Pre-monastic buildings, a roofed hall from the Carolingian-Ottonian period, a Romanesque church, Gothic alterations, the new building in the Baroque style – the eventful history of this centuries-old complex has been preserved in the ground beneath the present-day church.
In 1972, the building’s underfloor heating was due to be renewed, and Karl List, who worked for the Antiquities and Monuments Office in Lahr, made the urgent case for an archaeological investigation of the area around the altar. The result was sensational. He discovered fragments of the oldest post-Roman picture mosaic in the German-speaking world.
The subsequent dig took four years. During that time, the entire floor of the church was opened up, and excavated down to a depth of 2.3 metres or seven and a half feet below current street level.
Archaeologists and volunteers removed about ten thousand wheelbarrows full of soil, and uncovered remains of all the construction phases – right down to the foundations of the earliest monastic buildings.
There are, for example, the post holes, where solid oak and yew posts were rammed into the soggy ground to stabilise it. The Carolingian-Ottonian church was built on that foundation.
Also the regular squared stones from which the Romanesque church was built. The graves of the powerful ruling Geroldseck dynasty are from this construction phase. For many years, the Geroldsecks served as the patrons and bailiffs of the monastery. But the abbey chronicle came to a devastating conclusion about them:
"Those who were appointed for the benefit and preservation of the monks became enemies due to their tyranny. In place of benefit, they brought harm, instead of peace, they brought confusion and war."
In around 1260, at the height of their power, the Geroldsecks managed to have a family member consecrated as bishop of Strasbourg. Schuttern probably served as one of the dynasty’s burial grounds during that period.
But in 1262, the city of Strasbourg staged an uprising against Bishop Walter von Geroldseck. The Battle of Hausbergen took place in Alsace, and the city’s forces defeated the bishop's army. Many nobles died, including two members of the Geroldseck family. One of them, the bishop's brother, was buried in Schuttern.
Later, the monastery again suffered at the hands of the Geroldsecks. On several occasions, the fledgling town of Schuttern was besieged and overrun by the Strasbourg dynasty. One such instance occurred in 1473, when the Geroldsecks attacked Bernese merchants on the Rhine and carried them off to Schuttern, where they held them for ransom.