The Kartause Ittingen, Yesterday and Today
8 September 2021
Around the middle of the 12th century, the Truchsessen of Ittingen turned their castle into an Augustinian monastery.
In 1461 the impoverished Augustinian canons sold their monastery to the Carthusian order. The building was in a state of disrepair and underwent substantial renovation. Furthermore, they added a large cloister with hermit monks’ cells.
In the summer of 1524, there was an uprising in the Thurgau-Zurich border region caused by the Catholic bailiffs’ decision to arrest a reformed pastor in Stein am Rhein. The angry crowd ransacked the charterhouse, looted the wine cellar and set fire to the monastery’s building. It took the monastery several decades to recover from this devastation.
The Kartause Ittingen urbarium dates back to 1743. Josephus Wech (1702–1761) was an outstanding custodian. He systematically collected all the information he could gather about the monastery’s history and its possessions, rights and duties, writing it down into 39 books. These books, the so-called urbariums, describe the monastery’s development between 1525 and 1760.
Josephus Wech is also responsible for the remarkable map detailing the monastery’s possessions. Created in 1745 and measuring almost 3×5 metres, it complements the books, recording all the monastery’s property legally bindingly.
The new urbarium closed the sensitive gap torn in the monastery’s archive by the ransacking of Ittingen. This new administrative tool helped him introduce a management style that was very modern at the time. His records are the founding blocks for the monastery’s professional management, contributing to its prosperity in the 18th century.
In the 19th century, the social conditions for monasteries changed dramatically. The French Revolution had overthrown the feudal system, and the Napoleonic wars introduced a new political organisation in Switzerland.
The Canton of Thurgau was founded in 1803 (by the Act of Mediation and the Confederation 1803-1813). The Charterhouse was put under state control and finally dissolved in 1848.
Kartause Ittingen was bought by Victor Feh in 1867. He lived in the former monastery until his death and ran a large agricultural business.
Under Viktor Fehr (1848-1936), the monastery was converted into a feudal manor house. The landlord’s family lived in the former prior’s rooms; the refectory was turned into a representative dining hall and the chapter house into an assembly room.
The Protestant family used the monk’s choir for christenings, weddings, and abdications and served as their private church.
The furnishings of the former monastery became the backdrop for the lifestyle of an affluent bourgeois family. In 1880 the new owner set a striking architectural note by adding a loggia and terrace to the south wing. Set in front of the entrance to the landlord’s residence, this construction used several elements to refer to the building’s function as a manor house.
The Kartause Ittingen Foundation was created in 1977; the Ittingen Museum was inaugurated in 1983. The Kunstmuseum Thurgau is located in the former church. The complex houses hotel accommodation and seminar facilities and organises (cultural) events.
(Source and further information: www.kartause.ch).