Ten Interesting Things About The Monks of Munich and Bavaria

Frauenkirche in Downtown Munich
Frauenkirche in Downtown Munich | Source

Munchen

The city of Munich, München in German, literally means home of the monks. This vibrant Bavarian city is located in southern Germany, just north of the Alps and straddles the Isar River. Currently, Munich is the third largest city in all of Germany, but like all big places, Munich was once very small, home to a small band of monks, who had just arrived from a large monastery 50 miles to the north. Munich is forever associated with beer, especially in early autumn when Oktoberfest begins. Following are ten interesting facts showing how the presence and activities of several orders of Catholic men have helped shape this modern European City, as well as the ever-popular past time of drinking a stein of fermented hops and barley.

First Settlement

1. The first settlement of monks in the area occurred in the middle of the 8th century, when the Benedictene Order, started a monastary on the shores of Tegernsee ( Great Lake) some 40 miles north of present day Munich.

The Old Monastery

The Monastery at Tegernsee is now an Abbey
The Monastery at Tegernsee is now an Abbey | Source

Salt

2. During this era salt was frequently used as currency and a form of money. As a result, many of the early monasteries were built around salt deposits and also provided housing for the monks. This was done for protection and so many of the structures resembled castles or forts.

An Important Move

3. Shortlyafter the Tegernsee monastery was begun a small band from this monastary started a small outpost on the banks on the Isar River, amidst many small and scattered groups of local residents. This settlement was known as Apud Munichen” (by the monks).

New Commercial Venture

4. One of the first commercial activities of the new arrivals from Tegernsee was to make and sell beer

A Beer Monopoly

5. The first brewery of record began at Fohring, near Munich in the year 800 A.D. The operation was run by monks and all proceeds went to the benefit of the church. The monks of Bavaria had a virtual monopoly on beer production and sales, which lasted for another four or five centuries. During this period, breweries issued daily rations of beer to all the monks and workers employed in the brewing process.

Popular Past Time

This Manet painting pictures a very popular past time.
This Manet painting pictures a very popular past time. | Source

Kids Drink Free

6. During this time the church allowed the consumption of free beer to the faithful church-goers. On Sundays parishioners were allowed one liter except for Palm Sunday and Easter, when they received two. Upon their first communion children were given a free liter.

Taxes

7. Beginning in the early 12th century monks of the Cistercian order were allowed to act as tax collectors for the church in Munich and other parts of Bavaria and Germany.

New Arrivals

8. During the 1600s newly arrived Paulener monks from Italy derived a heavy, nutritious beer that allowed them to endure their Lent fasts, when they were forbidden to eat solid foods. This beer is classified as a doffelbock or double bock, as it is heavy laden with malts during the brewing season. It is also known as "holy oil of St. Francis", as members of this order were great followers of the popular saint from Asissi.

Starkbierzeit

9. Every year beginning two weeks after Mardi Gras, Munich hosts another beer festival called Starkbierzeit, or strong beer season. The strong beer was originally developed by 17th century monks, described above. Today, this strong beer weighs in at 7.5 to 9 per cent alcohol, which is decidedly more potent than the brew served at Oktoberfest.

A Changeover

10. In 1803 the Monastery at Tegersee was converted over to an Abbey and has remained that way until the 21st century.

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