Disentis, Abbey of

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DISENTIS, ABBEY OF

Benedictine abbey at the source of the Rhine, Graübunden, Diocese of Chur, Switzerland. Disentis is the German equivalent of the Romansh Mustér. Both names derive from the "cell" of St. Sigisbert (c. 720), a Frankish disciple of St. columban. The Rhaetian noble St. Placidus, co-founder of the hermitage, was slain to prevent the founding of a monastery, which was achieved by Bishop Ursicinus c. 750. Bishop Tello of Chur granted many lands and privileges (765), and Disentis flourished as an imperial abbey in Carolingian times. After its destruction by Saracens (940) it revived, thanks to the Ottos and especially Frederic I Barbarossa, who favored it with grants as far away as Milan because of its strategic location on the Lucmagn Pass between Germany and Italy. St. adalgott brought reform and a liturgical movement from einsiedeln c. 1000. Abbots Gion II (13671401) and Pieder de Pultengia (140238) helped found the Gray League Republic. Three monks and the abbot joined the Reformation, but the abbey remained Catholic. Christian de Castelberg (156684), friend of St. Charles borromeo, raised the level of religious life. in the 17th century Disentis devoted itself to the apostolate and to the spread of Romansh spiritual literature through its press. The abbey prospered under Adalbert II de Medell (165596) and Bernard Frank de Frankenberg (174263) before it was burned by the French (1799). The monks returned (1804), but the abbey declined after another fire (1846). It was restored from Muri-Gries (1880).

The 8th-century reliquary crypt grew to three churches: St. Peter, Our Lady (c. 750), and St. Martin (c.800). The present baroque St. Martin (rebuilt 16951712 after plans by Caspar Moosbrugger) is a landmark of the Upper Rhine. The monk Placia Spescha (17521833) was an encyclopedist and geographer; Maurus Carnot (18651935) was a Romansh poet and dramatist; Notker Curti (18801948) was a historian of folk art. Disentis, with 40 monks and 25 lay brothers (1964), has a Gymnasium with 200 students, a Romansh library, and a museum of folk art.

Bibliography: i. mÜller, Disentiser Klostergeschichte, v.1 (7201512) (Einsiedeln 1942); Die Abtei Disentis (Fribourg 1952), 4 v. pub. to 1960; Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 14:516519; Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 3:417418. f. pieth and k. hager, Pater Placidus Spescha, sein Leben und seine Schriften (Bern 1913). o. zurkinden, Pater Maurus Carnot (Glion, Switz. 1945). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 1:972974. o. l. kapsner, A Benedictine Bibliography: An Author-Subject Union List, 2 v. (2d ed. Collegeville, Minn. 1962) 2:203.

[a. maissen]