June 19


Ettal Abbey – church, abbey and indulgence

By Frank

June 19, 2020

The monastery was founded by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian on April 28, 1330, the day of Saint Vitalis , as part of an oath .

Saint Benedict had already determined in his Rule that the monastery should be laid out in such a way that everything necessary was within the monastery walls . The realization of this concern can be seen in the three courtyards grouped around the church:

  • The south wing of the large inner courtyard in front of the church houses the school, bookstore, monastery shop and monastery administration , while the west and north wing houses the rooms of the boarding school . On the one hand, the courtyard is the imposing entrance area for visitors to our basilica, but on the other hand it is also the lively playground for our students.
  • As the name suggests, the brewery and the distillery are located around the brewery courtyard to the left of the church. In the immediate vicinity are other handicraft businesses such as gardening, metalworking, carpentry and laundry . A little further uphill you come to the monastery's farm .
  • The so-called cloister , ie the monks' closed living area , encloses the cloister garden to the right of the church .


The threefold vow that the monk takes is his help and support: "Obedience " helps to practice listening to Christ for a lifetime, the vow of " conversatio morum " lets us turn back to Christ again and again and the vow of “ constancy ” teaches us to gain ever more support in Christ.

Aha! Cool ...

Ettaler Madonna leads to the founding of the monastery

According to tradition, Ludwig the Bavarian , who got into trouble in Rome after his coronation as emperor in 1328 , prayed in a chapel and called on the Blessed Mother for help. Then an angel appeared to him in a monk 's robe, gave him the image of the Virgin Mary (the so-called "Ettaler Madonna") as a gift and commissioned him to found the monastery .

When the Emperor reached his native Ammergau a few weeks later, he felt the image of Mary he was carrying getting heavier and heavier and his horse finally sank to its knees three times in front of a fir tree by the road. The emperor saw this as a warning from heaven to keep his promise to found a monastery at this point .

He had the forest around the fir tree cleared and laid the foundation stone for the church and monastery on April 28, 1330. Practical purposes were associated with the pious donation of pledges, such as securing the trade routes to the south (Augsburg - Verona), opening up the area and setting up a foundation for knights and their wives.

Important place of pilgrimage and pilgrimage destination

Worship of the miraculous image of Ettal began shortly after the founding of the monastery. Thousands of believers from near and far came and still come here to pray before Our Lady , to ask her for her protection and help . Numerous votive offerings and candles testified to the answered prayers in the past years and centuries since she stayed in this valley .

Monastery Library - Lectio deesse non debet ( Reading the Holy Scriptures )

The library of a monastery is therefore not a relic of bygone times but rather a source from which the monks draw again and again so as not to dry up spiritually. Ettal Abbey houses an important library with more than 200,000 volumes, including rare manuscripts and incunabula (In scientific research, all books and single-leaf materials completed before January 1, 1501 and printed with movable metal letters are referred to as incunabula/incunabula.

It is part of the individual task of each monk to find the most suitable time and place for his lectio divina – spiritual reading. There will often be changes in the course of a life, but this reading must not be missing in the life of a monk in the long run.

"Beer Oskar in 2021" - Long tradition in beer production

The monastery also runs a brewery. The production of beer, Bavaria's liquid bread , has an uninterrupted tradition of more than 400 years in Ettal. In the Brewery Museum you can experience an exciting journey through time through the history of beer brewing on more than 500 square meters .

Kloster Ettal Brewery

Kloster Ettal Brewery

An international jury of 120 master brewers, specialist journalists, beer sommeliers and other experts in liquid gold have awarded the Ettaler Curator , a dark double bock from the monastery brewery, with the " Beer Oscar " - the " European Beer Star 2021 ". Almost 2,400 barley juices from 44 countries around the world have been submitted. The Ettaler beer effortlessly left this big competition behind.

With the curator, Ettal took up the oldest recipe in the monastery. When the monks started brewing in 1609, their first beer was a "brown". In the first few years it was produced exclusively for personal use after wine cultivation had to be ended at the beginning of the 17th century due to a "little ice age".

The production of monastery liqueurs also has a well-established tradition in Ettal Abbey. As early as the Middle Ages, the monks of Ettal were looking for healing plants and grew a wide variety of herbs in their own garden. In the expert hands of the monastery pharmacist, they were used to create those mysterious mixtures that are still used today.

Production of monastery liqueurs

The production of monastery liqueurs also has a well-established tradition in Ettal Abbey. As early as the Middle Ages, the monks of Ettal were looking for healing plants and grew a wide variety of herbs in their own garden. In the expert hands of the monastery pharmacist, they were used to create those mysterious mixtures that are still used today.


Excommunicated emperor founds monastery

Ludwig found himself at odds with Pope John XXII of Avignon , ostensibly about questions of faith, but actually about political primacy . After Louis had himself crowned emperor by Sciarra Colonna in Rome, the pope declared this coronation null and void and Louis announced the dismissal of the pope.

Described as a heretic by the Pope, the now excommunicated man founded the Benedictine monastery in the “Ampferang” (originally the high valley between Loisach and the Ammergau mountains was called “Ampferang”) with an attached noble knight ’s monastery. The central building of the church, a polygon whose massive central column supported the vault , was unusual for the Gothic period.

The emperor probably had the idea of creating a grail temple here, in which the miraculous image , a Madonna with child , is worshiped as the holy grail. The monastery church was built in the Gothic style between 1330 and 1370 and consecrated on May 5, 1370. The Knights' Foundation was dissolved soon after the Emperor's death.

It was not until more than 300 years after it was founded , at the end of the 17th century, that the upswing began , which made the monastery an important and flourishing place in the 18th century until secularization in 1803 . From the 17th century, pilgrimages to Ettal were also very popular.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the cosmopolitan abbot, Plazidus II. Seitz (1709 - 1736) founded the knight academy (intermediate form of grammar school and university) and thus established Ettal's school tradition . It should be the task of the school to prepare young people – not just aristocrats – in a secluded atmosphere for their later tasks in state, society and church .

What is there to see?

Benedictine inmates

Until the church fire in 1744, which destroyed the Gothic central building consecrated in 1370, the miraculous image ( 33 cm tall and 12 kg heavy plastic made of Carrara marble - a work by the sculptor Giovanni Pisano) stood on the altar on the central column, like a huge palm tree – carried the vault on all sides.

Ettal Abbey – church, abbey and indulgence

Dome of the Benedictine Abbey of Ettal Abbey, ceiling fresco by Johann Baptist Zimmermann

After the fire, the Gothic dodecagonal complex from the 14th century was given a Baroque cladding , and the mighty round dome was built over the floor plan; the center column has been removed . When entering the church, the eye is drawn to the imposing ceiling fresco of the cupola, which shows the Benedictine heaven. The interior of the church is strikingly bright.

After the turmoil of secularization, Pope Benedict XV. the church was promoted to a minor basilica in 1920. Since 1905 the monastery has also housed the Ettal Benedictine Gymnasium . Pilgrims make pilgrimages to the well-known statue of Mary, the Ettaler Madona, which is now on the high altar.


The development of domestic beer brewing is hard to imagine without the monasteries. Because the monastic breweries mark the transition from home brewing to commercial brewing and craftsmanship. On the one hand, the beer was produced in the monasteries for a larger group of people, on the other hand, they later sold the beer, which was originally only produced for the monastic community's own needs, to strangers in their taverns and pilgrim houses.

In addition, a bookshop , an art publisher , a hotel, several inns and a number of smaller businesses belong to the operative business of the monastery.

Ettal Abbey is the cultural center of the Ammergau Alps

brewery museum-kloster-ettal with workshop

brauereimuseum-kloster-ettal Quelle: Kloster Ettal

Kloster Ettal

Kaiser-Ludwig-Platz 1

82488 Ettal

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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