Holy beauty! What are the most famous abbeys in the world hiding?
Nowadays, between the words "monastery" and "abbey" you can safely put an equal sign. Abbeys are the homes of monastic Catholic orders, mostly Benedictine. In the Middle Ages, they were the most powerful religious, scientific and cultural centers of Western Europe. These were entire complexes that included church buildings, a refectory, a dormitory, a scriptorium, a library, utility buildings, a hospital and other buildings. In the 16th century, they lost their former influence, many centers were closed, others were simplified. Westminster Abbey, despite its name, is just one Collegiate Church of St. Peter. Nevertheless, the name continues to appear, albeit unofficially. The restructuring of the church, which has survived to our days, began in 1245, and it lasted 250 years. It was started by Henry III, who wanted to make the place a cult place for English monarchs following the example of the Reims Cathedral in France. And he succeeded. St. Peter's Church today remains the site of the coronation and wedding of the royal family.Photo graylinelondon.com
Let's stay a little longer in the UK. Surely many of this theme reminded of "Downton Abbey" - the most popular TV series that the BBC released several years ago. The main place where the shooting was carried out is also not an abbey. And unlike Westminster, it never even was. It is a beautiful Jacobite style Highclere Castle located in Hampshire.Photo archaeology-travel.com
But the monastery on the rock of Mont Saint-Michel rightfully bears the title "abbey". It is located on an island on the northwestern coast of France and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, several dozen people live in this beautiful medieval walled town. Interestingly, during the bourgeois revolution, the monks left the abbey, and the monastery was used as a prison with the ironic name "Mountain of Freedom". The dungeon was closed in 1883, but the monks returned to the island only a century later. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France. According to some estimates, about 3 million tourists come here annually.Photo tur-france.com
Another famous French abbey is Saint-Denis. This is one of the main burial places of the French kings. Now there is only one cathedral left from it, which is located in the suburbs of Paris. The building was built in the XII century and with its style influenced the entire Gothic architecture of France. 25 French kings, a dozen queens and a huge number of princes and princesses rested here. The last burial in Saint-Denis took place not so long ago. In 2004, the heart of Louis XVII was buried here - the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who never ascended the throne.Photo getguided.trekksoft.com
Abbeys in the Middle Ages influenced not only the architectural style of cities, but also their location. Very often they became the centers of settlements that grew rapidly. For example, this happened with the Imperial St. Boniface's Abbey - one of the most famous holy places in Germany, which was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire. After its foundation in the 8th century, the whole city of Fulda grew around the monastery, which today has almost 65 thousand inhabitants.Photо en.wikipedia.org
Unfortunately, many unique buildings have not survived to our times. Some of them were rebuilt, others were built from scratch. This happened with the Monastery of Saint Gall in Switzerland, which is also listed as a World Heritage Site. In the 18th century, medieval buildings were demolished, and in their place baroque temples were erected. Despite the fact that over the fourteen centuries of its existence, the library of the abbey was constantly robbed, even today it is considered one of the best in Europe.Photo thecrazytourist.com
Until the onset of the Age of Enlightenment, abbeys were the main stronghold of book printing, storage of books and the concentration of the best minds in Western Europe. Each of the monasteries listed above had, and some still have, enviable libraries. But it was the humble Italian Bobbio Abbey (Saint Columban) that inspired Umberto Eco to write his cult novel "The Name of the Rose". The monastery has a legendary scriptorium - a workshop for the correspondence of manuscripts.Photo e-borghi.com
The most sensational monastery in Italy is Monte Cassino. Unlike many of his brothers, it acquired its fame not only in the Middle Ages, but also during the Second World War. It became a strategically important target for the capture of Rome. As a result of the four battles, 50,000 allies and 20,000 more Axis soldiers were killed. The abbey was completely destroyed by the allied aviation, since the cult values were evacuated to the Vatican. The monastery was rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1964.Photo europeremembers.com
There are many beautiful and famous abbeys throughout Western Europe. Each has its own unique history, sometimes it keeps the mysteries and secrets of entire orders. Now they do not have the former influence on the fate of people, but they remain a majestic reminder of the time that has gone forever.
Cover photo bbc.co.uk