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Lorsch, Abbey of


More properly called Lorsch on the Bergstrasse, in Hesse, Germany, Diocese of Mainz (Latin, Laureshamense, Laurissa ), at one time the foremost German benedictine abbey, later a Premonstratensian monastery. It was founded in 764 by Count Kankor and his mother, Williswinda, in Altenmünster, and was settled with monks from gorze. In 772 episcopal exemption and royal protection were granted by charlemagne, and in 774 the cloister was removed to Lorsch. The great numbers who entered, the extraordinarily large grants, the rewards of able administration, the exemplary discipline, and the number of daughter-foundations gave this imperial abbey a vast influence in the 9th century, and for the next 200 years, a period of cultural brilliance. Decline followed in the 12th century, partly because the abbots were so preoccupied with efforts to check episcopal annexation that they were unable to introduce serious reforms within the monastery. Archbishop Siegfried II of Mainz finally secured jurisdiction over Lorsch from Pope Gregory IX in 1229; this was confirmed by Emperor Frederick II in 1232, after which Lorsch became a cistercian house and sank to the rank of a priory. With the permission of Pope Innocent IV, Abp. Siegfried III in 1244 introduced premonstratensian canons from Allerheiligen. In 1461 Lorsch was handed over to the Count Palatine. During the Thirty Years' War the monastery was burnt to the ground by Spanish troops (1621). In the 17th century the attempts of the Premonstratensians to return to Lorsch were fruitless, and in 1803 the monastic territory was awarded to the state of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The crypt, which was the burial place of two Carolingian rulers, and which contains two important murals, has been restored since 1927. The catalogue of Lorsch's library testifies to the intellectual greatness of the monastery in the 10th and 11th centuries and clearly suggests that it was the best of the medieval libraries in its time. After 1460 under Palatine control, the still-extensive library was removed to Heidelberg, and in 1632 it was sent to the Vatican; in 1815 part of it was restored to Heidelberg.

Bibliography: Annales Laureshamenses, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 1. Gallia Christiana 5:695714. f. kieser, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Klosters Lorsch, 2 v. (Bensheim 190809). w. m. lindsay, "The (Early) Lorsch Scriptorium," Palaeographia Latina, ed. w. m. lindsay, 6 pts. in 1 v. (Oxford 192229) 3.548. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés (Mâcon 193539) 1:165658. p. schmitz, Histoire de l'Ordre de Saint-Benoît, 7 v. (Maredsous, Bl. 194256). w. selzer, Das Karolingische Reichskloster Lorsch (Kassel-Basel 1955).

[b. d. hill]

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