Benediktbeuern Abbey (Kloster Benediktbeuern) is a monastery of the Salesians of Don Bosco, originally a monastery of the Benedictine Order, in Benediktbeuern in Bavaria, near the Kochelsee, 64 km south-south-west of Munich. It is the home of the Songs from Beuern, i.e., the famous Carmina Burana.
The monastery, dedicated to Saints James and Benedict, was founded in around 739/740 as a Benedictine abbey by members of the Huosi, a Bavarian noble clan, who also provided the three brothers who served one after the other as the first three abbots, traditionally named as Lanfrid, Waldram (or Wulfram), and Eliland, for nearly a century. It is possible that Saint Boniface had an involvement in the foundation; he may have consecrated the church (to the holy Trinity), though this is not widely accepted. There was here a school of writing, whose work survives in the form of numerous codices of the 8th and 9th centuries.
Under the influence of Emperor Henry III it was rebuilt by Saint Ulrich, Bishop of Augsburg, and in 1031 returned to the Benedictine rule and re-settled by monks from Tegernsee Abbey under the first abbot of the new foundation, Ellinger. Under the second abbot, Gothelm (1032–1062), and the monks Gotschalk and Adalbert the school and scriptorium were re-established. Gotschalk, later third abbot, was responsible for the translation of the relics of Saint Anastasia here in 1053, which by making the abbey a place of pilgrimage added substantially to its fame and prosperity; he was also its first historian.
Benediktbeuern suffered four serious fires, in 1248, 1377, 1378, and 1490, but was prosperous enough to re-build each time.
The abbey enjoyed for centuries an extremely high reputation as a place of learning and research. Botanical research and the establishment of a medicinal herb garden in about 1200 are also evidenced. In about 1250 the library covered the whole range of higher education as it then existed. The abbey also excelled at theological, philosophical and scientific studies. In the 1530s Dom Antonius Funda made considerable advances in the systematic writing of monastic history.
In 1611 many of the community died of the plague. During the Thirty Years' War the grammar school was suspended and in 1632 Dom Simon Speer was tortured and put to death by the Swedes for refusing to surrender the goods of the abbey. The school had reopened by 1689, when the study of languages, music, mathematics and botany was especially emphasised. Shortly before, between 1669 and 1679, the abbey was given its present Baroque form. In 1698 the school in the north wing was opened. The library complex dates from 1722.
In 1700 the source-critical method of historiography was used for the first time in South Germany in exemplary fashion by Dom Karl Meichelbeck, the "Livy of Bavaria" (1669–1734), librarian and archivist from 1696 until his death. He was the author of the Historia Frisingensis ("History of the Diocese of Freising"), the Chronicon Benedictoburanum ("History of Benediktbeuern Abbey") and the "Annals of the Bavarian Congregation".
During the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803 the abbey, then comprising thirty-four monks, was dissolved. Some of the former monks took posts as university professors: for example, Ägidius Jais went to Salzburg as a pastoral theologian; Sebastian Mall to Landshut as an orientalist; and Florian Meilinger to Munich as a mathematician.
The library and archives had contained many priceless manuscripts and charters. Ziegelbauer printed a catalogue of the library, dated 1250, in which more than one hundred and fifty books and manuscripts are enumerated . Mabillon, who visited the abbey in 1683, and Bernard Pez, librarian of Melk Abbey, who was there in 1717, both left on record their testimony as to the great value of the codices there preserved. At the suppression the library comprised 40,000 volumes. A number of these, and many of the codices, were added to what is now the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and the remainder left to be dispersed over time by the neglect or indifference of subsequent owners. There were reports, however, that, some books were used to fill holes in the cart tracks of the moor between the monastery and the river Loisach.
In the course of the disposal of the library and archives, there came to light the manuscript of the Carmina Burana, a 13th-century collection of songs by wandering scholars. The manuscript, also known as the Codex Buranus, is also now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
The abbey premises were acquired by Josef von Utzschneider, who in 1805 set up an experimental glassworks here, known as the Optical Institute. He was joined by Joseph von Fraunhofer, who was able here among other things to develop flawless or "waveless" flint glass and discover the Fraunhofer lines which have become of importance in the development of spectroscopic analysis.
In 1818 the Bavarian State took over the buildings, which from then on were used for military purposes, initially as a stud-farm for the rearing and training of cavalry horses, and thereafter as a barracks, invalid home, military convalescent home and prison.
In 1901 Freiherr von Kramer-Klett, the restorer of several Bavarian monasteries, offered five and one-half million marks for the property, but was met by a demand for twelve millions, which he refused.
In 1925 the former abbey brewery was closed.
Since 1930 the buildings have been used by the Salesians, of whom about 45 now live and work here.
The abbey church was declared a "basilica minor" in 1972.