Shrine of Our Lady on the Frauenberg hill

From the abbey church, a short pil­grims’ path with Sta­tions of the Cross by Sr. Dorothea Brock­mann (1899–1983) leads to the Shrine of Our Lady on the Frauen­berg (Arzberg), an out­ward­ly plain two-storey build­ing. The inscrip­tion on the upper gallery of the church, which cites Aventi­nus, records that in 575, St. Rupert con­se­crat­ed a chapel built over a Roman tem­ple on this spot. This does not, how­ev­er, accord with Rupert’s bio­graph­i­cal dates, as he died short­ly after 716. The most recent series of exca­va­tions has estab­lished that the chapel was part of a for­ti­fied cas­tle erect­ed in the 10th cen­tu­ry by the bish­ops of Regens­burg in the wake of the Hun­gar­i­an inva­sions. The quar­ry-stone­ma­son­ry in the low­er church can be dat­ed to this time. In the 11th cen­tu­ry, three altar nich­es were added to the sim­ple rec­tan­gu­lar room of the low­er church, and in the 12th cen­tu­ry, an addi­tion­al storey was added. The con­se­cra­tion of a side altar to St. Achatius, record­ed in 1358, sug­gests a phase of refur­bish­ment around this time, and it is to this peri­od that the still extant frag­men­tary cycle of Goth­ic images may well be ascribed.

In 1713, Abbot Mau­rus Bächl com­mis­sioned the Kel­heim mas­ter mason Cas­par Öttl to demol­ish the crum­bling upper por­tions of the church and raise a new struc­ture in its place. The new church was giv­en a flat­tened semi­cir­cu­lar apse in the east and an open stair­case in the west, and a squat tow­er, which was sur­mount­ed by a sim­ple dome and lantern and incor­po­rat­ed a sac­risty and ora­to­ry, was added on the north­ern side. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the attend­ing crowds caused the low­er church vault to col­lapse dur­ing the con­se­cra­tion cer­e­mo­ny in Sep­tem­ber 1713. A new vault was duly sub­sti­tut­ed, which is sup­port­ed by two Tus­can columns.

Com­pared with the crypt-like low­er church, the upper church, with a nave which curves gen­tly in towards the apse, a flat ceil­ing vault, and rich Roco­co dec­o­ra­tion dat­ing from 1755, is attrac­tive­ly light and airy. Spe­cial fea­tures are the stuc­co mar­ble pul­pit, the fiery car­touch­es with bust images of the “Sal­va­tor Mun­di” and “Mater Sal­va­toris” (1580) to each side of the sanc­tu­ary arch, the dec­o­rat­ed gallery front, and an altar made by F. A. Neu. On this altar, which is framed by columns draped in folds of stuc­co cloth, stands a Late Goth­ic stat­ue of the Vir­gin (1520, lat­er retouched). It replaced the stat­ue which was alleged­ly donat­ed to the Frauen­berg church by St. Rupert, whose fig­ure (iden­ti­fied by the salt pot), along with that of St. Wolf­gang (with a church and an axe), flank the Mar­i­an image like two watch­men at a shrine. Above the high altar the ceil­ing vault fres­coes, com­plet­ed by C. D. Asam in 1714, com­pare Mary with the dawn (a motif tak­en from the Solomon­ic Song of Songs) while above the nave St. Rupert – accom­pa­nied by Duke Tas­si­lo III and his wife – place Bavaria and the abbey under her pro­tec­tion. The four cor­ner images depict scenes of the suc­cess­ful work of the “Apos­tle of the Bavar­i­ans”: Rupert bap­tiz­ing the first con­verts, destroy­ing the pagan tem­ple on the Arzberg and con­se­crat­ing the new chapel, and final­ly, the Chris­t­ian neo­phytes pray­ing to Our Lady. Between these images, stuc­co medal­lions show per­son­i­fi­ca­tions of faith, hope, and char­i­ty – the virtues that enabled Rupert to work so ardent­ly for the Church, which is itself per­son­i­fied in the fourth medallion.