Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Abbey of Engelberg

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Engelberg, Abbey of, a Benedictine monastery in Switzerland, formerly in the Diocese of Constance, but now in that of Chur. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels and occupies a commanding position at the head of the Nidwalden valley in the Canton Unterwalden. It was founded in 1082 by Blessed Conrad, Count of Seldenbüren, the first abbot being Blessed Adelhelm, a monk of the Abbey of St. Blasien in the Black Forest, under whom the founder himself received the habit and ended his days there as a monk. Numerous and extensive rights and privileges were granted to the new monastery by various popes and emperors, amongst the earliest being Pope Callistus II, in 1124, and the Emperor Henry IV. The abbey was placed under the immediate jurisdiction of the Holy See, which condition continued until the formation of the Swiss Congregation in 1602, when Engelberg united with the other monasteries of Switzerland and became subject to a president and general chapter. In spiritual matters the abbots of Engelberg exercised quasi-episcopal jurisdiction over all their vassals and dependents, including the town which sprang up around the walls of the abbey, and also enjoyed the right of collation to all the parishes of the Canton. In temporal matters they had supreme and absolute authority over a large territory, embracing one hundred and fifteen towns and villages, which were incorporated under the abbatial rule by a Bull of Pope Gregory IX in 1236. These and other rights they enjoyed until the French Revolution, in 1798, when most of them were taken away. The prominent position in Switzerland which the abbey occupied for so many centuries was seriously threatened by the religious and political disturbances of the Reformation period, especially by the rapid spread of the Zwinglian heresy, and for a time its privileges suffered some curtailment. The troubles and vicissitudes, however, through which it passed, were happily brought to an end by the wise rule of Abbot Benedict Sigrist, in the seventeenth century, who is justly called the restorer of his monastery. Alienated possessions and rights were recovered by him and the good work he began was continued by his successors, under whom monastic discipline and learning have flourished with renewed vigour. The library, which is said to have contained over twenty thousand volumes and two hundred choice MSS., was unfortunately pillaged by the French in 1798. The abbey buildings were almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1729 but were rebuilt in a substantial, if not very beautiful style and so remain to the present day. The monastery is now (1909) in a very flourishing state, having a community of about fifty and a school of over a hundred boys. The monks have charge of the par ish of two thousand souls attached to the abbey and also minister to the needs of seven convents of nuns in the vicinity. In 1873 a colony from Engelberg founded the Abbey of New Engelberg, at Conception, Missouri, U.S.A. Abbot Leodegar Scherer, elected in 1901, was the fifty-third abbot of the monastery.

G. CYPRIAN ALSTON