One of the purposes of my blog is to show how on every corner, from every stone and every little settlement peeps out a great history. One typical example is Prüm – today a nice and very calm little town, but an independent principality in the past, and earlier – extremely rich and powerful Carolingian Imperial Abbey that was an important authority factor in the surrounding аrea.
Its history began in AD721 when Bertrada of Prüm/Bertrada of Mürlenbach, the great-grandmother of Charlemagne, founded a monastery here, together with her son Charibert of Laon. The first monks came from Echternach, Luxembourg – the oldest city in the Grand Duchy with its monastery from AD696.
The monastery of Bertrada was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Apostles Peter and Paul, John the Baptist, and Saint Martin of Tours – an interesting Catholic saint who, among all, is a patron saint of the travelers, beggars, and emigrants.
In 752, the first Frankish King Pepin the Short, who married the granddaughter of Bertrada of Prüm – Bertrada of Laon/Bertrada the Younger and became the father of Charlemagne, rebuilt the abbey buildings and settled them with Benedictine monks from France. In that respect, Prüm is considered one of the probable birthplaces of Charlemagne, along with Aachen. (Later I will show a couple of others.)
The church was dedicated to the Salvator – to Jesus, and this dedication was linked to the donation of Pepin the Short of part of the Sandals of Jesus Christ – ones of the most important relics in the Middle Ages, together with other relics brought from Jerusalem.
In the photograph, you can see the shrine with the relics in the choir of the Abbey Church.
Vast territories belonged to the Abbey, and in the monastery school was taught the Carolingian nobility.
Today the buildings of the former abbey house again a school – a secondary school, but it is not intended only for the nobility.
In 855, after a life, full of family internecine wars for power, the Holy Roman Emperor Lothar I withdrew in the monastery and a couple of days later died here as a monk. He was buried in the church. His relics were found in 1860 when the old high altar was moved away. The new tomb was donated by Emperor William I in 1874.
In 1222, the abbey was declared a principality by Emperor Frederick II.
Yet in 1576, it was annexed to the Archbishopric of Trier and thus, it lost its independence (Trier might be my favorite German city, but it had carried out a very aggressive and disloyal policy to obtain new territories over the centuries.)
In 1748, the abbey buildings were rebuilt on the initiative of Prince-Elector Franz Georg von Schönborn, according to the project of Balthazar Neumann – one of the most important Baroque and Rococo architects in Southern Germany, whom I will mention on another occasion. The building carries the coat of arms of the Trier Prince-Elector.
During the Secularization at the time of the French Revolution, when the French troops captured the area in 1794, the Abbey of Prüm lived through the same occurrences that happened to every other monastery due to its nationalization – the monks were turned out, the estates sold by auction and the thousand-year-old archive, the valuable manuscripts, and books – destroyed or wasted. The French Revolution was maybe intended to be a great step in the human history, but I found this aspect of it – the destroying of works with unique art and cultural value – sad. Irrespective of what the motives were. Bear in mind that over the centuries the monasteries were the only centers for spreading not only religion but also education, farming, crafts, construction, etc. And that’s why the settlements developed in its surroundings, like around the fortresses of the ruler too, that is to say, that they were the core for the development of the towns and villages.
Called once „the Golden Church“ due to its wealthy furnishing and relics, the present building was erected in 1721 by order of another Prince-Elector/Archbishop-Elector – Franz Ludwig von Pfalz-Neuburg.
No trace has remained of the legendary treasure of the medieval church. And its appearance even differs from that of the monastery buildings because they were built at the time of the reign of different archbishop-electors.
On the gable between the two towers stand the figures of Saint Benedict of Nursia, his sister – Saint Scholastica, and Salvator Mundi/the Redeemer/Jesus. On the middle level is the figure of Mary, stepping on clouds.
In the niches on the two sides of the portal stand Pepin the Short and Charlemagne.
The Baroque high altar came from St. Nicholas Church in Bad Kreuznach and was crafted in 1727.
The side altars date, respectively, from the 18th and 19th century and came from Trier.
The stone pulpit is a work of art crafted by Hans Ruprecht Hofmann – the master of the Trier Cathedral’s pulpit and other remarkable masterpieces. It was created before 1590.
Decorations on the pulpit.
Decorations under the organ.
The Baroque choir stalls from 1731.
The Lamb of Prüm – a variation of the Lamb of God – is a coat of arms of the town, appropriated from those of the former Imperial Abbey.
In 1950, after the reconstruction from the damages during the World War II, Pope Pius XII granted the church the honorable title Basilica minor that is given only to significant temples. In the photograph of the Tomb of Lothar I above, you can see the Umbraculum – part of the papal regalia and insignia that immediately indicates the rank of the church, that is, in that case, the possession of the title in question.
The last time when I was in the basilica, I found myself quite alone in the whole building and while I was going around to make photographs, concentrating on this only action, all of a sudden I began to feel strange. I wasn’t just sitting on the bench and asking me how I am feeling and, on principle, I visit the God’s temples in order to find something strange, unknown…or even something well-known, but not with the intention to examine my feelings about them. However, here the history will begin to reveal itself to you, even before you alone get clear with it.
Part of a fountain, representing scenes of the town’s past, dating from 1992.
Restaurant „Zur Alten Abtei“ nearby contributes somehow to the specific ancient spirit of the town.
As said before, my blog is not a tourist brochure and maybe I will only allow myself here to recommend something – Eis Café Stella d’Oro that stands right opposite the Basilica, beyond the roundabout. In a very pleasant (almost unexplainable) atmosphere, Italian music and polite Italian staff, you could in a very easy way carry in spirit beyond the boundaries of that so different from a cultural point of view country. I know people that say they never omit a visit to the Café when they are in town. I can surely say the same about me too.
In Niederprüm – part of the town that was in 762 donated to the Abbey of Prüm by Pepin the Short, in 1190 was built another monastery – that of the Benedictine sisters. Today it houses a school too. The altar and the pulpit of the monastery church are from the second half of the 17th century.