This morning we left Straubing and toured two of the rural churches that the confrÃ¨res of Windberg Abbey serve. The first was the church of St. Petera, a Romanesque church surrounded by a cemetery. The gravestones were very old and when we walked in the church, there was a crew installing some of the older looking ones as art on the wall. I thought it was a really neat way to honor the history of their parish. St. Petera was in strike contrast to the Baroque-style churches we spent the last few days touring. The interior and the exterior were stone.
There were some really stunning pieces in the interior and the simplicity of the place gave them a chance to shout.
The second area church we stopped at had a late Baroque-style interior. It was much along the same lines as Strahov, SchlÃ¤gl and maybe even more similar to Windberg. The Windberg Abbey was depicted in some of the art on the wall since this is a parish those confrÃ¨res serve.
We arrived in Roggenburg this afternoon after a short stop at a rest stop with a Burger King. Our group learned that ketchup is not complementary everywhere. Burger King charges 20 euro cents additional. Who knew? The bus ride was a little longer than the others but I found it relaxing. The lay of the area we are in now reminds me alot of Northeastern Wisconsin. We drove through the countryside and it was filled with fields and what I think were hunting stands.
As soon as we drove into Roggenburg Abbey the first thing that caught my eye was the koi pond and how modern parts of the abbey looked. Before we even checked into the hotel I knew it was going to be nice. The rooms have all sorts of cool features, some are really environmentally friendly. The lights are motion sensitive, they go on and off automatically, select outlets don’t work unless you’re in the bathroom and the coolest feature is the shade that closes down over the window with the flick of a switch.
We joined the community here for vespers before we went to dinner. The church here is massive. On our way over to the church we were guided by Gilbert, a Norbertine who belongs to the community. He said that the church underwent a 18 million euro renovation during the early Rococo period which is what we see today.
Following vespers, we had what I think was the best food on the trip so far. We were served cream of asparagus soup and pork with spaetzel. The pork and spaetzel dish has some sort of thistle cream sauce. For the record, I’m not some sort of cooking guru. Stefen, a Norbertine who joined our table for dinner, gave me the inside scoop. The spaetzel reminded me of both of my grandmas because they both make it at home.
Dinner was a very good time. The Norbertines here are a lively and humorous bunch. There was some translation that had to occur but their English language skills are pretty polished so it made it much easier to communicate. The service we received during dinner was a real reflection of Norbertine hospitality. I think it could be equated to a fine dining experience for sure.
After dinner we talked with the Norbertines who belong to Roggenberg about this particular abbey. They existed at one point in time and were refounded as recently as 1980 from the Windberg Abbey. They model their abbey after both Saint Augustine and St. Norbert. They strive to be not one priest for one parish but a community of priests for a community of parishioners.
This abbey is unique in that they reach out to families. They have a center on the grounds that focuses on family, creation and the environment and culture. It’s a unique offering that drives people from distances of 100 km to come to the abbey for courses and to enjoy the exhibitions. In the same spirit of catering to families, there is a restaurant, gift shop, beer gardens and a hotel. Ulrich, one of the younger Norbertines said that the center is a huge draw and it gets very crowded.
When this abbey was refounded in 1980, many people said they were crazy. Why would an Order with an aging population try to put roots down again? The Norbertines this evening said that through the grace of God in combination with some clever thinking and the financial backing of friends, they were able to grow a vivid community of young men that nobody guessed possible. The median age of the community currently is 40. There are 13 confrÃ¨res and another will be vested in September.
They also noted that in some ways their specialties have helped them grow. For example, Stefen is an organist who is influential in the music community, one Norbertine is a “vinotech” a.k.a. a winemaker and yet others are out in the parish making their marks.
Tomorrow morning we are going on a tour with Ulrich so I’ll have all kinds of stuff to share.