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It was founded in 764 by Blessed Toto, and dedicated to St. Alexander, the martyr. Of its early history little is known beyond the fact that Toto, its first abbot, died about 815 and that Saint Ulrich was its abbot in 972. In the 11th century its discipline was on the decline, till Abbot Adalhalm (1082-1094) introduced the reform of Hirsau. The same abbot began to restore the decaying buildings, which were completed, with the addition of a convent for noble ladies, by his successor, Abbot Rupert I (1102-1145). Under the rule of the latter the newly founded Marienberg Abbey was recruited with monks from Ottobeuren. His successor, Abbot Isengrim (1145-1180), wrote Annales minores  and Annales majores.
Blessed Conrad of Ottobeuren was abbot from 1193 until his death in 1227, described by the Benedictines as a "lover of the brethren and of the poor" .
In 1153, and again in 1217, the abbey was consumed by fire. In the 14th and 15th centuries it declined so completely that at the accession of Abbot Johann Schedler (1416-1443) only six or eight monks were left, and its annual revenues did not exceed 46 silver marks. Under Abbot Leonard Wiedemann (1508-1546) it again began to flourish: he erected a printing establishment and a common house of studies for the Swabian Benedictines. The latter, however, was soon closed, owing to the ravages of the Thirty Years' War.
Ottobeuren became an imperial abbey in 1299, but lost this status after the Prince-Bishop of Augsburg had become Vogt of the abbey. These rights were renounced after a court case at the Reichskammergericht in 1624. In 1710 the abbey regained its status as an imperial abbey, but did not become a member of the Swabian Circle.
The most flourishing period in the history of Ottobeuren began with the accession of Abbot Rupert Ness (1710-1740) and lasted until its secularization in 1802. From 1711-1725 Abbot Rupert erected the present monastery, the architectural grandeur of which has merited for it the name of "the Swabian Escorial". In 1737 he also began the building of the present church, completed by his successor, Anselm Erb, in 1766. In 1803 Ottobeuren became part of Bavaria. At that time the territory had about 12,000 inhabitants and an area of some 165 km².
Second foundationlay brothers, and one lay novice, who had under their charge the parish of Ottobeuren, a district school, and an industrial school for poor boys.
Monks of Ottobeuren
Noteworthy among monks of Ottobeuren are:
- Nicolas Ellenbog, humanist, d. 1543
- Jacob Molitor, the learned and saintly prior, d. 1675
- Albert Krey, the hagiographer, d. 1713
- Fr. Schmier, canonist, d. 1728
- Augustine Bayrhamer, d. 1782 historian
- Maurus Feyerabend, d. 1818, historian
- Abbot Honoratus Goehl (1767-1802), a promoter of true church music, and founder of two schools
- Ulric Schiegg, the mathematician and astronomer, d. 1810.
Ottobeuren Abbey has one of the richest music programs in Bavaria, with concerts every Saturday. Most concerts feature one or more of the Abbey's famous organs. The old organ, the masterpiece of French organbuilder Karl Joseph Riepp (1710-1775), is actually a double organ; it is one of the most treasured historic organs in Europe. It was the main instrument for 200 years, until 1957 when a third organ was added by G. F. Steinmeyer & Co, renovated and augmented in 2002 by Johannes Klais, making 100 stops available on five manuals (or keyboards).
- "Ottobeuren". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Ottobeuren.
- Schleglmann, 1906. Geschichte der Säkularisation im rechtsrheinischen Bayern, vol. III, pp. 611-54. Regensburg.