A Benedictine abbey, the forerunner to the present-day Ochsenhausen Monastery, was established in the late 11th century – as a Reichsabtei, or imperial abbey, it enjoyed special privileges. The majestic Baroque façade of today’s monastery building is testimony to the former Imperial abbey’s claims to spiritual and worldly power.
Music in architectural form
While the Baroque monastery church incorporates its late Gothic predecessor, the 18th century redesign has lent it a light, uplifting atmosphere. That owes much to the contributions of an extraordinary number of the luminaries of Baroque art and architecture, including Dominikus Zimmermann, Johann Georg Bergmüller, Franz Joseph Spiegler and Ägid Verhelst. It has been said that Baroque is music in architectural form: a description particularly apt for Ochsenhausen. Moreover, the church features an organ made by the famous Joseph Gabler.
The historic observatory from the 18th century is another highlight, with a unique azimuthal quadrant, an astronomical instrument used to calculate the positions of heavenly bodies. Still in its original condition, the observatory underscores Ochsenhausen’s significance as a centre of science and the arts in the Baroque era.
In the early 19th century, when much church property was officially annexed by German states, the monastery passed into the possession of Prince Metternich and was renamed Winneburg Palace. The government of Baden-Württemberg financed the restoration of the monastery complex between 1964 and 1992. A museum in the south wing of Fürstenbau (the prince’s building) chronicles the monastery’s impressive 700-year history.