I’d read about Ettal Monastery in a guidebook, but didn’t really put it on our itineary. However, as we were driving to the town of Oberammergau, we turned the bend, and there was the monastery in the middle of the road. We both looked at each other and said, “We have to see that!”.
Ettal Monastery was first constructed in 1331, by Ludwig the Bavarian, on his way back from his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. The newly crowned leader was bringing back a Madonna and child statue, when his horses supposedly stopped and genuflected on the monastery’s current site. The king took it as an omen and ordered the construction of a Benedictine abbey, where he installed the statue. In 1744, Ettal Monastery was destroyed in a fire, and a new Baroque abbey and minor basilica were built. Luckily, the statue survived, and you can still see it in the church today. The basilica is absolutely breathtaking, and free to enter. The double-shelled dome is the work of Swiss architect Enrico Zuccalli, who was a student of Bernini, and the ornate decoration was completed by the stuccoist Josef Schmultzer and the sculptor Johan Baptist Straub. Ettal Monastery became the most important pilgrimage site in all of the Alps.
Today, the monks at Ettal Monastery carry out their religious duties as well as operating a brewery, distillery, dairy, publishing operation, and hotel. They’re very industrious men! A visit to the gift shops (there are two across the street from each other) is an absolute must. There, you can purchase the fruits of the monks’ labors including their famous herbal liquor, beer, chocolate, tea, and fragrances. They also offer a wide variety of religious items and books. Any of these items would be incredibly thoughtful gifts or ways to remember your trip to Germany.
Don’t be like us; make Ettal Monastery a must on your itinerary. Ettal makes an easy stop on the way to Oberammergau, Mittenwald, Linderhof, or the Zugspitze. For more information on those locations, visit my guides:
- Mittenwald: Bavaria’s Prettiest Alpine Village
- Oberammergau: A Fairy Tale of a Bavarian Town
- Alpine Coaster Oberammergau: Thrills for the Entire Family
- Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria
- Wieskirche: A Little Piece of Heaven in Bavaria
- Munich Beyond the Tourist Trail
- Zugspitze How to Get to Germany’s Highest Peak and What to See There
- Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go