Mont Sainte-Odile (German: Odilienberg or Ottilienberg; called Allitona in the 8th century) is a 760 m peak of the Vosges Mountains in Alsace in France, immediately west of Barr. The mountain is named for Saint Odile. It has a monastery/convent at its top called the Hohenburg Abbey, and is notable also for its stone fortifications called "the Pagan Wall." In 1992, it was the site of an Airbus crash.
The mountain and its surroundings contain evidence of Celtic settlements. The mountain enters recorded history during the Roman times; a fortress was supposedly destroyed by the Vandals in 407. In the second half of the ninth century, when Vikings attacked the Low Countries, which had been recently converted to Christianity and were governed from Utrecht, the Utrecht bishops went into exile and stayed for a while in Mont Sainte-Odile.
The convent is said to have been founded by Adalrich, Duke of Alsace, in honor of his daughter, Saint Odile, about the end of the 7th century, and it is certain that it existed at the time of Charlemagne. Destroyed during the Middle Ages, it was rebuilt by Premonstratensians at the beginning of the 17th century. It was acquired later by the bishop of Strasbourg, who restored the building and the adjoining church in 1853.
A famous manuscript, the Hortus Deliciarum, was compiled in the convent.
The Pagan Wall
The Pagan Wall (German: Heidenmauer) is a huge construction about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long which encircles Mont Sainte Odile. It is composed of about 300,000 blocks, between 1.6 metres (5 ft 3 in) and 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) wide and up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) high. The origins and date of the wall are still disputed, with some claiming that it is a 3,000 year old druid construction and more recent research suggesting that it dates from the 7th century AD, about the time that the convent was built. The designation "Pagan" is attributed to Pope Leo IX.
Between August 2000 and May 2002 more than 1,000 ancient books went missing from the monastery library. Stanislas Gosse, a book collector, stole the books after finding an old map showing a secret entrance into the library. The route was not easy, however, involving climbing up exterior walls, a steep staircase and a secret chamber. A mechanism then opened the back of one of five cupboards. The disappearance of so many books over such a length of time confused the librarian, the monks and the police, with Gosse finally being caught by closed-circuit television cameras.
In art and literature
A 2000 poem, "Return to St. Odilienberg, Easter 2000," by the American poet Claire Nicholas White, is inspired by the abbey.
- Lee, Katharine (1883). In the Alsatian Mountains: A Narrative of a Tour in the Vosges. London: Richard Bentley. pp. 149–50.
- "Utrecht," in Jeep, John M. (2001). Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 775. ISBN 978-0-8240-7644-3.
- Lee, Katharine (1883). In the Alsatian Mountains: A Narrative of a Tour in the Vosges. London: Richard Bentley. pp. 154–56.
- Ardouin-Dumazet, Victor Eugène (1907). Voyage en France. Berger-Levrault, 1907. pp. 191–92.
- The Rhine, including the Black Forest & the Vosges: handbook for travellers. Karl Baedeker. 1911. p. 511.
- "Mystery at the monastery ends as CCTV reveals chamber of secrets' daring thief" at The Guardian. Accessed 30 January 2006.
- Creeley, Robert; David Lehmann (2002). The Best American Poetry 2002. Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 176–223. ISBN 978-0-7432-0385-2.
- Forrer, Robert (1899). Der Odilienberg: Seine vorgeschichtlichen Denkmäler und mittelalterlichen Baureste, seine Geschichte und seine Legenden. K.J. Trübner.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Odilienberg". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.