Reichenau Island & Salem

Sacred Places at Lake Constance

Die Insel Reichenau im Bodensee war einst der Nabel der europäischen Welt.
The Spiritual Centre of the World

BW Story - CMR

The Spiritual Centre of the World

Great works of art, winegrowing and living spirituality all contribute to the cultural wealth of Lake Constance. The region's many monasteries and convents have long been an important feature. Visit Reichenau Island and Salem.

Reichenau Island

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Reichenau Island

This island really has it all: great spiritual and cultural depth, as well as being easy-going to an almost Mediterranean extent. The monastic island of Reichenau has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. And tour guide Uwe Anker is convinced that it's not just the architecture of the island's three famous churches that's important here, but also the everyday culture that's still lived even now and is part of the monastic tradition. As a Catholic, he grew up on Reichenau, and as a member of the parish council, a choir member and head of education, he is personally committed to keeping the faith alive. "We celebrate three religious holidays on the island," he says, adding, "In the Middle Ages, Reichenau was the spiritual center of the Holy Roman Empire for a while.

Die Klöster am Bodensee waren Teil der großen Religionsgeschichte Europas.

The monasteries at Lake Constance were part of the great religious history of Europe.

| © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
Die Insel Reichenau im Bodensee war einst der Nabel der europäischen Welt.
Reichenau Island  was once the spiritual center of the Holy Roman Empire. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz

It's so hard to believe because this vegetable-growing island seems so small and idyllic. You have to go back in time to understand. A certain Pirmin founded the first Benedictine monastery on German soil on Reichenau Island in 724. His successors became powerful churchmen, at times holding the offices of Imperial Archchancellor and Archbishop of Mainz in personal union.

Luftaufnahme der Klosteranlage Reichenau. Die Anlage ist von Wohnhäusern umgeben und im Hintergrund ist der Bodensee.
The Reichenau monastery complex had a great influence in the Holy Roman Empire in the early Middle Ages. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
Der Klostergarten mit unterschiedlichen Pflanzbeeten in denen verschiedene Kräuter angebaut werden. Im Hintergrund stehen große Bäume und das Kloster Reichenau.

The monastery garden on Reichenau Island is always worth a visit.

| © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz

The monks built three magnificent churches on Reichenau Island - St. Mary and St. Mark in Mittelzell, St. Peter and St. Paul in Niederzell, and St. George in Oberzell. And each of them harbors unique cultural treasures, such as the relic of the Holy Blood in the Minster of St. Mary and St. Mark, the 11th-century apse painting in St. Peter and St. Paul, or the even older, enormous cycle of paintings with scenes from the life of Jesus in St. George. Uwe Anker brings things to life when he talks. It's a pleasure to discover the island's monastic past with him, especially now that it also has a modest monastic future. A few years ago, three Benedictine monks and two nuns arrived on Reichenau Island. They live in the small St. Benedict Cella and revive old traditions with their services and the liturgy of the Divine Office.

Kirche St. Peter und Paul auf der Insel Reichenau
The St. Peter and St. Paul minster on Reichenau Island. | © Achim Mende
St. Peter und Paul Kirche auf der Insel Reichenau am Bodensee | © TMBW, Raatz
The St. Peter and St. Paul minster on Reichenau Island from inside. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
Die Kirche St. Georg zählt zum kulturelle Erbe auf der Insel Reichenau.
The St. George minster on Reichenau Island. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
St. Maria und Markus Kirche auf der Insel Reichenau im Bodensee
The St. Mary and St. Mark minster on Reichenau Island. | © TMBW, Foto: Oiver Raatz
Salem Monastery and Castle

Famous Cistercian Abbey

Salem Monastery and Castle

We travel on to the north shore of Lake Constance to visit what was once the region's most powerful abbey, Salem Monastery and Castle, built from 1134. The Margraves of Baden took over the property in 1802, and since 2009, Salem has been owned by the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Ein Besuch des Salemer Münsters sollte auf der Bucketlist bei einem Aufenthalt am Bodensee nicht fehlen.

A visit to the Salem Minster should not be missing from your bucket list during a stay at Lake Constance.

| © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
Das Salemer Münster mit seinem Kirchenschiff ist auch heute noch beeindruckend.
Salem Minster with its nave is still impressive today. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz

Walking through the great hall, admiring the baroque tiled stove in the former dining hall, or gazing at Bernhard Strigel's famous nocturnal painting for the altar of Our Lady, it is hard to imagine Salem as a strict Cistercian abbey steeped in work and prayer. "This is because on a cold March night in 1697, this place experienced a gigantic catastrophe," explains Birgit Rückert, the castle's administrator. An oven overheated and exploded, and everything but the farm buildings and the church quickly burned to the ground. Reconstruction began immediately, Rückert continues, but was no longer taken so seriously because of monastic modesty and because the abbots of Salem had become important men. The abbey owned huge estates, grew fruit and grapes for wine, managed forests, and created fish ponds. All are still features of the surrounding countryside.

Der Park von Schloss Salem ist heute ein beliebtes Ausflugsziel am Bodensee.

Today, the park of Salem Castle is a popular destination at Lake Constance.

| © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz
Prunk und Stuck im Schloss Salem zeugen von der Pracht vergangener Zeiten.
The pomp and stucco of Salem Castle bear witness to the splendor of days gone by. | © TMBW, Foto: Oliver Raatz

Monks may no longer live here, but at least one tradition remains strong. Monasteries have always seen themselves as committed to education, and part of the baroque ensemble has housed Salem's boarding school since 1920. Young people from all over the world study there.

Reichenau Island


Reichenau Island

Insel Reichenau Luftbild 202A0799 Foto Achim Mende

The Monastic Island of Reichenau

Only 3 miles/5 km long, this tiny island of Lake Constance is notable for its Benedictine Monastery.
Insel Reichenau Museum Reichenau F hrung Foto Ulrike Klumpp 3

History museum Reichenau

Museum Reichenau

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