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Ebrach Abbey


March 16 , 2008

Written March 24, 2008

Dear Friends and Families,


Our travels nowadays are not always as exotic as Paris. In fact, given the price of gasoline ($8 to $9 per gallon), I find it painful to consider the long drives we used to take for granted. Fortunately, we live in Franconia, a delightful part of Bavaria, itself arguably one of the most pleasant parts of Germany. So, on this day, we stayed local and went to Ebrach, where we'd heard there was one of the year's first street fests happening.

Can you find Pommersfelden AND Ebrach?


The drive over was pleasant, as is usual in our local valleys and hills. The weather, however, was also "usual": gray and wet. We have come to understand why Germans love being outdoors so much in the spring and summer. Even pleasant villages like Ebrach are less inviting with damp streets and gray skies.We discovered that even locals were not out in force.


On the way over, we had taken pictures of the Easter decorations that sprout up on every village well. Our intention was to make a collection of these "local color" scenes, but we discovered that they really need sun to make them properly colorful. Maybe next year.


If outside is not pleasant in Bavaria, there are always churches to take refuge in. We had driven past this huge "parish church" dozens of times, but had never gone in. First, we are starting to be a bit jaded on churches, after seeing about a half zillion in the last six or seven years. Second, this collection of buildings is actually a prison for young offenders and is generally closed to the public. Today's street festival was the occasion to open up the church and we took advantage.



Inside, we were completely surprised. The "parish church" of Ebrach is spectacular. Our guide book notes that Ebrach is "the oldest and most important Cistercian monastery in Franconia", founded in 1127 by French monks. The current building was started in 1200 and first finished 85 years later. Over the decades it has been rebuilt more than once, with the most recent rebuilding having just been completed.

The interior style was set in the 17th and 18th Centuries, very elaborate and detailed. All the carvings and most of the visible elements are wood, painted to look like marble or other valuable stone.

The faux marble on the pillars was particularly fascinating. Even up close, it was almost impossible to say whether this was stone or paint! The only conclusive evidence came when we found a few holes in the surface and could see the underlying wood.

Even the statues looked like genuine white marble on the front but, seen from the back, were clearly wooden.

Every carved scene told a story, important in the pre-literate days of this church's building. I suppose scenes like these could be used to illustrate dozens of sermons and religious lectures.



I wondered what stories this elaborate carved-wood confessional had heard.



Back outside, the restoration continues. These Ebrach buildings have been used as a prison since the mid-19th Century, after the secularization of this part of Germany. Perhaps the current use as a youth detention center is not too different from the original use as a monk's cloister.



So, our rainy day drive turned out different than we had expected, just like the best of local tours.


John and Marianne

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebrach_Abbey
Town (German): http://www.ebrach.de/
Cloister (German) :http://www.datenmatrix.de/projekte/hdbg/kloster/html-data/geschichte_ks0083.php
Youth prison(German) : http://www.justizvollzug-bayern.de/JV/Anstalten/JVA_Ebrach/


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