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Rheinau, Abbey of


Former Benedictine abbey on an island in the Rhine River, Zurich, Switzerland. Founded probably in the early 9th century, Rheinau had extensive possessions by 852 and in 858 came under royal protection with the right to elect its abbot. New lands were received, and the abbey's immunity was confirmed by Otto I (972) and Henry III (1049); Henry IV placed it under the bishop of Constance (to 1067). Bishop gebhard iii (10881110) introduced the hirsau reform. The three-nave, three-apse basilica of Our Lady and St. Peter and the chapel of St. fintan (an Irish monk at Rheinau 851878) were completed in 1114. The scriptorium flourished in the 12th century. The decline of the abbey in the 13th and 14th centuries was associated with economic difficulties and feudal lords; in 1455 the abbey came under the Swiss Confederation. Abandoned for a while (152931) during the Reformation, Rheinau joined the Swiss Benedictine Congregation (1602) under Gerold I Zurlauben (15981607). Its peak was reached under Gerold II Zurlauben (16971735), when scholarship flourished and a baroque church (1707) and a conventual building and library (1717) were built. Moritz hohenbaum van der meer, the historian, was at Rheinau (173495). Suppression by the French Revolution (17991803) was followed by a prohibition to accept novices (1836) and secularization by Zurich (1862). The abbey was converted to use as a mental institution; its library and archives went to Zurich.

Bibliography: r. henggeler, Monasticon Benedictinum Helvetiae 2 (Einsiedeln 1933) 163402. h. fietz, ed., Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Zürich, v.1 (Basel 1938) 225362. h. g. butz, Die Benediktinerabtei Rheinau im Zeitalter der Gegenreformation (Diss. Zurich 1954). g. hÜrlimann, Das Rheinauer Rituale (Fribourg 1959). w. hildebrandt, in Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la Suisse, v.5 (Neuchâtel 1930) 465467. u. engelmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:1274. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 2:245758. o. l. kapsner, A Benedictine Bibliography: An Author-Subject Union List, 2 v. (2d ed. Collegeville, MN 1962) 2:253254.

[a. maissen]

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