Monastic Island of Reichenau

Monastic Island of Reichenau

The island of Reichenau on Lake Constance preserves the traces of the Benedictine monastery, founded in 724, which exercised remarkable spiritual, intellectual and artistic influence. The churches of St Mary and Marcus, St Peter and St Paul, and St George, mainly built between the 9th and 11th centuries, provide a panorama of early medieval monastic architecture in central Europe. Their wall paintings bear witness to impressive artistic activity.

Île monastique de Reichenau

L'île de Reichenau, sur le lac de Constance, conserve les vestiges d'un monastère bénédictin, fondé en 724, qui a connu un remarquable rayonnement spirituel, intellectuel et artistique. Les églises Sainte-Marie et Marcus, Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, et Saint-Georges, édifiées en majeure partie entre le IXe et le XIe siècle, offrent un panorama de l'architecture monastique du début du Moyen Age en Europe centrale. Leurs peintures murales attestent d'une impressionnante activité artistique.

جزيرة رايخيناو الرهبانية

تحتفظ جزيرة رايخيناو الواقعة على بحيرة كونستانس ببقايا دير لرهبان البينيدكتيين تأسس في العام 724وعرف إشعاعاً روحياً وفنياً وفكرياً كبيراً جداً. وتقدّم كنائس القديسة مريم وماركس والقديس بطرس والقديس بولس والقديس جاورجيوس، التي شيّدت في غالبيتها بين القرنين التاسع والحادي عشر، بانوراما عن الهندسة المعمارية الرهبانية التي تعود إلى بدايات العصور الوسطى في أوروبا الوسطى. وتشهد جدرانياتها على النشاط الفني الكبير.

source: UNESCO/ERI


德国康斯坦茨湖(Lake Constance)中的赖谢瑙岛上完好地保存着贝纳迪克汀修道院(Benedictine monastery)的历史遗迹。该修道院建于公元724年,在宗教、认知和艺术方面都曾有过巨大影响。岛上的圣玛丽与马库斯教堂、圣彼得教堂、圣保罗教堂和圣乔治教堂都建于公元9世纪至11世纪之间,为中世纪早期的修道院式建筑提供了一幅可贵的全景图。教堂里的壁画则是各种影响深远的艺术活动的见证。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Монастырский остров Райхенау

На острове Райхенау на Боденском озере сохранились остатки бенедектинского монастыря, основанного в 724 г. и имевшего большое духовное, интеллектуальное и художественное влияние. Церкви Св. Марии и Марка, Св. Петра и Павла и Св. Георгия, в основном построенные в IX-XI вв., создают картину монастырской архитектуры раннего средневековья в Центральной Европе. Их настенные росписи являются образцами высокого художественного мастерства.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Isla monástica de Reichenau

Situada en el lago Constanza, la Isla Reichenau conserva vestigios de un monasterio benedictino, fundado en el año 724, que ejerció una gran influencia espiritual, intelectual y artística. Las tres iglesias de Santa María y San Marcos, San Pedro y San Pablo, y San Jorge, construidas entre los siglos IX y XI, ofrecen una visión de conjunto de la arquitectura monástica medieval de Europa Central. Sus numerosos murales atestiguan la existencia de una extraordinaria actividad artística.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Kloostereiland Reichenau

Het eiland Reichenau in het Bodenmeer bewaart de sporen van het Benedictijner klooster, dat in 724 werd gesticht en een opmerkelijke geestelijke, intellectuele en artistieke invloed uitoefende. De kerken van Maria en Marcus, Petrus en Paulus, en Gregorius, die voornamelijk tussen de 9e en 11e eeuw gebouwd zijn, zorgen voor een panorama van vroege middeleeuwse kloosterarchitectuur in Centraal-Europa. Hun muurschilderingen getuigen van een indrukwekkende artistieke activiteit. Het klooster van Reichenau was een artistiek centrum van grote betekenis voor de geschiedenis van de kunst in Europa in de 10e en 11e eeuw, zoals te zien is aan zijn muurschilderingen en ornamenten.


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Monastic Island of Reichenau
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Monastic Island of Reichenau on Lake Constance in south-west Germany represents a masterpiece of human creative genius as the ensemble of the three churches on the monastic island constitutes an exceptional example of an integrated group of medieval churches retaining elements of Carolingian, Ottonian, and Salian architecture that are relevant to the history of architecture. The Benedictine monastery was an important artistic centre of its time, superbly illustrated by its monumental wall paintings and its illuminations, and is of great significance to the art history in Europe of the 10th and 11th centuries.

The crossing, transepts, and chancel of the Carolingian cruciform basilica of Mittelzell, consecrated in 816, are exceptional both in their size and their excellent state of conservation, and constitute a major example of this particular type of crossing (ausgeschiedene Vierung) in Europe. Equally important are the surviving parts of the Carolingian monastery with a heating system modelled according to ancient Roman examples. The transepts and apse of the church of St Mary and Mark (1048), linked to the Carolingian parts by the nave, are equally important to the history of European architecture. The wall paintings in the apse of the church of St Peter and Paul at Niederzell are of exceptional quality, and constitute one of the earliest depictions of the Maiestas surviving north of the Alps. The wall paintings decorating the nave of the church of St George at Oberzell are artistically outstanding and constitute the only example of a complete and largely preserved set of pre-1000 scenic wall paintings north of the Alps. 

Criterion (iii): The remains of the Reichenau foundation bear outstanding witness to the religious and cultural role of a great Benedictine monastery in the early Middle Ages. 

Criterion (iv): The churches on the island of Reichenau retain remarkable elements of several stages of construction and thus offer outstanding examples of monastic architecture in Central Europe from the 9th to the 11th centuries. 

Criterion (vi): The Monastery of Reichenau was an important artistic centre of great significance to the history of art in Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries, as is superbly illustrated by its monumental wall paintings and its illuminations. 


All elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value are present in the dispersed buildings across the island, a legacy of the socio-economic structure of the Middle Ages, which has shaped the image of the entire foundation. 


The clusters of dwellings do not constitute real groups of buildings, a characteristic that persisted even after secularisation and the spate of building that followed World War II. The secular architecture is dominated by certain recent modifications and/or contemporary constructions. Any original structure that survives has been revealed or is accessible to architectural research. Nature conservation sites designated to separate sectors of recent construction from agricultural land (now given over largely to hothouses) help to give an idea of the original aspect of the island. The medieval-style reconstructions characteristic of the 19th century, detrimental to the Renaissance and Baroque additions, has largely been eliminated. This practice has therefore reduced the complex historic stratification of these buildings, particularly their interiors. While the architectural surfaces of the Reichenau churches have been entirely renovated and simplified, corresponding to the conventional image of medieval church architecture, the authenticity of the remarkable wall paintings in the churches is, however, a positive element. 

Protection and management requirements

The three churches, the monastic buildings, and ten other buildings on the island have been designated as cultural monuments of outstanding value under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the Land of Baden-Württemberg (Denkmalschutzgesetz Baden-Württemberg of 25 May 1971, revised on 25 April 2007). The same law protects seventy other properties as designated cultural monuments. Under the terms of the law, any construction project or modification to a cultural monument must be submitted to the Administration for the Protection of Historic Monuments of Baden-Württemberg (Freiburg im Breisgau Division), which is represented at local level by the District of Constance Administration. Cultural monuments of outstanding value enjoy further protection by being listed in the Inventory of Monuments (Denkmalbuch), which applies to cases of reconstruction or extension of such monuments. In these cases, approval must be sought for any project affecting the surroundings of a listed monument, if these surroundings are of particular importance to the monument.

Ownership of the religious buildings on the island of Reichenau is shared between a number of institutions. The Abbey of St Mary and Mark and the presbytery at Mittelzell belong to the parish of Our Lady, the town hall to the Town Council of Reichenau, the Church of St George to the Catholic Church of St George Fund, and the Church of St Peter and Paul to the Catholic Church Fund. Most of the other buildings on the island are private property. Protection of property owned by the Land of Baden-Württemberg is the responsibility of the Regierungspräsidium of Freiburg and the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart in conjunction with the Federal Property Administration.

A particular problem concerns the growing visitor numbers at the famous church of St George, resulting in a change of the interior climatic conditions. The rise in humidity with the accompanying pollution and formation of molds causes significant damage to the cultural heritage assets, especially to the Ottonian wall-paintings. Since the beginning of the 1980s, climatic conditions inside St George’s have been continuously recorded. The Landesamt für Denkmalpflege in cooperation with the Technical University of Darmstadt - now University of Stuttgart, Institute for Materials of Architecture – carries out a very precise monitoring of the Ottonian wall-paintings to analyse the indoor climate, micro-climatic impacts, air motion, influence of radiation and influence of visitation on the micro-climate. The collected data are to support a concept and new strategies to optimise the indoor climate, especially to establish a strategy to control the visitors’ access (visitor management). Visitor management for St George shall include replacing entrance for individual visitors by guided tours during critical seasons.

In consultation with the political community, the Organisation of Cultural Heritage Preservation worked out a development programme for a cautious building development to address any risks for development pressure, including the development of hothouses.

Several sectors of the island of Reichenau (some 230 ha out of a total area of 460 ha) have been designated as nature reserves under the Law for Nature Conservation of Baden-Württemberg (Naturschutzgesetz Baden-Württemberg) of 13 December 2005, revised on 17 December 2009. In addition, the Federal Law for Nature Conservation (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz) of 29 July 2009, revised on 28 July 2011, protects landscapes of historic cultural interest, which includes the surroundings of listed monuments. The provisions of the Building Law (Baugesetzbuch of 23 September 2004, revised on 22 July 2011) regarding nature conservation and the protection of landscapes and monuments apply to several sensitive sections of the island, while the building regulations of the Land of Baden-Württemberg (Landesbauordnung für Baden-Württemberg of 8 August 1995, revised on 17 December 2009) apply to the whole of the island. The various development plans for the Municipality of Reichenau, the District of Constance, and the Regional Plan lay down stringent restrictions on the development of new buildings, designed to encourage the preservation of the traditional organisation of the landscape.

There is no official buffer zone for the property, but its island location of Reichenau in the middle of the northern reaches of Lake Constance provides adequate equivalent protection. In addition, the lake shores in the vicinity (Gnadensee, Zellersee, and Untersee) are protected by both German and Swiss nature conservation and planning legislation.

The active and ongoing policy pursued by the administrations responsible for the protection of historic monuments, nature conservation, and planning permission under the terms of the legal provisions in place correspond to the requirements to be legitimately expected of a prescribed management plan. The policy ensures State control over the conservation of the cultural and natural assets on the island of Reichenau and continuous implementation of the necessary conservation and restoration measures. The State Administration for the Protection of Historic Monuments is staffed by highly qualified personnel, guaranteeing the professional level of design and execution of all the necessary conservation measures required for an appropriate management system.