The Monastic Island : The Island of Reichenau

Lake Boden is located in southern Germany close to the Swiss border. A long tree-lined road stretching from the lakeshore leads to the Island of Reichenau. Reichenau means Blessed land and the entire island with its monasteries are inscribed as a World Heritage. The island served as an important base of the Order of Saint Benedict during medieval times.

This is St. Peter and Paul Church built in the 12th century. The wall painting surrounding the altar is a rare example of early Romanesque fresco painting. At the beginning of the medieval period the island was also a centre of Central European art. These are the remains of the former Benedictine Abbey and the Church. Located at the centre of the island, they are the largest buildings in town and have a strong medieval monastic presence. Founded in the 8th century, a total of 25 religious buildings were built on the island.

The Franks introduced Christianity to the people of this predominant pagan area. In those days, the surrounding area was covered with dense forest and largely remained undeveloped. In order to navigate the area freely, waterways and an island were vital. The monastery remained in operation for some 1000 years until it was finally closed down by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, the residents of the island take care of the fields which used to belong to the monastery. Vineyards were converted to vegetable fields, which made this island widely known as The Salad Island.

This is St. George Church constructed during the 9th century. The building is known for its Pre-Romanesque murals. Inside this early medieval church is one of the few places where the mural decoration has remained completely intact. This painting depicts a Bible scene about the miracles of Jesus. As Jesus says Arise, the dead man comes back to life. This is also the scene when Jesus calms a raging storm.

Lake Boden is a large lake with a circumference of 273 kilometres. The island fisherman catches fish from the lake and sells them in his shop. He is allowed to sail out only once a day and his catch is regulated. Lake fishes were an important source of protein for monks who lived self-sufficiently. These Felchen fishes are the local speciality and fed many monks. The fishermans shop is located alongside the dock. The first customer today is a nun who came from the other side of the lake. I’d like some Felchen fish please. Catholic monks and nuns are forbidden to eat meat on Fridays but are allowed to eat fish instead. The connection between Reichenau island and the outside world was made only via a small road. Life on the island still continues in the afterglow of its monastic heyday.

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