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Title: Corvey  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ansgar, Quedlinburg, Lichtenfels, Hesse, Höxter, Meppen, Ottonian art, Brakel, Germany, Marienmünster, Johann Georg von Eckhart, Adalgar
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The Imperial Abbey of Corvey (German: Stift Corvey or German: Fürstabtei Corvey) was a Benedictine monastery on the River Weser, 2 km northeast of Höxter, now in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Early Years

It was first founded in 815 among the recently converted Saxons on a site called Hethis[1] by Charlemagne's cousins Wala and Adelard, with monks from Corbie Abbey in Picardy, under the joint patronage of the Emperor Louis the Pious and the abbot of the older foundation, whence the new one derived its name (Latin: Corbeia nova, the "new Corbie").

In 822,[2] the monastery was reconstructed on the present site near the banks of the river Weser. It became "one of the most privileged Carolingian monastic sanctuaries in the ninth-century Duchy of Saxony".[3] A mint was authorized as early as 833[4] though surviving coins date from the early eleventh century. The site of the abbey, where the east-west route called the Hellweg crossed the Weser, accounted for some strategic importance and assured its economic and cultural importance. The abbey's historian H. H. Kaminsky estimates that the royal entourage visited Corvey at least 110 times before 1073, occasions for the issuance of charters.

Imperial Rights Granted

A diploma granted by Otto I in 940, the first of its kind, established the abbot, Folcmar, on a new kind of setting. The abbot was granted bannus—powers of enforcement—over the population of peasants that were to seek refuge in the fortress built in the monastery's lands; in return they were expected to maintain its structure, under the abbot's supervision. The workforce under monastic protection was drawn from three pagi, under the jurisdiction of four counts, who, however, were to have no rights to demand castlework from them.[5] "Here then a profitable sanction, which cut across the ordinary competence of counts, was entrusted to the monastery", Karl Leyser notes.

Under the guidance of abbots drawn from the Imperial family, Corvey was granted the first rights of minting coins east of the Rhine (with the exception of Frisia). It soon became famous for its school, which produced many celebrated scholars, among them the tenth-century Saxon historian Widukind of Corvey. In its library were preserved the first five books of the Annales of Tacitus. From its cloisters went forth a stream of missionaries who evangelised Northern Europe, chief amongst them being Saint Ansgar, the "Apostle of Scandinavia". The Annales Corbenjenses, which issued from the same scriptorium, is a major source of medieval history—spuriously supplemented by the forged Chronicon Corbejense which appeared in the nineteenth century. Unsuspected, in the library lurked books I to V of Tacitus' Annales.[6] Ninth-century wall-paintings remain on the west end inner wall.

The Carolingian west end of the abbey, with its landmark matching towers (built 873–885) survives, the earliest standing medieval structure in Westphalia, but the abbey church is now Baroque.

Strife and Decline

In the Investiture Controversy, the abbot of Corvey took a stand with the Saxon nobles against Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor. Its abbot Markward (served 1081–1107), "without doubt one of the most important abbots of the thousand-year history of the abbey" (Kaminsky), and his successor Erkenbert (1107–28) saw the abbey through the critical period.

The Reformation threatened Corvey as it did the other ecclesiastical territories in north-west Germany but the abbey did survive somewhat precariously as a Catholic state at the border of Protestant Brunswick and Hesse-Kassel. From the mid-sixteenth century onward, the Prince-Abbot and his monks ran the administration in cooperation with a partly Protestant assembly consisting of three noble families, one town (Höxter) and a prelate. The Prince-Abbot, who had seat and voice in the Reichstag as a member of the College of Ruling Princes, took only a modest part in Imperial affairs, while the home affairs of the abbey smacked of little more than gentry-like estate management.[7]

The school of Corvey declined after the fifteenth century, but the abbey itself, most of its feudal lands separated from it, continued until 1803, when it was secularized under Napoleonic administration and became briefly part of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda, then went to Jérôme Bonaparte's Kingdom of Westphalia (1807), then to Prussia (1815); the Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg rebuilt the abbey buildings as a Schloss (palace) which has descended to the Victor I, Duke of Ratibor.

The Modern Era

The famous abbey library has long since been dispersed, but the "princely library" (Fürstliche Bibliothek), an aristocratic family library, containing about 67,000 volumes, mainly in German, French, and English, with a tailing off circa 1834, survives in the Schloss. One striking feature of the collection is the large number of English Romantic novels, some in unique copies, for in Britain fiction was more often borrowed than bought, and was read extensively in the lending libraries.[8]


  • Also OCLC 491824148. Proceedings of a conference on the theme "Die karolingischen Stuckfiguren im Westwerk von Corvey : zur Frage ihrer Deutung [Carolingian stucco figures in the westwork of Corvey: on questions about their meaning]", held Nov. 1-3, 1996 at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte [Institute of art history], University of Münster.


External links

  • Corvey, Nordrhein-Westfalen: introduction
  • "Fürstabtei Corvey" (in German)
  • Peter Garside and Anthony Mandal, "Producing fiction in Britain, 1800 – 1829": outlining the Corbie project
  • Template:Sister-inline

Coordinates: 51°46′40″N 9°24′36″E / 51.77778°N 9.41000°E / 51.77778; 9.41000de:Stift Corvey

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