Benedictine abbey joins UNESCO list

Corvey Abbey, Weser River

An historic monastery has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage list. The abbey was founded in the 822 AD under Louis the Pious, son of Frankish King Charlemagne, and now welcomes 100,000 tourists a year.

The Imperial Abbey of Corvey in central Germany has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, thanks to its Carolingian westwork and the Corvey civitas. DW celebrates the new title with a tour through the castle and former Benedictine abbey, HERE.

French Benedictine monks built the monastery of Corvey on the banks of the River Weser in 822. Fourteen years later, the relics of St. Vitus were transferred from Paris to Corvey. The Benedictine monastery soon grew to become a place of pilgrimage and one of the most important monasteries of the Middle Ages.

A plaque inscribed on the monastery's foundation refers to a city that was established in the church's surroundings. In the 12th century, that city was destroyed. Archaeologists have excavated remains from the settlement, which have been preserved underground. The Corvey Civitas is considered one of the few nearly-intact archaeological monuments of an entire medieval city.

Corvey made its successful application for World Heritage status based on the civitas and the westwork, which date back to the 9th century. The square central building with its double-tower facade is the oldest surviving westwork in the world. It forms the church building's west-facing entrance. The two spires were added in the 16th century.

A vaulted hall on the ground floor shapes the westwork's entrance. Columns and pillars support the upper level, where the main room is situated. Its architecture makes Corvey one of the most striking examples of the Carolingian Renaissance since Charlemagne's rule in the early 9th century.

The few frescoes remaining from the Carolingian period hint at just how ornately decorated the westwork must have been. The paintings show acanthus vines and motifs from Greek mythology, such as the battle between Odysseus and the sea monster Scylla. Since the time of Charlemagne, monasteries have recorded knowledge and handed down the culture of antiquity.

Many of the other Corvey buildings were heavily damaged during the Thirty Years' War. In 1671, the monastery was rebuilt as a Baroque residence, but it wasn't until the 1794 secularization that the site's religious community began to dissolve. Forty years later, Corvey was acquired by the ducal family of Ratibor. Today the baroque castle is the family's main place of residence.

Read article and view gallery: World Heritage status for Corvey (Deutsche Welle)

RELATED:

Germany's Imperial Abbey of Corvey among new UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Deutsche Welle)

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