Enjoy a quiet day at Weltenburg Abbey, Bavaria’s oldest monastery
By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 10, 2020
There are many reasons to go to Weltenburg Abbey in Bavaria.
One is the beer, brewed on the monastery grounds for centuries.
Another is the church with its magnificent baroque interior.
A third is the peace and quiet that goes hand in hand with monastery life.
And the fourth is if you’re considering becoming a Benedictine monk — there’s a chapter on the abbey’s website that will help you achieve that ambition, but the criteria are pretty strict and women are excluded.
Founded in 617 by wandering monks from Luxeuil monastery in what is now Burgundy in France, Weltenburg is the oldest monastery in Bavaria. It has survived everything from financial mismanagement to marauding Hungarians in the 10th century, illness brought into the enclosed religious community by Austrian soldiers who were billeted there in the 1700s during the Austrian war of succession, secularization in the 19th century, and a couple of world wars.
Today, it stands on the banks of the Danube River as a haven of peace, just an hour and a half’s drive away from the cacophony and bustle of Grafenwoehr Training Area.
Although many of the attractions of Weltenburg are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, including the brewery, restaurant, overnight accommodation and guided tours of the church, it’s still possible to sample them.
Weltenburger Barock Dunkel — the dark beer brewed at the monastery — can be ordered online at 7.50 euros for a six-pack, and is also available from beverage outlets.
The beer, which the monks say has won more awards than any other specialty brew — and monks don’t lie — is the happy union of centuries of tradition and modern technology, the abbey says on its website.
“It matures in its own rock cellar for up to six weeks, which gives it an inimitable taste,” the website says.
The monastery brewery also produces a couple of lagers, wheat beer and other brews.
Next, the church. The sacred building looks fairly nondescript from the outside, but inside is a jewel of the late baroque period. Dramatic paintings adorn the ceiling and walls, and on the main altar, there stands an ornate statue of St. George, to whom the church is dedicated.
While guided tours of the church are not taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible to visit without a guide.
The only other parts of the monastic complex that are open during the coronavirus pandemic are the souvenir shop and, of course, the great outdoors, including hiking trails that stretch for miles through the Bavarian landscape.
Between the monastery and the town of Kelheim, the Danube Gorge — the point where, some 200,000 years ago, the Danube cut through limestone to create the river we now know — twists and turns through the countryside.
The gorge, including the Weltenburg Gap, where the river meanders past walls of rock, some soaring more than 200 feet above the river, is best viewed from a riverboat in the summer — provided the pandemic is behind us.
Lastly, the monastery offers guidance on its website to those considering life in a religious order. (kloster-weltenburg.de/wie-wird-man-moench)
Novice monks have to be Roman Catholic, single, male, at least 18 years old and must have a high school diploma or have completed professional training. For the first six months, they will live with the other monks at Weltenburg “to get to know them and their customs better,” the monastery says on its website.
Stars and Stripes reporter Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.
Location: Asamstrasse 32, 93309 Kelheim. The monastery complex is about 1 ½ hours south of Grafenwoehr.
Food: The monastery tavern restaurant and brewery is closed due to the coronavirus, but when it reopens, it will once again serve traditional German dishes and sweets, and the monastery’s beer.
Time: Every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours may vary on holidays.
Cost: Free to walk around the abbey grounds and visit the church.
Information: Online: kloster-weltenburg.de, phone: +49 09441 2040