1300 years ago, the itinerant bishop Pirmin, who was later canonised, came to Lake Constance from the western Frankish Empire and probably founded Reichenau Monastery on the largest island in 724. The first centuries of the convent tell an impressive success story in which the Benedictine monastery was intensively involved in the rule of the Carolingians and the Roman-German kings and emperors. Reichenau Abbey possessed an empire-wide importance that can only be compared to the most important monasteries such as Saint-Denis or Fulda.
The Great State Exhibition 2024 will illustrate the historical and cultural achievements of the monks of Reichenau to a broad public directly on site. The entire island, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, will be part of the exhibition and provide a unique backdrop for the outstanding original objects. Important works of art and archival documents from the long history of the abbey will be presented at several locations such as the three medieval churches, in a central exhibition building as well as in the Minster Treasury. In the process, the public will learn intensively about the living conditions on the monastery island. The newly designed monastery gardens and the cultural landscape of Reichenau Island will also be included in a comprehensive overall experience by means of digital guided tours. Spiritual offerings contribute to making the aura of the „holy island“ perceptible again, whose inhabitants still cultivate their traditions in a special way today.
Splendid manuscripts from the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage
A highlight of the tour are the important manuscripts from the famous Reichenau scriptorium. In 2003, these magnifi cent books were included in UNESCO’s World Documentary Heritage. These unique works will temporarily return to Reichenau on the occasion of the anniversary and will be presented – under the strictest conditions – in the modern extension of the Reichenau Museum.
Scientific advice and preparatory meeting
A large interdisciplinary advisory board advises the exhibition team on all relevant technical aspects. A scientific conference on Reichenau Monastery Island in the Middle Ages: History–Art–Architecture will be held on site in March 2023 to exchange ideas with researchers from Germany and abroad. The results will be incorporated into the exhibition concept and published as a conference volume. In addition, a lavishly illustrated accompanying volume with introductory texts will be published for the Great State Exhibition.
Precious objects and loans
The valuable loans of the Great State Exhibition come from the important collections and holdings of the project partners. They are supplemented by numerous precious national and international loans in order to make the phenomenon of the monastery island as well as medieval life at the original location tangible again.
Nature and culture in harmony
The municipality of Reichenau is a place of high quality of life, situated in an outstanding natural area. In between, vegetables, herbs and wine thrive in the market gardens, fields and vineyards. The three medieval churches that once belonged to Reichenau Monastery form a unique ensemble of Carolingian and Ottonian architecture and hold the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Minster of St Mary and St Mark is the oldest church on the island. The Gothic choir and the aisle-shaped Norman roof truss are particularly worth seeing. A spectacular treasury awaits with numerous reliquaries and other cult objects from the 5th–18th centuries. The complex is completed by a monastery garden, which invites visitors to study medieval flora and to linger. The church of St. George in Oberzell is famous for its monumental murals from the 10th century. Eight large-scale murals, more than 4m wide and over 2 m high, in the central nave show the miracles of Jesus and are among the earliest testimonies of their kind north of the Alps. They are closely related to the book illumination created in Reichenau scriptorium, which also reached its peak around 1000. St. Peter and Paul was rebuilt on the foundations of a Carolingian predecessor between 1030 and 1130. In the choir, the church contains the mural of the enthroned Christ and the apostles and prophets, the last highlight of the Reichenau school of painting, whose testimonies are part of the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage. The monastic traditions come alive during the island‘s religious festivals and processions. A historical militia and a traditional costume group participate in three church holidays on the island. For this purpose, the reliquaries are also taken from the Minster treasury and carried along.
Welterbe des Mittelalters
April 19 – Oktober 20 2024