History of library and abbey

The Baroque library’s collection

The Benedictine Abbey of St Peter in the Black Forest was founded as a private monastery and burial ground for the House of Zähringen by Berthold II. in 1093. After an eventful history and several profoundly destructive disasters, including fires and the devastation of war, the abbey experienced its final heyday in the Baroque period. The church and abbey building were reconstructed during this era: The abbey church built by Peter Thumb under Abbot Ulrich Bürgi (1719–1739) was consecrated in 1727. Philipp Jakob Steyrer, Abbot of the abbey from 1749 to 1795, then influenced the further building works, particularly the library hall completed in 1753. Peter Thumb was once again the architect for this construction. Amazing artists, including Johann Georg Gigl, Benedikt Gambs, Frank Ludwig Herrmann, Johann Christian Wentzinger and Matthias Faller, contributed pieces to the library room. Abbot Steyrer also left his mark on the extensive and skilled expansion of the book collection. A catalogue was compiled for the fast-growing collection. By 1774, it listed around 13,000 titles in around 14,000 volumes.

As a result of secularisation, the abbey came under the ownership of the Grand Duchy of Baden and was shut down in 1806. Cataloguing the library’s collection then began so that the abbey’s moveables could be reallocated. The library, which had ultimately accrued around 20,000 volumes, was redistributed accordingly. Most of the manuscripts and incunabula went to the court library in Karlsruhe, although University Library Freiburg also received a considerable amount of the books from St Peter. In addition, petitions with lists of books for the planned establishment of a parish library in St Peter were successful, so some of the holdings were left behind at the site. However, quite a few books changed to private ownership or got lost. 

(German text: Dr Angela Karasch)

The Abbey of Saint Peter in the Black Forest. 1812. (Landesarchiv BW, GLAK 1474)
Sources and archives on the abbey’s history
Universität Freiburg

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