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The Rupertsberg near Bingen

On the left bank of the Nahe river near Bingen, lies the Rupertsberg. According to legend, it is named after St. Rupertus who built a chapel there in the second half of the 7th century. His rich parents owned the area almost as far as the city of Mainz. They were the pagan nobleman Robolaus and the Christian daughter of a prince named Bertha. After the early death of her husband who was involved in continuous warlike disputes, Bertha moved to the left shore of the Nahe with her three-year-old son. There, on the current Rupertsberg, she erected her house not far from the place where the Rhine and the Nahe flow into each other. Far away from she tried to protect her son from military and worldly life. In the years that followed Bertha did many charitable works and soon gained the reputation of a popular saint. When he was nearly 15 years old Rupertus went on a pilgrimage to Rome, and after his return built churches and accommodation for the poor on his land. Around 732 however he died from a severe fever, and Bertha outlived her son by 25 years. Both were buried in a small church on the Rubertsberg. Later the grateful inhabitants erected a chapel in their honour. The Rupertsburg gained world fame through Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) who was one of the most important women of the Middle Ages and the founder of the Rupertsberg Monastery '. She was a woman who knew how to succeed in her goals against the powerful forces of her time and was astoundingly "modern" in many of her ideas. Today, the rather modest Rupertsburg is difficult to find in the extensively built up town of Bingerbrück. Even from the outlook tower of Klopp castle, it is hard to identify. Of course this was totally different in the summer of 1147 when Hildegard, along with 18 other women from the nearby Disibodenberg monastery at Bad Sobernheim arrived here to found their own monastery above the mouth of the Nahe. This did not happen without resistance from the official church. It was Hildegard's charismatic personality along with her far sighted persistence which finally brought success for her plans. On May 22nd 1158, the archbishop Arnold of Mainz granted it official recognition as a Benedictine monastery. A letter of protection from Emperor Friederich Barbarossa in the year 1163, ensured the monastery politically.

Around the year 1152, the monastery entered a period of prosperity. It was not long before the monastery took over property of Disibodenberg monastery and, through a series of substantial donations, could claim extensive properties nearby and further away. The Eibingen monastery on the opposite side of the Rhine was added to this in 1165. This former Augustinian monastery had been donated less than 20 years before previously by the noblewoman Marka of Rüdesheim. Due to war-associated chaos under Emperor Barbarossa however, it was involved in hostile disputes and ultimately destroyed. After acquisition of the remains Hildegard immediately started renovating the monastery in Eibingen, and in the same year 30 Benedictine nuns were accommodated there. Hildegard herself drove to her "Rupertsbergian branch" twice a week. The most important source of income for the monastery was wine growing, in which all monastery women participated. With increasing prosperity, a proper little monastery city developed on the Rupertsberg. Its centre was the cathedral with its two towers. The entire complex was surrounded by walls protecting the inhabitants from intruders. The illustration above from 1620, gives a good impression of the size of the monastery grounds. Just a little later, in the confusion of the Thirty Years War, the nuns were expelled and the monastery was occupied by Swedish soldiers. It was finally plundered and burned by the Swedish general Hanna in April of 1632. The buildings were largely rendered uninhabitable so the administration of Rupertsberg and its remaining property was carried out from Eibingen. It was only partly rebuilt, since the location of the monastery was very difficult to reach. The Marien chapel, built from remnants of the monastery church, was consecrated by the bishop of Mainz in 1729. In 1801, as a result of secularization, the monastery officially came to an end with the auctioning off of its ruins, farm and vineyards on the Rupertsberg. In the second half of the 19th century, the town of Bingerbrück, expanding quickly due to the construction of the railway, bought large parts of the vineyard for building upon although the Rupertsberg remained a vineyard until 30 years ago. In 1975, a fire burned the main building down to its foundation. This was a useful opportunity to excavate the rest of the monastery church, and to restore it.

In cooperation with the office for historical monuments, the present owner has taken great pains to integrate the arcades of the monastery church into the exhibition rooms of his newly (25 year old) constructed building. As a result, at least a part of the monastery church has been retained as a monument to the cultural influence which radiated and still radiates from this place through Hildegard von Bingen and her works.

Acknowledgments: I wish to thank the owner of the mansions "Am Rupertsberg" and his daughter, for their help when collecting material for this article.
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