Skip to content


Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

Called Tegrinseo in 817, Tegernsee in 754.

A celebrated Benedictine abbey of Bavaria that was of much importance for the civilization of the early Middle Ages . It was situated on the state road to the Tyrol by Lake Tegern in a south-southeasterly direction from Munich. According to the latest Germanistic researches the word Tegern signified in Old High German "large", consequently the name meant "large lake". It was not the Agilolfinger family, as is erroneously supposed, but Counts Adalbert and Otkar (Ottokar) of Warngau and Tegernsee who founded in 746 (not 719) a Benedictine abbey on lake Tegern near the little Church of Our Saviour that was already in existence ; this abbey was consecrated and occupied in 754. Counts Adalbert and Otkar belonged to the family of the Huosi, one of the five old ruling families who had come into the country with the Bavarians. The story of the colonizing of the monastery with monks by St. Othmar of St. Gall is legendary and is based on chronicles of a later era. On account of the disorders caused by the incursions of the Magyars at the beginning of the tenth century the founding of Tegernsee itself and the first decades of its history are hidden in deep obscurity. On the other hand, it is a perfectly well established fact that the founders of the abbey obtained the relics of St. Quirinus, a Roman martyr, from Pope St. Paul I (757-67), not from Pope Zacharias (741-52), and that these relics were translated from Rome to Tegernsee in the second half of the eighth century and were placed in the Church of Our Saviour, the first church of Tegernsee. The first abbot was Adalbert who is mentioned in a charter of 804 as having died recently. As early as the year 770 Abbot Adalbert took part in the Synod of Dingolfing, and just before the close of the eighth century (before 798) Adalbert and his "representative" Zacho were present at a synod of St. Emmeram in Ratisbon. At this synod they were in the possession of Tegernsee but which had been claimed by Bishop Atto of Freising. This demand was a result of the efforts of the episcopate of Bavaria of that era to limit as much as possible the parochial labours of the monasteries. The decision, however, was not executed but was adjusted by a settlement made at Tegernsee on 16 June, 804, on the occasion of the dedication of the Church of St. Peter at Tegernsee and the translation to it of the relics of St. Quirinus from the Basilica of St. Saviour (cf. "Historia Frising.", 12, 92).

The abbey soon attained to great distinction and importance, as is evident from a capitulary of the Emperor Louis the Pious of Aachen that was issued in the year 817. This capitulary called upon the monastery of "Tegrinseo" (Tegernsee) among others to furnish military contingents (M.G.L.L.I. sect. 11350, 20). In the early part of the tenth century the monastery of Tegernsee fell completely into decay on account of the disastrous defeat of the Bavarians by the Magyars in 907, whereby nearly all the religious foundations of Bavaria were entirely destroyed. Laymen with their wives, dogs, and horses settled in the monastery of Tegernsee and finally a fire destroyed the buildings and with them the books and church vestments. When the monastery was restored by Emperor Otto II and Duke Otto of Bavaria in 979 all knowledge of its original foundation had disappeared at Tegernsee. In order to restore and maintain discipline the Emperor Otto called the monk Hartwich (979-982) of St. Maximinus at Trier to be Abbot of Tegernsee. The same charter that contains this appointment of 10 June, 979 (M.G.D.D. II, 1, 219, 199), also contains a grant from the emperor of the right of free election of the abbot, as well as freedom from taxes and the imperial protection, by which the abbey was withdrawn from the suzerainty of the rulers of Bavaria. Consequently the abbey became prosperous once more. Considerable information as to the efforts for reform of this abbot is given by a note in the manuscript of the Gospels, written in uncial characters that belonged to Tegernsee and is now at Munich (Clm. 19101). The note says: "Monastic reform was begun in this monastery by the reverend monk Hartwich of St. Maximinus on 6 May of the year 978. In the year 982 this same Hartwich received staff and benefice from Emperor Otto II and was consecrated by the very venerable Bishop Abraham [of Gorz, Bishop of Freising]. The monks made their profession". Abbot Hartwich had an excellent successor (982-1001) in the Benedictine monk Gozbert of St. Emmeram, who had received his religious education at Augsburg. Gozbert introduced the study of the classics at Tegernsee, especially Statius, Persius, the letters of Horace and Cicero, and Boethius ; the works of these men were read and copied.

Particularly distinguished among the monks during the administration of this abbot was the poet and prose writer Froumund (d. 20 October, 1012), who in a manuscript still preserved at Munich (Clm. 19412) made a collection of letters and poems of his own and others. He also copied at Cologne the treatise of Boethius "On the consolation of Philosophy " and brought the copy to Tegernsee. It was this Froumund who brought about the intellectual and literary connexion between his abbey and the monasteries and churches of St. Emmeram at Ratisbon, Feuchtwangen, Augsburg, and Wurzburg. It was at this era also that the glass works were established at Tegernsee to make stained-glass windows for Bishop Gottschalk of Freising. The opinion that glass-staining was invented at Tegernsee is erroneous, for before this in the ninth century stained-glass windows can be proved to have existed at St. Gall and in Westphalia. This prosperous period under the immediate successors of Gozbert, namely St. Gotthard (1001-1002), Eberhard I (d. 4 March, 1004), and Beringer (1004-1012), did not last long. As soon after this as the year 1031 Tegernsee was reformed, at the command of the Emperor Henry III, by the monks of Niederaltaich from which place monks, who were accompanied by Abbot Ellinger, were sent to occupy the Abbey of Tegernsee. Abbot Ellinger, however, met with opposition at Tegernsee and was obliged to return to his original monastery, from whence he did not venture to come back to Tegernsee until 1056, dying there in the same year. He was the abbot who began the "Urbar", or book of donations at Tegernsee, and who did so much at Tegernsee to improve and perfect technical skill. In 1015 a colony of monks went from Tegernsee to settle in the monastery of Sts. Ulrich and Afra at Augsburg. The prestige of Tegernsee was still maintained in the twelfth century and continued up to the middle of the thirteenth century. In the imperial documents of the twelfth century the names of the abbots of Tegernsee are often found signed as witnesses, as they were princes of the empire.

During the rule of Abbot Bertold I (1206-1217) the great minnesinger Walter von der Vogelweide stayed at the abbey. Most probably the literary importance of Tegernsee had led him to tie his steed at the monastery gate and to claim its hospitality. However, it is evident from Walther's songs that the singer of the Vogelweide, who rejoiced in the winecup, was not greatly delighted by the reception at Tegernsee, for he sang:

People often told me of Tegernsee,
How glorious was that house:
So I went to it more than a mile from the road.
I am a queer fellow,
I cannot even understand myself
And why I think so much of pious folks.
I am not grumbling at it, for may God bless us both,
I took the water:
But henceforth
I shall keep away from the monks' table.

The lines mean that according to the custom of the time Walther expected a good bumper of wine after the meal, but to his great astonishment only water was brought for the washing of the hands. This short poem of Walther von der Vogelweide , however, is not, as some have sought to prove, to be taken as a justification of the Abbey of Tegernsee in a lawsuit that was then being carried on over a vineyard.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the abbey suffered greatly from the wars carried on by the princes of Southern Germany, as well as by the prodigality of several of its abbots. In the reign of the Emperor Louis, Tegernsee lost its immediacy and became subject to Bavaria. At the time of the visitations in 1426 the Conventual, Caspar Ayndorffer, who was the second founder of Tegernsee and a close friend of the reforming Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, was made abbot (1426-1460) by papal authority. He completely reformed Tegernsee and thus made the abbey a centre of the reform movement of that era. Ayndorffer was willing to accept as monks men who were not noble, as well as members of aristocratic families, consequently monastic discipline was maintained until the abbey was suppressed. The monk Ulrich Stockl (in Latin Trunculus ) was the legate of the Benedictine abbeys of the Diocese of Freising to the Council of Basle during the years 1432-1437; he wrote a valuable account of the council. As the researches of Guido Maria Dreves show, Stockl was also a good writer of rhyming poetry. The last and sixty-third Abbot of Tegernsee was the excellent Gregory II Rottenkolber (from 1787), who encouraged learning and sent the young clerics to the Universities of Salzburg and Ingolstadt. He also made a collection of coins and engravings at Tegernsee. The abbey still continued to exist, notwithstanding many changes of fortune, until 1803, in which year it was secularized on 17 March. This sealed its fate, and the "Primas Bavariae", as the Abbot of Tegernsee was called on account of his primacy over all other Bavarian prelates, resigned. The monastery became the property of the State; the abbey lands situated in Austria were confiscated by Austria ; and the monastic buildings were brought by Freiherr von Drechsel for 3000 florins. In 1805 Abbot Rottenkolber and twenty monks were able to purchase for 5000 florins the monastery building for a house where they could lead a common life. In 1810 the abbot died there. In 1817 the former monastery became the property of King Maximilian I, who also bought the building owned by the Benedictines. The king had the place altered into a royal summer residence. At present it belongs to the family of the lately deceased Duke Charles Theodore who established in 1884 at Tegernsee an ophthalmic infirmary for the poor. The splendid library, that contained about 60,000 volumes, 6600 incunabulae, and more than 2000 manuscripts, was incorporated in part in the National Library at Munich.

The intellectual importance of the Abbey of Tegernsee was less in the sphere of history than in the domains of literature and art. As is learned from a monk of Tegernsee of the fifteenth century, the abbey owned six Tegernsee chronicles that agreed in sense but varied in the way the events were related. Only four of them are known, and these are largely interwoven with legendary additions. They are: the "Translatio des hl. Quirinus" (Petz, "Anecdota," III, 3), that is erroneously ascribed to Froumund; the poetic presentation of the same subject by Metellus called the "Quirinalia"; and the two "Passiones S. Quirini", of which the shorter is the more ancient. Especially important was the purely literary work done at Tegernsee. Mention should be made of the "Ruodlieb", the earliest poetic romance, which was written in rhyming hexametres, not by Froumund, but by some Benedictine monk about the year 1030.

Tegernsee also took a very important part in the development of art, especially, as has already been said, in the making of stained glass. Glass works were established and, by order of Count Arnold Welsen-Klammbach, the churches were adorned with stained-glass windows instead of the old cloth hangings with which the window openings had formerly been covered. In 1083 Abbot Gozbert established a bell foundry which, after Freising, was the oldest in Bavaria. He secured the first bell-founder from Freising, a cleric named Adalrich, who, at the instigation of Abbot Gozbert, cast the bell of St. Quirinus, for which both the mould and the metal had been ready for three years. The glass-painter and monk, Werinher, who was also the goldsmith of Tegernsee, made the double doors of the cathedral of Mainz that were cast in 1014. Werinher, who was also nicknamed Wenzel (Petz, "Anecd.", VI), was a skilful sculptor ( artificiosus anaglypha ). In particular he understood how to ornament the covers of books with lettering and enamel. Tegernsee was also a noted monastic school in the medieval period. About 1067 the celebrated monk Otloh of St. Emmeram expressed his thanks for the knowledge he had gained at the abbey ("in loco illo, quo talia didici, id est in Coenobio Tegernsee"; cf. Mabillon, "Analecta", 1723, 119). It was also Tegernsee that under the rule of Abbot Quirinus (1568-94) established a printing-press in 1573. The importance of printing was probably recognized at the very first on account of the art of wood-engraving which had been practised for a long time at Tegernsee, and of which very beautiful proof-impressions of the years 1472 and 1477 are still extant. The press at Tegernsee issued chiefly religious and popular works, and also scholarly and liturgical books of great typographical beauty. The architectural remains still existing at Tegernsee are the former monastery church of the fifteenth century, which, however, was so altered by rebuilding at the close of the seventeenth century that it can only be reconstructed by analysis. Over the door of the church is a marble relief dating from 1457, representing the founders of the church. Mention should also be made of the Church of St. Quirinus erected on the spot where, according to legend, a spring bubbled up when the coffin of Quirinus rested there during the translation to the monastery church. The building was erected by Abbot Ayndorffer in 1450 to replace a wooden church.

Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.

Saint of the Day logo
Prayer of the Day logo

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2024 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2024 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.