Marmoutier Abbey, Alsace

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Imperial Abbey of Marmoutier
Reichskloster Morsmünster (de)
Abbaye impériale de Marmoutier (fr)
Reichskloschter Màschmínschter (gsw)
Coat of arms
Former abbey church in the main street of Marmoutier
Former abbey church in the main street of Marmoutier
StatusImperial Abbey
CapitalMarmoutier Abbey
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
by 659
• Refounded by Saint Pirmin
• Sacked during Peasants' War
• Sacked by Swedish troops
    during the Thirty Years' War

• Dissolved during the
    French Revolution

ca 1789
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French First Republic
Today part of France

Marmoutier Abbey, otherwise Maursmünster Abbey, was a Benedictine monastery in the commune of Marmoutier in Alsace.


The first foundation here, either in the late 6th century, or by Saint Leobard (d. here in about 680) in 659, was a community of Irish monks under the Rule of St. Columbanus. Then known as Aquileia, after the town in Italy, it was one of the Merovingian abbeys and a Reichsabtei.

In 728 century Saint Pirmin reformed the Columban monasteries in Alsace, including this one, introducing to them the Rule of St. Benedict. The first abbot under the new rule was Maurus, from whom the place took the name of Maursmünster in German, of which Marmoutier is the French version.

After two centuries of restriction and loss of income, the abbey, under Abbot Meinhard and his successors in the 12th century, enjoyed a long period of growth and prosperity, including the consolidation of the large territory. In the 12th century the abbey church of St. Stephen's was built, which still stands today as an imposing Romanesque church. The west end, with its three massive towers, is especially striking.

In the 13th and 14th centuries the abbey began to decline, becoming involved in long wrangles over its properties, mostly with the family of Geroldseck, lords of the town of Maursmünster, now Marmoutier, that had grown up round the abbey. The abbey was also badly damaged during the German Peasants' War in 1525, when a mob ransacked the building and destroyed the library, and again in the Thirty Years' War, when it suffered an invasion of Swedish soldiers in 1621. Under the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the war (1648), Alsace was transferred to France.

The latter part of the 17th century saw a revival of the abbey's fortunes, and in the 18th century, particularly under abbots Anselm Moser and Placid Schweighäuser, re-building was undertaken, including the quire of the church in the 1760s. However, the French Revolution saw the dissolution of the monastery and the demolition or sale of all its buildings.

The church survives as the parish church, and other monastic buildings now serve as the presbytery and the mairie. The church is located on the Route Romane d'Alsace.


  • Will, R. (intro by H. Haug), 1966. Das romanische Elsass, pp. 143-211. Zodiaque (German edition).
  • Goldinger, Walter, 1938. Die Verfassung des Klosters Maursmünster im Elsaß, in: Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins, 90, 1938.

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