Echternach, Abbey of

views updated


Former imperial Benedictine monastery in the present town of Echternach, Luxembourg; it is a pilgrimage site, known for its famous dancing procession to the tomb of St. Willibrord on the Tuesday following Pentecost. An almshouse for itinerant Scottish monks before 689, it was founded as a benedictine monastery (698704) by St. willibrord on an estate of St. irmina and her daughter Plectrude, consort of Pepin II. During the 8th century it was the center for missions to the Frisians, and the "port of entry" for Irish-Anglo-Saxon culture (MSS in Paris, Trier, Maihingen) to the Continent. In the Carolingian period it acquired extensive property holdings; its greatest abbot was Beornrad (775797). About 848 the abbey was converted into a collegiate church ruled by lay abbots. Despite subsequent decline, it had a famous school and scriptorium. The last lay Abbot, Count Siegfried of Luxembourg, requested Emperor otto i to send cluniac reform monks to Echternach; these arrived from Sankt Maximin in Trier (973). Under Abbot Humbert the Echternach school of illumination was at its peak (e.g., the Golden Gospel Books in Nuremberg, Uppsala, and the library of the Escorial, the MSS in Darmstadt, Gotha, and Bremen). Another decline in the 14th and 15th centuries occasioned a new reform by monks from Sankt Maximin in Trier in 1496. Echternach was suppressed in 1797 during the French Revolution. The body of St. Willibrord is buried in the abbey church, which was built between 1017 and 1031, restored between 1862 and 1868, made a minor basilica in 1939, and repaired after World War II. Of the former Carolingian basilica only the crypt has been preserved; the remains of the Merovingian abbey church were discovered 1949. The abbey buildings are an impressive creation of the French baroque (172736).

Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prierés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 1:102526. c. wampach, Geschichte der Grundherrschaft Echternach im Frühmittelalter, 2 v. (Luxembourg 1930); Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 14:136575. p. metz, The Golden Gospels of Echternach, tr. i. schrier and p. gorge (New York 1957).

[p. volk]