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All Saints’ Abbey – Where the Donkey Threw off a Sack of Money

Nikola Petrovski

+Located near Oppenau in the Black Forest in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany, this monastery served as a home for the Premonstratensians.

The foundations for this monastery were laid in 1192 and the building’s exact location was determined by a donkey throwing a sack of money to the ground.

The Legend of the donkey and the sack of money. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

The Legend of the donkey and the sack of money. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

The first structure built at 620 meters above sea level was, typically for this period, a wooden chapel and as time went by it was transformed into a strong, stone building.

An old photo depicting the Black Forest

An old photo depicting the Black Forest

The monastery began in 1196 a foundation charter was issued by Duchess Uta of Schauenburg. Next, it was Philip of Swabia who recognized the foundation in 1200. Four years later, Pope Innocent III confirmed it.

All that is left of the chapel. Author: SchiDD CC BY-SA 4.0

All that is left of the chapel. Author: SchiDD CC BY-SA 4.0

The first abbot that served upon this holy grounds was Gerung. More than 1,200 canons–members of church bodies subject to ecclesiastical rule–were sent to help build the monastery.

Various gifts and livings, among other things, were sent in order to ease the establishment of this structure. The monastery grew rapidly and it soon became one of the major cultural centers of the region.

The dilapidated state of the monastery. Author: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht CC BY-SA 4.0

The dilapidated state of the monastery. Author: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht CC BY-SA 4.0

Three major fires occurred at this monastery, causing serious damage and contributing to its demise. Two of the fires, one in 1470 and the other in 1555, destroyed some parts of the premises. The last of the fires occurred in 1804 and was caused by a bolt of lightning striking the church tower.

What is left of the ceiling of the monastery. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

What is left of the ceiling of the monastery. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

Sometime in 1657, this monastery was elevated to the status of abbey by the general chapter of the Premonstratensian Order. It was in the 18th century that this abbey was at the height of its power.

Ruins of All Saints’ Abbey. Author: Kerish CC BY-SA 3.0

Ruins of All Saints’ Abbey. Author: Kerish CC BY-SA 3.0

The end of the monastery came in 1802. Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden (1st Grand Duke of Baden), in the course of secularization, dissolved the Abby and took everything of value.

The ruins of this monastery were sold for demolition in 1816 and the stone was scrapped and used for other churches in the valleys of the Rench and the Acher.

The missing roof the monastery. Author: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht CC BY-SA 4.0

The missing roof the monastery. Author: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht CC BY-SA 4.0

By a twist of fate, it was tourism that provided the motivation to actively preserve and protect the ruins. Later in 1947, the Charitable Union (Caritasverband) of Mainz bought the area around the monastery to built a convalescent home for children. Starting for 1978, this home was used as a country holiday center for schools.

The welcoming door of the monastery. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

The welcoming door of the monastery. Author: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0

Later in 1960, the Bishop of Mainz decided that a chapel should once more be raised upon this grounds. Just like the chapel that stood before, the new one was also dedicated to the honor of God and All Saints.