The Abbey of Ottmarsheim
6 May 2022
On the old Roman road from Strasbourg (Argentoratum) to Augst (Augusta Raurica) lies the abbey of Ottmarsheim. Ottmarsheim was first mentioned in 881 as property of the abbey of Murbach.
Ottmarsheim is the birthplace of the Habsburg dynasty, as a commemorative stone outside the church reminds us. The abbey of Ottmarsheim was founded by Rudolf von Altenburg in 1030. His brother, Radbot von Altenburg founded the monastery of Muri (present-day canton of Lucerne) in 1028.
For centuries, Ottmarsheim Abbey was the scene of struggles between Habsburg and the bishop and later the city of Basel. The relationship between Habsburg and Basel normalised after the Swabenkrieg (1499) and the Peace of Baslel. Basel became a member of the Swiss Confederation in 1501.
The Reformation was the new threat in 1517. The region remained Catholic, however, and the monastery became a Stift or foundation for aristocratic ladies from Switzerland, Alsace and Austria. This destination also guaranteed great wealth.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) changed everything again. The nuns initially fled to protestant but neutral Basel when the French king confiscated this part of Alsace. However, the Catholic Louis XIV (1638-1715) guaranteed (financial and physical) security and integrity and a properous period began.
The French Revolution proved to be fatal 150 years later. The French regime nationalised the Stift in 1790 without compensation. The complex was demolished except for the abbey church. The Ottmarsheim town council had bought the church just in time. The church is still owned by the municipality today.
The church has largely retained its Romanesque architecture and Gothic frescoes from the 14th to 15th centuries. The interior resembles the cathedral in Aachen, built by Charlemagne (747-814) in 796-804.
(Source: H. J. Wörmer, J. Ottilie, Abteikirche Ottmarsheim, Ottmarsheim 2019).