280 metres wide and 240 metres long – in total, the grounds of Schuttern Abbey covered roughly six hectares – or you might prefer to think in terms of 920 by 788 feet and almost ten acres! The map – created by an 18th century Swiss engraver – shows the property as a magnificent complex in the Baroque style, with extensive gardens laid out with geometric regularity.
However, Schuttern Abbey didn’t always look that impressive. Established in the 7th or 8th century, Schuttern was one of the Franconian Empire’s wealthiest abbeys from the 9th century onwards. But several major fires, the Peasants' War of 1525, the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, and the campaigns of conquest waged by Louis the Fourteenth took a heavy toll on the monastery. On several occasions, it was looted, and its monks were expelled.
But by the early 18th century, more settled times had arrived. Gradually, the monastery took on the appearance you see here. At the top, on the northern flank, there’s a row of buildings, including two towers.
The one on the right is the tower of the present-day Church of the Assumption, built in 1722. It’s right behind you.
The historical map still shows a Romanesque nave. That was demolished in around 1770 and replaced by the present Baroque nave.
The tower in the centre was demolished soon after the dissolution of the monastery, as were most of the other buildings on the map.
To get a sense of where the monastic buildings were located, imagine turning the map by 90° clockwise. The visual axis that ran in a southerly direction from the middle tower, known as the "portal tower", roughly corresponds to today's Klosterstrasse. And the abbey grounds extended approximately to where the modern street ends.
Take a look at your screen. Only the buildings marked in red have survived. Following secularisation in 1806, the monastery became the property of the Grand Duchy of Baden and was demolished over the following decades.
However, the building with the old map of the abbey on its wall is a historic structure and was originally part of the Baroque monastery complex. Have you noticed that all the windows are on the right?
And have you also spotted the outline of a door in the brickwork? It’s at the very top, at about the same level as the Schuttern coat of arms. That’s where the central tower stood. And there was a door linking that “portal tower” to the building behind it.
The engraving on which our mural was based includes a tiny detail that demonstrates the extent to which worldliness had taken root in our venerable abbey. In the upper right-hand corner, north of the church, under the open sky, you can see … a bowling alley!
If you’d like to find out more about the history of Schuttern Abbey, you may be interested to know that the former rectory now houses a museum. It’s right behind the church – just a few steps from where you are now.
All depictions: © Historischer Verein Schuttern 603 e.V. / Gemeinde Friesenheim