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Michaelsberg Abbey, Bamberg

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Bamberg Sankt Michael BW 12

West front of the Michaelskirche, the former abbey church

Bamberg Michelsberg

Position of the abbey in the Bamberg Old Town

Kloster Michaelsberg Plan

Sketch plan of the abbey precinct

for Michaelsberg Abbey in North Rhine-Westphalia, see Michaelsberg Abbey, Siegburg

Michaelsberg Abbey or Michelsberg Abbey, also St. Michael's Abbey, Bamberg (German: Kloster Michaelsberg or Michelsberg) is a former Benedictine monastery in Bamberg in Bavaria, Germany. After its dissolution in 1803 the buildings were used for the almshouse Vereinigte Katharinen- und Elisabethen-Spital, which is still there as an old people's home. The former abbey church remains in use as the Michaelskirche.


After the creation of the Bishopric of Bamberg by Emperor Henry II, the first Bishop of Bamberg, Eberhard I, founded the abbey in 1015 as the bishop's private monastery. Accordingly the abbot answered directly to the bishop of Bamberg, and to no-one else. The monks for the new establishment were drawn from Amorbach Abbey and Fulda Abbey.

Kloster Michaelsberg Mittelschiff

Nave of the former abbey church

The abbey soon flourished under Bishop Otto (d. 1139), whose burial in the abbey church and subsequent canonisation in 1189, together with the papal protection granted to the abbey in 1251, was of enormous advantage in increasing the independence of the abbey from the bishops. The award to the abbots of the pontificalia had taken place some time before 1185. The abbey's financial status rested securely upon its great ownership of lands in 441 places in the bishopric.

In 1435 the abbey came into conflict with the townspeople of Bamberg and was plundered. It also suffered during the Peasants' War of 1525, the Franconian Markgräflerkrieg and from an occupation of several years' duration by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War. In the 17th and 18th centuries the abbey recovered, and enjoyed a new period of prosperity.

By the time of the secularisation of Bavaria of 1802 the abbey still owned substantial property in Bamberg itself as well as estates in no fewer than 141 places in the surrounding area. On 30 November 1802 Bavarian troops confiscated the abbey's assets. Valuable books were removed to the library of the Bavarian court, the predecessor of the present Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The 24 monks then resident were obliged to leave the monastery. The abbey buildings passed into the possession of the city of Bamberg, who by popular request transferred into them the old almshouses from the city centre; these are still located there.

Abbey church

The church of the former abbey still stands as the Michaelskirche, or St. Michael's Church, Bamberg. The first church on the site, dedicated to Saint Michael, was built in about 1015 and was destroyed by an earthquake, probably in 1117. The present building is basically a Romanesque church, consecrated in 1121. In 1610 it was badly damaged by a fire, as a result of which the nave (with its ceiling paintings of the Garden of Heaven, completed in 1617) and the westwork, with the two west towers, had to be more or less rebuilt from scratch. The still-extant organ-loft was also constructed very soon after the fire, in 1610, and is a significant work of the German Late Renaissance. From 1696 Leonhard Dientzenhofer, under the instructions of abbot Christoph Ernst, created a two-storey Baroque exterior facade. Johann Dientzenhofer built the terrace in 1723.

In 1833, on the orders of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the gravestones and memorials of the bishops of Bamberg from the 16th to the 18th century were removed from Bamberg Cathedral and set up in the Michaelskirche, as described in a guidebook of 1912:[1]

"An entirely alien component of the church furnishings consists of those episcopal gravestones which Ludwig I ordered to be removed from the cathedral during its restoration, as stylistically inappropriate, and which were set up in the Michelskirche instead."[2]

The former abbey church of Saint Michael is now an ancillary church to the cathedral.



  1. Schreiber and Ament, Bamberg-Reiseführer
  2. "Ein ganz fremder Bestandteil der Kirchenausstattung sind jene fürstbischöflichen Grabdenkmäler, welche auf Anordnung König Ludwigs I. bei der Restauration des Domes als nicht stilgemäß aus diesem entfernt und in die Michelskirche versetzt wurden:"


  • Peter Schneider und Wilhelm Ament: Bamberg. Speyer, 1912.
  • Peter Ruderich: Ehemalige Benediktinerabteikirche St. Michael in Bamberg. DKV-Kunstführer Nr. 614/3 Deutscher Kunstverlag München Berlin
  • Anja Hofmann: Sakrale Emblematik in St. Michael zu Bamberg. Verlag Harrassowitz (2002), ISBN 3447044136 .

Sources / External links

Coordinates: 49°53′37″N 10°52′38″E / 49.8936111111°N 10.8772222222°E / 49.8936111111; 10.8772222222simple:St Michael's Church, Bamberg

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