Reichenau, Abbey of
REICHENAU, ABBEY OF
A former Benedictine monastery in the old Diocese of Constance in south-western Germany (Latin, Augia Dives ). charles martel founded a Benedictine abbey on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance in 724 and entrusted it to its first abbot, St. pirmin. The nucleus of the present cloisters was the Carolingian cathedral of Mittelzell, built by Abbot Hatto I (806–822 or 823). At the same time, Bp. Egino of Verona (d. 802) erected the second Carolingian basilica for the monastery in Niederzell, modeling it on S. Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. In 896 Abbot Hatto III (888–913) founded the canonry of Oberzell, where the church was decorated in the third quarter of the 10th century with the famous and still well-preserved Ottonian fresco cycle.
The monastery began to flourish under the fourth abbot, Arnefried, who in 736 became also bishop of Constance. This personal union lasted till 782. Abbot Hatto I was simultaneously bishop of Basel; and Abbot Hatto III, archbishop of Mainz. The ecclesiastical importance of the abbey was still further enhanced by the translation of the relics of St. mark, which Reichenau obtained in 830 from Bp. Ratold of Verona (d. 847), and of the head of St. george obtained by Abbot Hatto III. The monastery's period of greatness arrived under Abbot Alawich II (997–1000), who was granted pontifical rights and the privilege of papal abbatial consecration by gregory v.
Reichenau's position in the field of scholarship was outstanding. Its library and school, founded by Abbot Wallo (786–806), were especially flourishing under the direction of walafrid strabo (d. 848) and later of her mannus Contractus (d. 1054). Under Abbot berno (1008–48) Reichenau's illumination work attained European fame. The expressionistic Reichenau style was influenced by contemporary byzantine practice and was distinguished by strong animation of ornamentation, disembodiment of figures, and the brilliance of its internal color. About the middle of the 11th century a decline set in as a result of poor economic management of the monastery. In 1535 the abbey was incorporated into the Diocese of Constance, and in 1802 it was secularized. The various churches, however, remain in large part intact.
Bibliography: berthold von reichenau, Die Briefe des Abtes Bern von Reichenau, ed. f. j. schmale (Stuttgart 1961). k. grÖber, Die Reichenau (Karlsruhe 1938). t. mayer, "Die Anfänge der Reichenau," Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins 101 (1953) 305–352. o. feger, Geschichte des Bodenseeraumes, 2 v. (Lindau 1956–58). a. knoepfli, Kunstgeschichte des Bodenseeraumes (Constance 1961–). k. martin, Die ottonischen Wandbilder der St. Georgskirche Reichenau-Oberzell (Constance 1961). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:2427–30.