Schönrain Priory is a ruin in Bavaria, southern Germany. The building is one of the oldest cultural monuments and has a monastic past stretching back to the 11th century.
There is a legend that the monastery was founded in 750 by Saint Lioba. However, it is more likely that the priory was first established in 1080 as a monastery of the Benedictine order. The land was donated to Hirsau Abbey by Landgraf Sangerhausen and his sons. A monastery was then built on the site by Abbot Wilhelm von Hirsau.
The Counts of Rienek were descendants of the original founders and local feudal lords. They tried hard to acquire this property over the years. They even built a castle next to Schönrain Priory to protect it, but this secondary building had to be demolished in 1243 following hostilities with the Bishop of Würzburg.
During the German peasant wars in the 1520s, Schönrain Priory was plundered and partially destroyed by a fire. The abbot at that time decided to dissolve the monastery and put it up for sale. The land finally came into the possession of the Rieneck family when it was sold to Philipp von Rieneck in 1526.
Philipp decided to rebuild the property as a residence for his wife, Margaretha. The renovation was only finished in 1556, and Philipp didn’t have much chance to enjoy his new acquisition since he passed away in 1559, three years after the house was finished.
Margaretha lived in the rebuilt priory as a widow until she, too, passed away 15 years later. Since Philipp and Margaretha had no heirs, the monastery passed first to Margaretha’s nephews then to the prince-bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn.
After that, Schönrain Priory was used by the prince-bishops as a residence for their local forest administrators and hunters managing Hofstetten, Massenbuch, and Halsbach. The former monastery remained a residential building until 1625.
When the Thirty Years’ War broke out, Schönrain Priory was seen as a local source of building materials. After the war, in 1803, secularization took place, and church property was confiscated by the state. The former monastery was then used as a base by forestry officials of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
In 1818, the forestry headquarters were moved to another location, and the monastery was partly dismantled for building materials. Following its abandonment, some of the locals plundered the site as well. The building has continued to fall into ruin as the years progressed.
In 1973, a decision was made to place the ruins of Schönrain Priory under the protection of the local historical group Lohrer Heimatfreunde. By this time, the ruins that were still standing consisted of later monastery buildings from the time when it was used as accommodation for foresters.
Nowadays, nature has fully taken over. Rare owls and birds of prey can be found making their nests among the ruins, and the vaults are an important wintering place for various species of bats. The Schönrain railway tunnel passes under the ruins.
A big thank you to Thomas Wilhelm, who managed to take such amazing shots of the abandoned monastery and allowed us to share them with our readers.
Thomas is passionate about photography and abandoned locations. On his website, Lostplace Photography, he publishes many beautiful photographs and stories. Check it out for more abandoned places.
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