Ellwangen, Abbey of
ELLWANGEN, ABBEY OF
Former benedictine monastery and later a collegiate church, at Ellwangen, Württemberg, Germany, in the former Diocese of Augsburg, currently the Diocese of Rottenburg. The abbey's patrons have been Our Savior, Mary, perhaps Peter and Paul; Sulpicius and Servilianus, whose relics were translated there from Rome between 772 and 795; and Vitus, certainly since 1147. It was founded c. 750—according to tradition, specifically in 764—for the purpose of supporting the Carolingian Franks against the Bavarians, celebrating the divine services, and clearing the local forest. The legendary Vita Hariolfi (841–851) by ermenrich of passau states that the abbey's founders were two brothers, Bp. Hariolf and Bp. Erlolf of Langres; according to other sources, Erlolf and Hariolf were the same person. However, there appears to be some connection between the abbey and Langres, for both have the same coat of arms. In 817 it was made an imperial abbey; in 979 Ellwangen was taken under papal protection; and in 1215 the abbot was made a prince of the empire. The abbey became embroiled in a war with the local town, which Abbot Rudolph burned to the ground in 1255. First the counts of Oettingen, then from 1370 on, the counts of Württemberg served as lay patrons. In the 15th century deteriorating discipline, bad administration, and a fire (1443) prompted the religious to convert the abbey—with papal approval—into an exempt collegiate church (1460) of secular priests with a prince prior, 12 canons (all of the nobility), and 10 vicars. The dean of the chapter was mitered in 1784. During the Reformation, the prior, Cardinal Otto truchsess von waldburg (1552–73), called in Peter canisius, and thus Ellwangen remained Catholic. In 1611 a Jesuit house was established there; its college with Gymnasium was built (1721–23), and its church (1724–29), now Lutheran, was decorated by Scheffler.
Ellwangen's Marian shrine church on the Schönenberg was constructed under Bl. Philipp jeningen's supervision (1682–86); in 1709 it was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt. A seminary was built there in 1747, but was dissolved in 1798; today the site is held by the Redemptorists. In the secularization of 1802–03, all Ellwangen holdings went to the state of Württemberg, and the collegiate church was dissolved. Ellwangen's jurisdiction over the Catholics of Württemberg (1812–17) and its seminary moved to the new diocesan seat at Rottenburg; the theological school founded at Ellwangen in 1812 became part of the University of tÜbingen. The old abbey church (consecrated in 1233) was the prototype of Worms cathedral; it now shows the effect of baroque remodeling in the 17th and 18th centuries. Excavations on the site since 1959 have uncovered a pre-Romanesque reliquary.
Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 1:1042–43. p. schmitz, Histoire de l'ordre de saint Benoît, 7 v. (Maredsous 1942–56). k. hallinger, Gorze-Kluny, 2 v. (Studia anselmiana 22–25; 1950–51). w. schwarz, "Studien zur ältesten Geschichte des Benediktinerklosters Ellwangen" in Zeitschrift für württembergische Landesgeschichte 11 (1952) 7–38. b. bushart, Die Stiftskirche in Ellwangen (Munich 1953). h. pfeifer, Verfassungs-und Verwaltungsgeschichte der Fürstpropstei Ellwangen (Stuttgart 1959). e. h. fischer, "Zur kirchlichen Verfassung des Ellwanger Stifts" in Ellwanger Jahrbuch 17 (1956–57) 63–84. w. fink, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 15:242–246. v. burr, ed., Ellwangen 764–1964, 2 v. (Ellwangen 1964).