Building history

Imme­di­ate­ly after Mau­rus Bächl had been elect­ed abbot (1713), he had the chapel on the Frauen­berg restored to serve as a sub­sti­tute for the community’s ser­vices dur­ing the rebuild­ing of the abbey church. The plans for the new monastery com­plex had been drawn up by Philipp Blank (d. 1720), a Fran­cis­can lay-broth­er from Ingol­stadt, and the foun­da­tion stone was laid on April 16, 1714. The ruinous old build­ings were grad­u­al­ly demol­ished, leav­ing only the orig­i­nal church tow­er, and by 1716 the new abbey quad­ran­gle was struc­tural­ly com­plete. Work could then begin on the church, whose foun­da­tion stone was laid by the Prince-Bish­op of Freis­ing, Johann Franz Eck­her von Kapf­ing und Liecht­e­neck, on June 29, 1716. Two years lat­er, the shell of the new church was com­plet­ed, and the same prelate was called upon to con­se­crate it. A new brew­ery was built in 1718–19, and a corn loft with a cov­ered gate­way lead­ing to the abbey court­yard in 1721.

Prob­a­bly even before Philipp Blank died in 1720, a young self-taught archi­tect, painter, and entre­pre­neur from Munich, Cos­mas Dami­an Asam (1686–1739), was com­mis­sioned to per­fect the Franciscan’s unfin­ished (and rather unspec­tac­u­lar) work. Abbot Bächl thought high­ly of Asam, whom he had met in the course of an ear­li­er build­ing project at Ens­dorf, and whom he prob­a­bly called to Wel­tenburg in 1714 to work on the fres­coes in the Frauen­berg church. The architect’s first act was to mould the sim­ple rec­tan­gle of the nave into a spa­cious domed ellipse, at whose east­ern end he then added an apse. The lime­stone façade of the church was also designed by him. He fin­ished the dome’s fres­coes in 1721, and in the same year his younger broth­er, the sculp­tor and stuc­co artist Egid Quirin Asam (1692–1750), cre­at­ed the stuc­co dec­o­ra­tion of the dome’s inte­ri­or and set up a pro­vi­sion­al main altar. The three-storey monas­tic build­ings fac­ing the Danube were erect­ed in 1724–25 by Franz II Beer von Ble­icht­en (1660–1726), a mas­ter builder and con­trac­tor from the Vorarl­berg region in west­ern Aus­tria. A short­age of funds now began to hin­der progress. Nev­er­the­less, the organ – built like those at the abbeys of Rohr and Met­ten by Johann Kon­rad Bran­den­stein (1695– 1757) from Stad­tamhof (now part of Regens­burg) – was installed in 1729, and the pul­pit of Wel­tenburg mar­ble, made by the local stone­ma­son Johann Jakob Kürschner
(d. 1755), was com­plet­ed in 1732. The four side altars and two wall fres­coes in the body of the church – also by the Asam broth­ers – were fin­ished in 1736, and in the same year the bench­es and con­fes­sion­als were installed. Cos­mas Damian’s son, Franz Eras­mus Asam (1720–1795), put the fin­ish­ing touch­es to his father’s work after the latter’s death, com­plet­ing the fres­coes on the vestibule ceil­ing in 1745. The abbey com­plex was also pro­vid­ed with a degree of defen­si­bil­i­ty by the tur­ret­ed gar­den wall built along the east­ern bound­ary in 1733.

Wel­tenburg Abbey as we see it today is basi­cal­ly the orig­i­nal Baroque ensem­ble, although both archi­tec­ture and fur­nish­ings have been affect­ed, at times adverse­ly, by the repairs, refur­bish­ments and func­tion­al alter­ations made nec­es­sary most­ly by damp and flood dam­age. These mea­sures were not always well exe­cut­ed, but the recent gen­er­al restora­tion of the abbey church pre­sent­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rem­e­dy some ear­li­er errors and to under­take var­i­ous con­ser­va­tion mea­sures – among them ven­ti­la­tion and tem­per­a­ture con­di­tion­ing of the church. In 2008, to under­line the con­tin­u­ing monas­tic pres­ence, the sanc­tu­ary was fur­nished with a set of ash-wood choir stalls and a cast bronze ambo made by the sculp­tor Alfred Böschl (1949 –2020) from Adl­hausen, near Langquaid.