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Muri Abbey


Muri Abbey (Kloster Muri) was a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. It flourished for over eight centuries at Muri, in the Canton of Aargau, near Basle in Switzerland. It is currently established as Muri-Gries in the South Tyrol, formerly a part of Austria, now part of Italy.


The monastery of Saint Martin of Tours at Muri in the Canton of Aargau, in the Diocese of Basel (but originally in that of Constance), was founded in 1027 by the Hapsburgs. Rha, a daughter of Frederick, Duke of Lorraine, and Werner, Bishop of Strasburg, each donated a portion of land to a monastery which they established there. A colony of monks was drawn from the nearby Einsiedeln Abbey, under the leadership of Prior Reginbold. On his death in 1055, Burchard was chosen as the monastery's first abbot. During his rule the abbey church was consecrated in 1064; it was for many years the burial place of the Habsburg dynasty.


Middle Ages

About this time the community was reinforced by the accession of a new colony of monks from the Abbey of St. Blaise in the Black Forest, one of whom, the Blessed Luitfrid, continued the government of both communities till his death 31 December 1096. During the Middle Ages the monastery, like so many hundreds of similar institutions of the Benedictine Order, pursued its quiet work of religion and civilization, and enjoyed the advantage of being governed by a remarkable succession of able men. Among the names of its more distinguished abbots are those of Ranzelin; Cuno, founder of its school, and a generous benefactor to the library of the monastery; Henry Scheuk who greatly increased its landed property; and Henry de Schoenwerd. The history of the last named presents a curious instance, almost without parallel, of a whole family embracing the religious life. The father with his sons entered the abbey of the monks, whilst his wife and daughters betook themselves to the adjoining convent of nuns, a community which later on was transferred to Hermetschwil, a mile or two distant from Muri. The good reputation enjoyed by the Abbey of Muri procured it many friends. In 1114 the Emperor Henry V took it under his special protection; and the Popes on their side were not less solicitous for its welfare. It would seem, however, that the use of pontificalia was not granted to the abbots of Muri until the time of Pope Julius II (1503-1513).


Like all other institutions the place had its vicissitudes of good and bad fortune. It was laid low by two disastrous conflagrations, in 1300 and in 1363; wars and risings checked for a time its prosperity. It recovered something of its old life under Abbot Conrad II, only to suffer again under his successor George Russinger in the war between Austria and Switzerland.




Russinger had taken part in the Council of Constance and had caught something of the reforming spirit of that assembly. He was the means of aggregating his community to the newly formed Congregation of Bursfelde, the first serious attempt to bring about among the continental monasteries of northern Europe a sane and much needed reform of the Black Monks of St. Benedict. It was owing to him too that the Helvetic Confederation took over, as it were, the old Hapsburg friendliness towards his abbey which, thus strengthened both in its inner life and observance, and safe under the protection of the new political powers, was enabled to withstand the shock of the religious wars and ecclesiastical upheavals which marked the advent of the Protestant Reformation.

When the first fury of that movement had abated Muri was fortunate in having as abbot a man of remarkable ability. Dom John Jodoc Singisen elected in 1596 proved himself a second founder of his monastery, who extended his care to the other Benedictine houses of Switzerland and so is rightly revered as one of the founders of the Swiss Congregation established in 1602. Largely through his efforts discipline was everywhere restored; monks of piety and letters went forth from Muri to re-people the half full cloisters; by his wisdom suitable constitutions were drawn up for such communities of nuns as had survived so many revolutions.

His successor Dom Dominic Tschudi was a man of like mould, and a scholar whose works were held in great repute. He was born at Baden in 1595 and died there in 1654. His Origo et genealogia comitum do Hapsburg is his best known work.

With the eighteenth century fresh honours came to Muri. The Emperor Leopold I raised Abbot Placid Zurlauben, and his successor, to princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and spent a vast sum of money in rebuilding and embellishing the monastery and church, the ancient mausoleum of the imperial family. The abbey continued to prosper in every way; good discipline was kept up and many distinguished ecclesiastics and learned men were educated within its walls.

With the spread of revolutionary ideas, however, a great and disastrous change was impending. Some of the Swiss cantons, Aargau among them, following the melancholy example of the revolutionary party which had wrecked religion in France, turned all their energies to the overthrow of the monasteries, the confiscation of their estates, and the elimination of Catholic influence from civil life. They were only too successful. Muri after a long series of attacks was obliged to succumb. Its abbot, an old man, had withdrawn to the monastery of Engelberg, more favourably situated, and there died on 5 November 1838, leaving to his successor, D. Adalbert Regli, the brunt of the final conflict.

The crisis came when on a winter's day in 1841 when an armed force drove the monks into exile and the cantonal authorities seized the abbey and its estates. Despite this violent expulsion the community never wholly disbanded; the abbot and some of the monks held together and soon found a welcome from the Catholic Canton of Unterwalden, which invited them to undertake the management of the cantonal college at Sarnen. The offer was accepted, and there the main body of the monks resided, the Lord Abbot himself taking his share in the school work, until the Austrian Emperor, Ferdinand I, offered them a residence at Gries near Bozen in Tyrol, in an old priory of Augustinian Canons of the Lateran which had been unoccupied since 1807. The Holy See concurred in the grant, and confirmed the transfer of the community of Muri to Gries by a Brief of Gregory XVI, dated 16 September 1844. In order to avoid complications the house of Gries was continued in its former status as a priory and incorporated with the Swiss Abbey of Muri, which is regarded as temporarily located in its Austrian dependency, the Abbot of Muri being at the same time Prior of Gries.

Text Source: Wikipedia






Habsburg Crypt

Coffin in which the hearts of Karl I. and Zita are buried