous gifts or simply confiscated them. Shortly after the election of King Rudolf I in 1273, which was supposed to bring peace to the empire, at least temporarily, Salem therefore established close ties with the Habsburg family . Rudolf offered his protection as the imperial monasteries played an important role in his political plan to restore the Duchy of Swabia . For Salem, in turn, this connection was the necessary opportunity to ensure the survival of the abbey.

A second epoch of prosperity began in 1275 under the protection of the Habsburgs and lasted until around 1320. Around 1300 Salem was one of the largest and richest monasteries in a wide area; it owned fishing rights in Lake Constance as well as goods in a radius of more than 100 km, including Ulm , Biberach an der Riss , Saulgau and Meersburg . Most of the properties lost in the interregnum were transferred back to the monastery and documented. Thanks to the newly achieved financial strength, construction of the Salem Minster began around 1285, but was not completed until 1425 after a construction freeze triggered by lack of money and the plague epidemics .

For the monastery, the close ties to the empire meant, at least in theory, stability and protection against claims by the local nobility and other imperial estates . However, the securitized security was not very reliable in practice. During the reign of the Pope's opponent Ludwig of Bavaria from 1314 to 1347, Salem was even completely dependent on self-protection. The monastery always refused offers from regional aristocrats to take over the bailiwick of Salem, as such offers were associated with claims to property and power. The neighboring Counts of Heiligenberg were particularly stubborn, and until the 17th century they tried again and again to assert legal claims on Salem property, to seize or imprison Salem subjects and to impose their jurisdiction on them.

Ludwig's successor, King Charles IV , even attempted to completely transfer the monastery to the Heiligenbergers in 1347, but had to reverse this step the following year after a protest from Salem. However, Charles IV not only withdrew this overwriting, but also guaranteed Salem further privileges: a document from 1354 obliged the surrounding cities and the nobility to protect the monastery and granted it lower jurisdiction over its citizens. The high jurisdiction remained with the Landvogtei Oberschwaben until a contract between Salem and Heiligenberg in 1637 redistributed the land and gave Salem full legal authority over most of its territories.

Reformation and early modern times

Political role around 1500

As an imperial monastery, Salem also occasionally served as accommodation for the traveling emperors, which in turn made it easier for the politically ambitious abbots to contact the powerful. On August 20, 1485, Emperor Friedrich III. the Salem Monastery. During this visit the abbot Johannes Stantenat managed to negotiate important privileges: An imperial charter of May 26, 1487 allowed the monastery to collect taxes from its subjects and to punish defaulting payers themselves. In addition, Salem was now allowed to choose his guardian himself and remove him again. Salem had thus achieved full imperial immediacy with most of the privileges of an imperial estate. If the monastery had served as a political instrument after its foundation, it had now succeeded in achieving the greatest possible autonomy through its privileges.

At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Emperor Charles V once again confirmed the privileges and protection of the empire. Salem's imperial political importance reached its peak in these years: in 1500 and 1521 the Salem abbots were appointed to the twenty-person imperial regiment, which was to lead the permanent imperial government under the chairmanship of the king. Since around 1470, the Salem abbots also regularly took part in the Reichstag for the first time . While other orders provided far more imperial prelates, among the German Cistercian monasteries, apart from Kaisheim, only Salem achieved the undisputed imperial status . The survey on Fürstabtei succeeded doing any German Zisterze. Salem was represented in the Reichsfürstenrat of the Reichstag only by the vote of the Swabian Reich Prelate College. Salem was at the top of the ranking, but (with one exception: Abbot Anselm II) was never able to provide the director of this college.

At the same time, the imperial protection helped to prevent attacks by the most powerful neighbor: The power-conscious Johann von Weeze tried several times to disempower the abbey and, as a comer, to subordinate it to the diocese of Constance . Weeze had already succeeded in integrating the venerable Reichenau Abbey in 1540, while Salem was able to maintain its independence twice (1540 and 1562) with the help of the emperor.

The actual influence of the abbey on imperial politics, however, was little, however hard one tried. Salem's contribution consisted mainly of the payment of contributions for the warfare of the empire ( Roman month ), to which it was obliged as an imperial estate. After the Kaisheim Cisterce, Salem usually made the highest contributions of all German abbeys. In the Thirty Years' War Salem supported the Catholic League ; later it had to raise contributions for the Turkish Wars , the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) and the War of the Palatinate Succession (1788–1797). As an imperial estate, Salem also had the obligation to maintain a contingent of troops that was available to the empire in times of war. Such a force may have existed as early as the early 14th century; from 1422 it is documented. In the 18th century it comprised around 60–80 ordinary soldiers and a few officers, while reservists were also available in times of war.

Peasant revolts

The imperial patronage was of little use to the monastery against its own subjects. In the 15th century, the monastery management had transformed the land lordship over their territories into a comprehensive state rule and demanded high taxes from its serfs to a far greater extent than was the case with other monasteries . Far stricter requirements than in other southern German territories should probably prevent the population from building up wealth. The strict regulations provoked conflicts: as early as 1473 a rebellion had to be settled by a treaty in favor of the population; In 1515 a monk was even killed by farmers in Bermatingen . When the German Peasants' War broke out in 1524 , the rebellious peasants of the lake heap were fed by the monastery; only the peaceful end of the uprisings in Linzgau prevented major looting. The monastery immediately lowered taxes to prevent future riots.

Foundation of the Upper German Congregation

The Reformation and the spread of Protestantism in the 16th century were a hard blow to the Cistercian order. Around 50 of 109 German monasteries were closed, including the Salemitan subsidiary in Königsbronn. Salem was on Catholic territory and therefore remained. Its importance grew all the more in the smaller German monastery landscape. The Abbot General of Morimond appointed the Abbot of Salem in 1596 as Vicar General of the Order Province of Upper Germany with the right to ordain abbots himself.

Aware of this pioneering role among the Upper German Cistercians, Abbot Thomas I. Wunn (1615–1647) established the Upper German Cistercian Congregation . In the Romance countries, similar alliances had already emerged in the 16th century. In November 1617 the abbots of Salem, Wettingen , Tennenbach , St. Urban and Neuburg (near Haguenau ) and the commissioner of Hauterive agreed on the statutes of the Upper German congregation. On January 22nd, 1619 they were confirmed by the General Chapter in Cîteaux . Salem was designated as the seat of the provincial chapter; as the first president ( Vicarius generalis Germanieae Superioris ) his Salem initiator Thomas Wunn was elected. The philosophical-theological academy for novices , provided for in the statutes, began studying on January 1, 1625 in Salem. Salem thus became not only an organizational center, but also a training center for the novices of all abbeys in the congregation.

New building despite the poor economic situation

Salem around 1681. Contemporary engraving (detail)

Tax losses and looting in the wars of the 16th century had put the abbey's finances in dire straits. The monastery suffered major financial damage during the Schmalkaldic War (1546–1547), when troops who passed through extorted protection money or had the monasteries provide them with room and board. The indebtedness and high imperial taxes forced the monastery to sell entire villages and tithe rights well below price. The abbey's economic situation did not recover until the 18th century.

Despite the difficult financial situation and the hostilities in the empire, Abbot Thomas I. Wunn decided to build extensive new buildings immediately after taking office in 1615. It not only documented the abbot's ambition, but also the increased self-confidence of the monastery. In its time, the Wunn monastery complex was one of the largest building projects in the Lake Constance region and its exterior design was based on the feudal castles of the surrounding counties. The spacious complex replaced the old monastery buildings, which had grown and repaired over centuries, with a new, uniform overall structure, which, however, suffered severe damage in the following war years.

Thirty Years' War

In the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) the monastery fell between the fronts. Even in the run-up to the war, troops had to be quartered and fed, with the soldiers passing through often looting and stealing. In 1610 the inhabitants of the areas belonging to the monastery were allowed to form and arm a "People's Army" of 1500 men; in the year the war actually started in 1618, however, it was dissolved again. Salem had joined the Catholic League in 1609 , but blocked the payment of contributions from 1623 because troops of the League had repeatedly extorted contributions from Salem and because it was feared that the Protestant Württemberg would make short work of a member of the Catholic League if it won.

The Swedish Wars that reached southern Germany in 1632 hit Salem hard. The feared attack by the Swedish troops on April 26, 1632 went smoothly; The imperial regiments hit Salem much harder. In the years 1632–1647 Salem was looted several times and used as troop accommodation. The troops passing through extorted protection money, harassed or murdered the population, looted their houses and set them on fire. In the spring of 1634, the Swedish Field Marshal Horn had the monastery plundered; in August of the same year soldiers destroyed parts of the minster and stole some church bells. The abbot had to flee to Constance several times with the remaining priests. In autumn 1641 the abbot was forced to dissolve the convent and send the monks to other monasteries.

Only with the armistice between Bavaria, Sweden and France in March 1647 did peace return to Salem; the scattered monks, as far as they were still alive, could return. At that time the abbey had debts of around 190,000 guilders and was on the verge of ruin. The abbot Thomas II Schwab, elected in 1647, was only confirmed by the Pope ten years later because Salem could not pay the required annates . In order to pay off debts, court estates, tithe rights and other property had to be sold to private individuals or other monasteries. However, Salem remained heavily in debt for decades and was barely able to pay for the necessary repairs to the monastery buildings.

Convent fire and new building

The fire of the Salem monastery in 1697. Supraporte by Andreas Brugger

On the night of March 9th to 10th, 1697, the monastery suffered a fire disaster in which most of the buildings were destroyed. The fire spread from a defective stove in the guard room in the northeast of the monastery building, soon reached the wooden roof truss and from there spread to the other convent buildings, the abbey and the hospital. Fire-fighting trains from the surrounding communities were only able to save the cathedral and the west wing of the convent building. The fire destroyed a large part of the art treasures and the abbot's valuable reference library, while the library and the monastery archive were preserved.

Only a few weeks after the fire, it was decided to build the monastery from scratch. Franz Beer from Vorarlberg , who had been involved in the construction of the monastery church of Obermarchtal , was appointed as the master builder . The new facility was to be built according to a generous overall plan. Abbot Stephan I. Jung managed to raise around 350,000 guilders for the construction, despite the monastery's still high debt ; it is believed that old monastery treasures were paid for, which had been removed in time during the Thirty Years' War. Beer built the new buildings within a decade. Some of them were already available in 1706.

The 18th century

Baroque splendor

Representative view of Salem with the monumental bell tower of Abbot Anselm Schwab; in the foreground his six-horse carriage ( Anton Brugger , 1765)
Abbot Anselm II. Schwab points to the pilgrimage church Birnau in the background, which was completed during his term of office ( Gottfried Bernhard Göz , 1749)

The spacious new construction of the monastery heralded a new era of prosperity in Salem. Under the abbots Konstantin Miller (1725–1745), Anselm II. Schwab (1746–1778) and Robert Schlecht (1778–1802) the monastery reached the height of its wealth and splendor in the 18th century. Tax breaks for the abbey restored the prosperity that had been lost in the 17th century. In terms of importance in the empire, the wealthy abbey had long since equated to a small principality.

In Salem, people were well aware of the secular representational duties of an imperial estate and this awareness was also represented externally. Abbot Anselm even had himself appointed Imperial Privy Councilor by Emperor Franz I ; To his regret, however, like his predecessors, he did not succeed in bringing the monastery to the rank of prince abbey . Outwardly, they had distanced themselves far from the poverty laws of the order, while strict discipline still prevailed within the convent.

Salem as the center of Rococo art

Account book of the savings and orphanage fund Salem from 1882

What the Salem abbots could not achieve in political power, they made up for as patrons . In the course of the Counter-Reformation in the 17th century , the Catholic Church had begun to develop overwhelming imagery in sacred buildings to demonstrate its power and to convince the believers of God's splendor with great pathos . The Cistercians actually went against such splendor, as it contradicted the rules of St. Bernard, who imposed a ban on pictures in the rooms used by the convent . However, Bernhard already made an exception in his rules: modesty only applied to the monastery members, who were distracted from proper devotion by too much pictures, while the lay people were more easily convinced of the faith through pomp.

With this backing and with the awareness of their representative duties as an imperial abbey, the art-loving abbots of the 18th century made Salem the center of the Rococo . Numerous painters , sculptors and master builders were called to Salem to take care of the decoration of the monastery buildings and the further development of visible beauty. Several members of the Wessobrunn school worked temporarily for Salem; the Feuchtmayer family of sculptors and their staff lived on site and served the monastery for generations.

The largest construction project of the middle of the century was the Birnau pilgrimage church , which the Vorarlberg master builder Peter Thumb built from 1746–1750 on a hill promontory on Lake Constance, visible from afar. As a pure lay church, its frescoes and room layout were designed entirely for theatrical effect. The huge bell tower on the cathedral, which Johann Caspar Bagnato , master builder of the Teutonic Order planned and built from 1753 to 1757, was built in the same spirit . From the outside, it mainly attracted admiring glances, while inside the monastery it was highly controversial and Abbot Anselm even brought in an investigation into wastefulness. However, Anselm not only promoted the Rococo artists, but also learned to appreciate early French classicism during a stay in Paris ; the classicistic furnishings of the minster commissioned by him are considered unique in southern German sacred art.

Establishment of the orphan's fund

Social welfare has always been a main task of the monastery. In addition to nursing the sick and supporting the poor, this also included caring for orphans . Since their assets were usually freely and often improperly available to the step-parents or "orphan bailiffs", Abbot Anselm II founded the "Ordliche Orphansenkassa" in 1749 for the interest-bearing administration of these funds. It was first documented in 1775.

The Salemer Waisenkasse is considered to be the first savings bank in Germany because it was not a private credit institute for merchants, but was operated by the “public sector” and managed the money from small savers. The orphan s offices in Bonndorf in the Black Forest (1765) and Heiligenberg (1784) were opened based on their model . In 1806, the Grand Ducal Margravial Badische Orphan Fund emerged from the Salem orphan's fund ; Today's Sparkasse Salem-Heiligenberg refers to this tradition and was able to celebrate its 250th anniversary in 1999.

From 1800 to the present


Document of the occupation of the Salem and Petershausen monasteries by the sons of the Margrave of Baden (1802)
Salem at the time of secularization: Austrian military encamped in front of the monastery ( Johann Sebastian Dirr , 1804, color reconstruction)

The Konstanz diocese was administered by the Josephinist Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg at the end of the 18th century . The enlightenment mood in the bishopric was directed primarily against the surrounding abbeys, but could do little against Salem. The French primary abbeys of the Cistercians were dissolved in the course of the French Revolution in 1792, leaving the German Cistercians on their own. The French troops, who invaded the Lake Constance area in the course of the First Coalition War in 1795, carried the anti-clerical mood into the country and repeatedly forced the convention to flee to the Swiss monasteries of Wettingen and St. Gallen . Both the French soldiers and the Russian troops who invaded in 1799 received protection money from Salem.

The convention was already isolated from the structure of the order and unsettled by the chaos of war when the extraordinary imperial deputation met on August 24, 1802 to resolve the dissolution of the ecclesiastical imperial estates. The monastery's possessions were supposed to be secularized in order to compensate the German principalities for the loss of their possessions in the coalition wars. Many regents had the monasteries on their territories confiscated in the autumn of the same year, including Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden , who took possession of the Salem monastery provisionally on October 1 and officially on December 4, 1802 for the margraviate of Baden . The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of February 25, 1803 ratified the resolution and thus sealed the fate of Salem. However, the territory of the abbey did not simply become part of the margraviate of Baden, but was largely merged into a new "Reichsgrafschaft Salem" in Baden hands. Karl Friedrich, who had now risen to become Elector of Baden, transferred this county to his sons Ludwig and Friedrich . For sentimental reasons, both initially wanted the Convention to continue to exist; When this did not seem feasible, they decided a little later to smash it completely.

On November 23, 1804, Salem Monastery was closed. Most of the 61 spiritual convent members left the monastery; many settled as clergy in the surrounding towns. In contrast to other secularizations, Salem was not forcibly broken up. Rather, the repeal was regulated by contract, and the fathers were compensated with pensions.

Most of the monastery library was bought by the Heidelberg University Library , whereas the coin collection and many art objects have been lost to this day. The organ of the Salem Minster , built by Karl Joseph Riepp between 1766 and 1768, was sold to the town church in Winterthur, Switzerland , and another organ to Constance . Five bells went to Herisau , to Straubenzell , an incorporated part of St. Gallen , and to Wollerau in Switzerland. Herisau bought the large bell from Salem, cast by Franz Anton Grieshaber in 1756 with decorations by Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer . It was hung on November 3, 1807 in the tower of the Evangelical Reformed Church in Herisau. Many other church treasures and properties were also sold to pay off the heavy burden of war.

At the time of its abolition, Salem had enormous annual revenues and had assets of around three million guilders , including 330 square kilometers of land with about 6,000 residents. These included the main offices Salem, Ostrach and Schemmerberg , the Upper Bailiwick offices Stetten and Münch courtyards and Pflegämter Ehingen and Unterelchingen .

Salem owned by the House of Baden

Occasionally the house, now known as Salem Castle, served as the summer residence of the grand ducal family. With the end of the empire in 1806, the short-lived imperial county of Salem changed into a county that had the status of a civil status in the Grand Duchy of Baden. It belonged to the so-called "Bodensee fideikommiss ", a stock of assets that was used to support the younger sons of the Baden family. With the death of his brother Friedrich , Margrave Ludwig assumed sole rule and retained it when he rose to Grand Duke in 1818. After Leopold became Grand Duke of Baden in 1830 , the salem rule fell to his younger brothers Wilhelm and Maximilian , who no longer bore the title "Count of Salem". After Wilhelm's death in 1859, the Bodenseefideikommiss passed to the brothers of Grand Duke Ludwig II . Since the older of them succeeded Ludwig II as Grand Duke Friedrich I as early as 1856 because of Ludwig II's incapacity to govern, Salem remained with the younger, Prince Wilhelm . His son was Max von Baden , known as the last Chancellor of the German Empire. Since the last Grand Duke Friedrich II had no male heir, he adopted Max von Baden's son Berthold , which saved the house property that could only be inherited in the male line from being transferred to the Republic of Baden. With the death of Frederick II in 1928, Berthold succeeded him as head of the Baden family, making Salem the seat of the main line of the von Baden family.

Boarding school

After the end of the First World War and the Grand Duchy of Baden, Salem Castle remained with the von Baden family as a private property. In 1919, the disempowered Chancellor Max von Baden established his permanent residence in the castle. The castle now served the descendants of the Grand Dukes of Baden as an "exile home" in what was once their own country. Part of the former abbey building is still used today as living space.

In 1920 Max von Baden invited the pedagogue Kurt Hahn to open a reform school in the monastery building. His own children should be able to go to school there safely; In addition, the prince saw himself as a promoter of reform pedagogy . The boarding school Schule Schloss Salem is one of the most renowned private schools in Germany and is still headquartered in the western part of the castle. In the castle itself, however, only middle school students are taught.


In 2006 the House of Baden tried to win the state of Baden-Württemberg for a foundation that was supposed to secure the preservation of the facility. The financing of this foundation with a total amount of 40 million euros was to be done through the sale of cultural goods. 30 million euros were to be used to repay the debt of the House of Baden. However, the project failed due to public protests (see also manuscript sales by the Badische Landesbibliothek ). In this context, a subsequent discussion arose about the actual ownership of the margravial collections, which since 1957 were no longer officially managed by the Baden House, but by the Zähringer Foundation . The value of the collections is estimated at around 300 million euros.

In October 2007, Bernhard von Baden announced that he wanted to sell Salem Castle in order to pay off family debts of 30 million euros. On November 3, 2008, he reached an agreement with Prime Minister Günther Oettinger that the state of Baden-Württemberg would take over Salem Castle and the associated art collection for 57 million euros. Of this, 25 million euros go to Salem Palace and 17 million to art treasures from the House of Baden. The state wants to pay a further 15 million euros so that the aristocratic family waives their claims to ownership of the controversial Zähringer Foundation. The sale was sealed on April 6, 2009.

Architecture and surroundings

Salem in the early 19th century. Romantic landscape painting by Carl Ludwig Frommel

The Salem monastery complex, which has been the castle of the Margraves of Baden since 1802, is located on the slope of a hill in the terminal moraine landscape of Linzgau in southern Baden-Württemberg , six kilometers from the shore of Lake Constance . The closest neighboring cities are the former free imperial city of Überlingen in the west and Meersburg in the south , the former residence of the prince-bishops of Constance . In the northeast of Salem is Heiligenberg , today a small town, but at the time of the Holy Roman Empire a residence of the Fürstenberg dynasty and a controversial neighbor of the monastery. The monastery competed with these three neighbors not only politically and economically, but also structurally.

To this day, the Salem area has been dominated by agriculture and sparsely populated, so that the surrounding hills still give an imposing overall impression of the former monastery buildings. The area, which is fenced in by a wall, extends over an area of ​​approximately 500 × 400 meters, making it one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in German-speaking countries. In the center of the site is the mighty baroque complex of the convent and abbey building with the minster. The service wing to the north of it is older, but also of imposing size. Further farm buildings are scattered over the extensive area with its gardens and meadows.


Ground plan of the minster
Salem Minster, north facade

See also the detailed article Salem Minster .

Salem's first monastery church , begun around 1150 and consecrated in 1179, was probably a three-aisled basilica with a transept, divided into six chapels. Because it became too small for the larger convent, it was demolished about a hundred years after its completion to make way for a more spacious new building.

The second monastery church , the high Gothic cathedral , is integrated as a building into the monastery area. The strict, towering forms of the church contrast with its sweeping baroque style. According to the latest building studies, construction began around 1285 and was completed around 1425. Except for a few details on the facade, the structure still corresponds to the original shape.

It is a three-aisled basilica with a non-protruding transept and ambulatory choir on a rectangular base of 67 × 28 m. The monumental harp gables ( eyelashes ) on the front of the nave and the transept are striking . Together with the lancet windows, they give the building, which is rather coarse on the outside, a certain filigree.

The interior was architecturally simplified after 1750 by partially removing the internal structure of the choir and thereby lengthening the central nave. The interior, which was furnished in the Rococo style between 1720 and 1765 , was redesigned from 1769 to 1783 according to the classicist style. The furnishings include classical choir stalls from the workshop of Josef Anton Feuchtmayer , early Baroque wooden sculptures of the twelve apostles and a late Gothic tabernacle .

From around 1756–1807 the cathedral roof carried a high wooden bell tower that towered over the cathedral by over 50 meters. Because it was dilapidated, it had to be torn down and replaced by a low roof turret. The tower owed itself to Abbot Anselm II's thirst for representation and caused severe criticism within the monastery.

Since secularization, the minster has served as the parish church of the Catholic community . Today it is also accessible to tourists for a fee.

Monastery building: previous buildings

Cistercian ideal plan as it could have existed in Salem
Salem with the newly built monastery complex around 1665. The drawing only roughly documents the existing building stock at that time.

First facility: The first monastery buildings were erected after 1137. In all probability, they followed the designs, the Bernard of Clairvaux 1133-1145 in Clairvaux could be converted structurally and became mandatory in order for the Cistercian monasteries of the Middle Ages. It provides for a rectangular building block, which symbolically identifies the monastery as a place closed off from the world. One side of the square is taken up by the church, which should be laid out as a three-aisled basilica with a cross-shaped floor plan. The church was accessible through doors from the enclosure building as well as from the cloister of the inner courtyard. The abbey building and the hospital were connected to the east of the enclosure.

The entire complex was enclosed by a defensive wall and partially by a moat , which Abbot Ulrich II of Seelfingen (1282-1311) had built. This etter was not only intended to deter looters, but also to affirm the independence of the jurisdiction district. Ulrich also had utility buildings and houses built for the craftsmen and the library and art collection expanded. A parish church was built to the north-west of the complex at the end of the 13th century and was consecrated to Saints Leonhard of Limoges and Bernhard of Clairvaux . A number of buildings were renovated or demolished and rebuilt during the 13th to 16th centuries. Particularly for the decades from 1470 to 1530, when the abbey had reached the zenith of its imperial political importance, lively building activity is documented, during which almost all the buildings used by the convent were gradually rebuilt. Except for the cathedral, no visible remains of any of the buildings from this period have survived.

Second plant: From 1615 to 1630 Abbot Thomas Wunn had the complete convent and abbey buildings and some farm buildings rebuilt by the master builder Balthasar Seuff from Kempten . Parts of the building were also planned and executed by Salem foremen. In the overall picture, the complex appeared to be much more closed than the probably quite heterogeneous ensemble of the previous buildings after almost five centuries of additions and renovations. Detailed views and plans of these buildings have not survived; however, the arrangement of the rooms can largely be reconstructed from the documents that have been preserved.

The building had three courtyards, the largest of which, the square inner courtyard of the convent building, was surrounded by a fully glazed cloister. The large square with a footprint of 78 × 78 m housed the living quarters of the monks, in the east wing the sacristy , the reliquary chamber, the chapter house and a warming room, in the south the kitchen and the dining room ( refectory ); in the west wing the summer refectory and the priory . The north wing of the three-story quarter was formed by the cathedral. In the east, the abbey rooms, the hospital, the novice school and the house or sick chapel were connected in a horseshoe shape. The library was located on the upper floor above the chapel. The facades were kept in a uniform white and provided with large stepped gables .

The ambitious project was modeled on the feudal residential buildings of the Upper Swabian counties: The Heiligenberg Castle was built in 1559; the residence in Meßkirch in 1557, the castle of the princes of Wolfegg between 1578 and 1583. In addition to the large international model of the Escorial, the Seuff complex became the model for the baroque monastery buildings in Austria such as the Schlierbach monastery (rebuilt in 1672) or the Lambach monastery (1678-1702). Only a part of the economic building, the upper long building , in which the cooperage museum is located today, remains of the Wunn building; the rest was destroyed in the fire of 1697 or removed shortly afterwards in the course of the new building.

Monastery building: today's facility

Münster and convent building from the west

The baroque complex of the abbey and convent building that exists today is one of the largest of its kind in southern Germany with a footprint of 180 × 90 m. The building was planned by the Vorarlberg master builder Franz Beer after the devastating fire in the monastery in 1697 and built within a decade. In the new building, Beer oriented itself towards both the Seuff predecessor buildings and the southern German baroque palaces. Models can also be found among the illustrations by the Spanish Jesuit Juan Bautista Villalpando (1552–1608). The Beersche plant itself was trend-setting: In 1702 the Einsiedeln monastery took over some of the building elements of the Salem design; Beer himself erected a similar building for the Imperial Abbey of Kaisheim from 1716.

The complex consists of two oblong four-story quarters, which are connected in the south by a long transverse wing and in the north by the cathedral. The mirror-symmetrical complex is structured by protruding corner and central projections that are raised by half a storey . The western quarter was the convent building with the cloister and the convent garden which is closed on the north side by the minster. The eastern square was the abbey building with the so-called prelate court ; the middle courtyard was called the Novice Garden .

Trompe-l'œil window frame in the novice garden

The outer facades and their false gables decorated with volutes were decorated by Johann Georg Wieland at the end of the 18th century in a classicist style with ocher-yellow bushing , yellow window frames and shutters. The original baroque trompe l' oeil frames can be seen in the inner courtyards . The reference to courtly architecture is most clearly visible on the north side of the abbey building. Here, with the large portal, a worthy setting for courtly reception ceremonies was created that no other Swabian abbey had in this way.

Many of the rooms are splendidly furnished with stucco , paintings and art objects from the Baroque , Rococo and Classicism periods . The plasterers Michael Wiedemann , Johann Schmuzer and his sons Franz and Joseph , who belong to the Wessobrunn School , made the stucco from 1707 to 1710 in the sacristy , the priory , the refectory, the reliquary and the Bernhardusgang . From 1706 Franz Joseph Feuchtmayer worked in Salem. Among other things, he furnished the imperial hall and the abbot's audience room (today the coin cabinet) with statues, busts and relief scenes . With Feuchtmayer's son Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer , who took over his father's workshop in 1718 after his father's death, Salem became the rococo center of southwest Germany. Further decorations come from Feuchtmayer's partner Johann Georg Dirr , his brother Franz Anton Dirr and his son-in-law Johann Georg Wieland, who introduced the change of style to classicism in Salem.

Convent building

Bernhardusgang in the convent building

The convent building (western quarter) once housed the living quarters of the fathers, lay brothers and novices, the offices of the prior and subprior, the disputation room and the chapter room . The refectory , the kitchens, the bookbinding and tailoring workshop were located in the southern transverse wing, which connects both parts of the building . Most of the rooms are now used by the Schloss Salem School and are not open to the public.

The Bernhardusgang , which belongs to the cloister of the inner courtyard and connects the cathedral with the convent building, is an artistic masterpiece . The Schmuzer family's earliest stucco work can be found here. A cycle of paintings by Andreas Brugger depicts the life of the religious saint Bernhard von Clairvaux . In the southern and western parts of the cloister there are stucco work by Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer as well as a series of portraits of the Salem abbots. The cloister originally enclosed the courtyard on four sides; however, the northern part was demolished in the 19th century to give the cathedral more light.

The summer refectory served as the monks' dining room when the actual refectory was not in use. The splendidly furnished room has a stucco ceiling by Wiedemann and a marbled entrance portal by Kaspar Buechmüller. Paintings by Joseph Anton Hersche , Jakob Carl Stauder and Johann Michael Feuchtmayer as well as a cycle with 14 religious saints by the Ticino painter Jakob Pellandella (1725/26) adorn the walls. The ceiling is adorned with a monumental depiction of the Last Supper along with other biblical motifs that relate to the theme of "spiritual and material feeding". The large tiled stove that once heated the room shows biblical motifs and depictions of the monks at work in handicrafts and agriculture on the colored glazed tiles. The local evangelical congregation has been using the room for church services since 1854 .

Abbey building

The library hall around 1880 with the model of the large bell tower

The abbey building (eastern square) originally housed the hospital, the library, the monastery archive and the abbot's living quarters and offices. Important guests were also accommodated here. The abbey reception and service rooms are particularly lavishly furnished; the abbot's private rooms and chapel, on the other hand, are kept very sober and simple.

In the two-storey library hall in the west wing you can find ceiling stucco work by Franz Joseph Feuchtmayer and classicist furnishings from Johann Georg Wieland's workshop. An extensive cycle of frescoes depicting motifs from the Old and New Testaments and the history of the abbey once adorned the walls; they were partially painted over during the redecoration.

The imperial hall , which has statues of 16 Roman-German emperors and busts of 16 popes , in which the monastery saw its most important patrons, is lavishly furnished with baroque stucco work and sculptures from around 1707 . The design of the room followed the early modern imperial halls in feudal residences and should emphasize Salem's claim to imperial immediacy and support for the imperial idea. The series of popes begins with Stephen IX. and ends with Clemens XI. The series of emperors begins with the Supplinburger Lothar III. , whose last year in office 1137 comes into question as the year the abbey was founded, and ends with the Habsburg Leopold I (1658–1705). However, in order to demonstrate the prerogative of the church over the empire, the monastery had the busts of the Pope arranged a little higher than the figures of the emperors. The Kaisersaal was extensively restored by 2012.

Gardens and farm buildings

New school , built in 1791

The monastery grounds are enclosed by a wall and used to be accessible in the west through the Upper Gate (built in 1778/79) and in the north through the Lower Gate (1705/07). The wall originally served as a protection for the monastery area and as a border marking the legal area of ​​the monastery ( Etter ) in the Middle Ages. In the east of the site there is a spacious baroque garden, in the south a large orchard.

The farm buildings are to the north and west of the site: stables, wine press and cellar are located in the upper long building , a long building wing, the individual sections of which date from different epochs from the 15th to the 18th century. The courtroom and the prison were also housed here, because the monastery had the lower and from 1637 also the high jurisdiction over its areas. So there was also a gallows site on a nearby hill . The other former farm buildings now house classrooms, demonstration workshops and museums.

To the south of the monastery building there are other workshops such as the printing and carpentry shop . The so-called New School was built in 1791 as a novice school with what was then a modern mansard roof ; it later served as a margravial rent office and today as an administration building. To the west, where the terrain rises slightly, is the Upper Gate , which was built around 1778/79 and designed in a classicist style by Johann Georg Dirr . The lower gate on the northeast corner of the site near today's entrance area for tourists is of an older date; it was built by Franz Beer from 1705 to 1707 as part of the new construction of the monastery, but it burned down in 1732 and was rebuilt three years later based on a design by Josef Anton Feuchtmayer . From 1739 it served as a pharmacy . The former figure jewelry from Feuchtmayer's workshop fell victim to a fire in 1961. The main traffic route originally ran through the two gates across the site.

Monument preservation

The west portal of the minster before 1885

After the monastery grounds were confiscated by the Duchy of Baden, a number of buildings were demolished between 1807 and 1858, including the huge cathedral tower. The parish church of St. Leonhard next to the Upper Gate, the so-called Middle Gate and a few other buildings fell victim to the thrift and short-term needs of the residents. The "monument sacrilege approved by the authorities" ( Georg Dehio ) only ended under the reign of Friedrich I , from 1852 to 1907 sovereign of Baden. After lengthy disputes about financing, the cathedral was first renovated from 1883 to 1892; In 1889 the renovation of the damaged monastery facade began. The restoration went hand in hand with a conception of monument protection that was exemplary for the time : An attempt was made to preserve as much of the historical structure as possible and at the same time to protect the buildings against the weather and further decay.

After the Second World War, the school building was modernized as the number of students increased. The upper long building was converted into boarding school accommodation. The useful buildings were repaired and rediscovered as a historical building. In 1962 a bypass road was created - until then the traffic connection between Überlingen and Salem ran across the monastery grounds through the Lower and Upper Gate.

A second restoration of the monastery building was initiated in 1979 by the Baden-Württemberg State Monuments Office . The repair of the facades and the approximately 3.6 hectare roof area of ​​the convent building was completed in 1990. From 1997 to 2002 the structure of the minster was secured, while a comprehensive restoration of the interior is still pending.

In 2006, the attempt by Bernhard Prinz von Baden and the state government of Baden-Württemberg under Günther Oettinger to raise funds for the renovation of the castle by putting cultural assets from Baden for sale ( Karlsruhe cultural assets affair ) attracted public attention . According to Bernhard von Baden, the owner family has spent around 30 million euros on the renovation of the buildings since the early 1990s. From the proceeds of the sale - which should not be made to private individuals after public protests, but to the state - the House of Baden wanted to set up a foundation, the proceeds of which will be used to maintain Salem Castle. On November 3, 2008, Bernhard Prince von Baden and the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Günther Oettinger agreed on the takeover of Salem Castle by the State of Baden-Württemberg for 60.8 million euros.

Other buildings of the monastery

  • The Birnau pilgrimage church was built in 1747–1750 by the Vorarlberg master builder Peter Thumb . It is located a few kilometers south of Salem on a hill overhanging Lake Constance. The "Birnau" replaced a small pilgrimage church not far from Überlingen , which had been a dispute with the city for centuries. In contrast to the simple cathedral, it was decorated with magnificent frescoes, which were intended to convince the layperson of the greatness of God in the course of the Counter-Reformation . Today the "Birnau" belongs to the Austrian Cistercian Abbey Wettingen-Mehrerau and is one of the most visited sights and places of pilgrimage on Lake Constance.
  • The baroque Maurach Castle on the shores of Lake Constance below the Birnau pilgrimage church was originally an estate with a ship landing site and later also served as the abbots' summer residence.
  • The Münchhöf Castle in Eigeltingen was completed in 1787 and should serve as an office building for the management of the surrounding monastery property. After 1947 it was the retirement home of Auguste Viktoria von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen .
  • The Stefansfeld Chapel in the Stefansfeld district close to the monastery was built by Franz Beer , the architect of the monastery building, from 1707 to 1710. It stands out for its unusual central building with a domed roof . The parish's lay cemetery was originally located next to the church. Josef Anton Feuchtmayer and Johann Georg Dirr, creators of numerous works of art in Salem Monastery, are buried here.

Visit to the monastery and palace of Salem

The area of ​​the monastery and Salem Palace can be visited. Two new museums were opened in September 2014.


With around 130,000 visitors a year, Salem Castle is of national importance as a tourist attraction. The State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Württemberg and the Salem Palace Administration are responsible for maintaining the facility .

Visiting the minster and some of the former monastery rooms is possible for a fee in guided groups. Additional sights are a fire brigade museum, a cooperage museum and show workshops of various handicraft businesses. As part of the event program, theme days, concerts and exhibitions take place in Salem Castle.

Museum "Masterpieces of the Imperial Abbey"

As of September 2014, the Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe has equipped the exhibition “Masterpieces of the Imperial Abbey” as a branch museum in the prelature. For the first time, the Marien Altar by Bernhard Strigel (1460–1528) is shown again completely with the main altar and side wings. The altarpiece shows the gilded twelve apostles and Mary. A side wing shows the birth of Christ as a night image . Rococo wood sculptures by Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer are also on display. A film shows the construction phases of the monastery before the monastery fire in 1697 and the new baroque building afterwards.

Fire Brigade Museum

The fire brigade museum extends over the ground floor and the first floor of the Sennhof in the outermost monastery area. This is a tribute to the fact that the monks bought two fire syringes from the Konstanz syringe manufacturer Rosenlecher for preventive fire protection after the destruction caused by the monastery fire from March 9th to 10th, 1697 . Manual syringes with mechanical, steam and motor drives and developments by Daimler , Kurtz , Magirus and Metz as well as fire service uniforms and badges are on display in the exhibition.


Access to today's museum is via the entrance pavilion. Three gates have survived from the time of the monastery. The Lower Gate (from the direction of Salem) is a multi-storey building with a gate passage in the Baroque style and served as a splendid entrance during monastery times. The Stockacher Tor leads to the farm buildings in the lower and upper long buildings and to the wine cellar. The Obere Tor (towards Überlingen) is built in the classicism style.

Horse pond

The horse pond is located in the inner courtyard at Stockacher Tor and was used to water the horses, clean the teams and as a source of water. It is part of the Aach Canal, which runs through the monastery grounds underground.


Personal organization of the monastery

Development of the monastery
Monks Conversations
1282 100 100
1311 130 180
1323 125 160
1377 100 80
15th century 60 30th
1573/74 56 12
1599 53 3
1683 37 8th
1720 49 10
1754 44 15th
1804 61 17th

The Salem abbots and monks came partly from the high nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie . However, a considerable proportion was also recruited from farming families in the surrounding villages; for example, about a third of the abbots had come from the monastery since the turn of the 16th century. This great social mobility was quite unusual compared to the rigid social structure of the time: A man from the common population like Abbot Johannes II. Scharpfer (1494–1510) was even able to become a member of the imperial regiment.

As usual with the Cistercians, numerous lay brothers (also called conversers ) were part of the monastery staff. They lived separately from the monks and, in contrast to them, wore a beard, which is why they were also called fratres barbati . Among them were millers, bakers, weavers, carpenters, farm workers, but also highly qualified architects, sculptors and engineers. Lay brothers tilled the fields and cultivated the goods, while the craftsmen worked in the monastery's own workshops. From the 15th century, their share continued to decline. For larger work, craftsmen were usually hired from outside; However, the monastery could take care of minor maintenance and liturgical utensils itself. The clockwork of the Birnau pilgrimage church, for example, was probably made around 1750 by the monastery’s own clockmaker.

The largest number of residents - 310 monks and lay brothers - had the monastery at the beginning of the 14th century. The numerous wars, but also the dwindling attractiveness of monastery life, caused the number of monks to shrink over the centuries. Towards the end of the 15th century, monastic discipline subsided more and more. The containment of vagrancy became a major problem for the monastery administrations. Monks from aristocratic families in particular no longer saw religious fulfillment in entering monastery life, but rather convenient security of basic supplies. New powers, which Pope Paul II granted the abbot of the monastery in 1468, allowed the punishment of neglected monks and the gradual restoration of the monastery order. Nevertheless, the number of monks continued to decline until Salem was temporarily completely depopulated at the end of the Thirty Years' War. In the second half of the 18th century, the monastery experienced a boom again, so that when it closed in 1804, 78 residents were counted again.

coat of arms

Heraldic shield

The fourth coat of arms of the imperial abbey consists of three coats of arms:

  • Coat of arms of Bernhard von Clairvaux : a two-row, silver-red bar in black
  • Coat of arms of the monastery founder Guntram von Adelsreute: a black ram on a gold background
  • Split coat of arms of the second donor, Bishop Eberhard II of Salzburg : on the right an upright black lion in gold turned to the right, on the left a silver bar in red.

A miter and a crook can be seen above the shield . In addition, the imperial abbey also had a black coat of arms with a golden lion holding a golden crook wrapped in an "S" in its front paws.

Blazon : The Council of Constance book gives under the heading: "The erwirdig Mr. Conradt apt to Salmenschweyler" the emblem shown again: square; 1st and 4th: in black a double row of red and silver cut oblique bar; 2nd: split of gold and red, in front a black lion, behind a silver bar; 3rd: a black ram in gold. Next to the coat of arms is the abbot's hat ( inful ), through which a crook is stuck.

Manuscripts and library

Page from a Salem abbot's brochure from 1494; below you can see Abbot Johannes Stantenat on a boat trip on Lake Constance

Like every Cistercian abbey, Salem also had its own scriptorium in the Middle Ages . A significant book production began during the term of office of Abbot Eberhard von Rohrdorf (1191–1240). One of the main tasks of the scriptors was to copy the liturgical books that the order's administration considered binding. A considerable number of the manuscripts produced in Salem from the 13th to 16th centuries have survived, including sermons in the dialect of the Salem area from around 1450. Green, red and blue tendrils and decorative inserts are used in the early Salem illuminations typical of polyp flowers ; figurative illustrations are rather rare.

Over the centuries, books were bought from outside, with the abbots of the 18th century in particular supplementing the library with manuscript purchases. From 1611 Salem was one of the first German Cistercian monasteries to have its own printing press , which initially produced small liturgical printed matter and later also accepted outside orders. Many antiphonaries and other liturgical works continued to be used in manual copies.

The monastery fire of 1697 spared the monastery archives and the library, which were housed in fire-proof vaults. However, the abbot's valuable reference library was destroyed, where

A well-known theyl of all kinds of good books, including the beautiful original manuscriptum Concili constantiensis, which one wanted to salvage from the library, which was in the highest danger, but was overwhelmed by the fire and went up in smoke. "

The burned “original manuscriptum” was an official collection of files from the Council of Constance, including Ulrich Richental's chronicle of the council , which in Salem was a document treasure of international importance in the early modern period.

The University of Heidelberg bought the Salem and Petershausen libraries in 1826/27 as the basis for the reconstruction of the university library , which had been severely decimated in the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. About 60,000 books, 495 manuscript volumes from the 9th to 18th centuries and 30,000 prints changed hands. The Salem manuscript collection is since then under the Sigel Cod. (Ices) Sal. (Emitani) in the Heidelberg University Library .

The monastery archive has been maintained for centuries and is considered to be one of the most extensive preserved monastery archives in southern Germany. Even in the Middle Ages it was considered so trustworthy that it was entrusted with imperial documents. Most of the archive has been located in the General State Archive of Karlsruhe since 1889 , where it comprises around 8,000 documents, 1,000 volumes with invoices, 350 volumes with protocols and large quantities of other files and manuscripts. A small part of the archive remained in Salem Castle and in the parish archive of the community. Due to its large size, it has only been partially explored through research to date.

Agriculture and viticulture

Salem land ownership around 1765 with marked agricultural areas

The economic claim of Cistercian monasteries was initially agricultural self-sufficiency. Like many monasteries, however, Salem quickly produced surpluses through farming, which could then be sold in the surrounding towns. In the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, the monetary economy, trading in real estate and tax revenues from subjects increasingly became major sources of income for Salem. Nevertheless, agriculture , which was initially carried out by Salem monks and lay brothers, but increasingly by tenant farmers, remained an important factor.

The monastery had grangia in a wide area, which were run by lay brothers. Among other things, they grew grain and ranched livestock . In keeping with the climate and geographical location, Salem also cultivated fruit - some with orchards within the monastery grounds -, forestry and fishing in Lake Constance, as well as in specially created fish ponds in the surrounding area, some of which still exist today ( Salem monastery pond ). As early as the 14th century, Salem owned town yards in over 31 towns in the surrounding area, through which the goods were sold. The most important town courtyards are the Salmannsweiler Hof in Constance , which was soon expanded into a hostel for high-ranking guests ( King Sigismund is said to have lived there during the Constance Council ) and the courtyards in Biberach an der Riss , Ehingen , Meßkirch and Pfullendorf . The town courts were mostly exempt from taxes and thus formed an important base for the monastic economy.

Viticulture , which can be traced back to the 9th century in the Lake Constance area, played an important role for Salem . The monastery systematically expanded its property and eventually owned vineyards on the entire north shore of Lake Constance, from Sipplingen in the west to the Friedrichshafen area in the east, in Bermatingen , Markdorf and even in Nürtingen in Württemberg . Around 1500 Salem owned around 2500 hectares of vineyards; before the devastating Thirty Years' War, the Salem wineries produced around 512,000 liters of wine per year. The wine , mostly of very poor quality in the Middle Ages, was also the table drink of the monks. In the 17th and 18th centuries, wine was improved in terms of taste and thus became a trade factor as a luxury food; the Salem wines were sold throughout southern Germany. A mighty wine press can still be viewed in the Cooperage Museum of Salem Castle .

Poor relief

At the Lower Gate alms were distributed to the poor

Caring for the poor in the population has always been an important social responsibility of the monastery. In the Middle Ages it was not about the redistribution of wealth, since the order of the estates was seen as God's will. Rather, mercy and charity were among the spiritual tasks of the monks. Once or twice a week bread and other food were therefore distributed to the poor in Salem at the Lower Gate . Mendicant orders such as the Capuchins in Überlingen were also supported .

However, as the monastery grew in power and prestige, poverty in the country was increasingly perceived as a social problem that had to be targeted. Numerous dismissed soldiers, orphans, mercenaries and other vagabonds wandered around and fed on the alms of the monasteries or through thefts and robberies. A “good policey” was therefore necessary to contain and control the problem. In cooperation with the neighboring territories, Salem therefore issued begging and alms orders from the middle of the 16th century, but without prohibiting begging itself. Fixed village guards monitored compliance. It was not until 1722 that the monastery issued a ban on begging, with which it committed itself to support the needy. Vagging beggars who did not come from Salem territory could be expelled. In 1783, a poor house was set up for the local needy in nearby Wespach . The beneficiaries were therefore regularly recorded statistically. Around 1600 around a quarter of the population in the surrounding towns was in need of support, while around 1800 - undoubtedly also because of the enormous improvement in the economic situation - it was only around five percent.


Source collections

  • Apiarium Salemitanum, or Salmanßweylischer bees = stick (...). Prague 1708. (Collection of documents from Augustinus Sartorius )
  • Codex diplomaticus Salemitanus. Document book of the Cistercian Abbey of Salem (1134–1498). Edited by Friedrich von Weech (3 vols.). Karlsruhe 1883–1895.



General story

  • Werner Rösener and Peter Rückert: The Cistercian monastery in Salem and its heyday under Abbot Ulrich II von Seelfingen (1282-1311) Oberrheinische Studien 31, Ostfildern 2014. ISBN 978-3-7995-7833-2 .
  • Werner Rösener: Reichsabbey Salem. Constitutional and economic history of the Cistercian monastery from its foundation to the middle of the 14th century. Sigmaringen 1974, ISBN 3-7995-6673-2 .
  • Claudia Schott: Welfare for the poor, begging and fighting against vagabonds in the Reichsabbey of Salem. Konkordia, Bühl 1978, ISBN 3-7826-0041-X .
  • Hermann Schmid: The secularization of the Reichsstift Salem by Baden and Thurn and Taxis 1802–1804 . Verlag M. Schober, Überlingen am Bodensee 1980.
  • Reinhard Schneider (Ed.): Salem. 850 years of imperial abbey and palace. Stadler, Konstanz 1984, ISBN 3-7977-0104-7 . (Standard work)
  • Alberich Siewek (ed.): The Cistercian Abbey Salem. The order, the monastery, its abbots. Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1984. (Biographies of all abbots; extensive, but partly unreliable collection of historical facts)
  • Wolfgang Wüst: For Emperor, District and Empire? Orientation lines and fields of reference for South German Cistercians in the early modern era , in: Zeitschrift des Historisches Verein für Schwaben 104 (2011) pp. 201–228, especially regarding the Reichsabbey of Salem. ISSN  0342-3131 .
  • State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Württemberg (Hrsg.): Summer vacation in Salem - The House of Baden on Lake Constance. Catalog for the exhibition in Salem Castle from May 19 to October 7, 2012. Tübingen 2012.

Architecture and art

Manuscripts and library

Web links

Commons : Reichsabtei Salem  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Reichsabtei Salem  - Sources and full texts


  1. Werner Rösener: Reichsabtei Salem. Constitutional and economic history of the Cistercian monastery from its foundation to the middle of the 14th century. Sigmaringen 1974.
  2. Siewek 1984; P. 264
  3. ^ Friedrich Peter Wundt: Geographical, statistical topographical description of the Electorate of Baden. Part 2. The Badische Pfalzgrafschaft and the Upper Principality. Karlsruhe 1804, p. 107. online ; Konrad Krimm: The Baden house on Lake Constance. In: Mark Hengerer, Elmar Kuhn: Adel im Wandel. Volume 1, Ostfildern 2006, pp. 475 and 479.
  4. Thomas Fuchs: A Salemerin in Herisau. In: Harald Derschka and Jürgen Klöckler (eds.): Der Bodensee. Nature and history from 150 perspectives. Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2018. ISBN 978-3-7995-1724-9 . Pp. 158-159.
  6. Oettinger confirmed - 60.8 million for Salem ( Memento from May 24, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  7.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  8.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  9. ^ Salem: Land and House of Baden agree. Accessed December 31, 2014 .
  10. Ulrich Knapp: Salem: The buildings of the former Cistercian abbey and their equipment. Stuttgart 2004.
  11. ^ Freiburg State Archives. State Description Department, State Archives Directorate Baden-Württemberg: The district of Lörrach: A. General part. B. Community descriptions Aitern to Inzlingen. C. Sources and literature , J. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 1993, ISBN 978-3-7995-1353-1 , p. 546
  12. Dörthe Jakobs, Martina Goerlich: The emperor's old clothes. The restoration of the Imperial Hall in Salem Palace . In: Preservation of monuments in Baden-Württemberg , 41st year 2012, issue 3, pp. 145–151 ( PDF )
  13. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives: Südkurier )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  14. SWR online
  15. ^ Website of Salem Monastery and Palace.
  16. ^ The State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Württemberg ( Memento from August 6, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  17.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  18. ^ Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, press office: press release, embargo on September 14, 2014: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe opens a new branch museum “Masterpieces of the Imperial Abbey” in Salem Monastery and Palace.
  19. Salem Monastery and Castle (ed.): Marienaltar from Salem Monastery 1507/08. Leaflet with description and illustrations of the altar, wings and predella. Salem 2014.
  20. ^ Salem Monastery and Castle (ed.): Opening of the monastery museum and fire department museum. Salem Monastery and Palace. September 14, 2014. Open house. Leaflet 2014.
  21. ^ Monastery and Castle Salem (ed.): Monastery and Castle Salem. Brochure 2014.
  22. ^ A b State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Württemberg, Salem Palace Administration (ed.): Monastery and Salem Palace. Leaflet from around 2011.
  23. ^ Hugo Gommeringer: Salem coat of arms. Pictures of the story. Salem 2000, p. 15.
  24. Claudia Schott: Poor welfare, begging and fighting against vagrants in the Reichsabtei Salem. Buhl 1978.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 25, 2005 in this version .