Altenberg Abbey, founded directly from Morimond, is located in the Dhünn valley northeast of Cologne. Many elements of its historic cultural landscape are well preserved. Water was of paramount importance both as a driving force for mills and as a basis for pond farming . The Altenberg granges were of an extraordinary size for their time and were connected to a central trade route via the city court in Cologne.
The monastic landscape of Altenberg, situated in the region Bergisches Land, comprises an area of great historical value. It is surrounded by diverse systems of land use in a mountainious region. Favourable hydrological conditions are characteristic of the valleys. The spatial relations to several town courts in the Rhineland, especially in Cologne, meant access to an extensive European economic system.
In 1133, Cistercian monks from Morimond founded a daughter monastery which they moved to the Dhünn valley in 1145. Woodlands were cleared. Todays distribution of forest and open areas goes back to the work of the monks. Numerous granges supplied the monastery complex. Altenberg founded several filitations in Eastern Europe.
After the secularisation of 1803, the ruins of the Abbey became iconic for Romanticism, esp. the Düsseldorf School of Painting. Since its reconstruction in 1836-47, the cathedral has been used for katholic as well as protestant parish service.
In the European context, Altenberg is anexcellent example of the Cistercian principles with regard to site selection and subsequent “stabilitas loci”. “Ora et labora” combine in a cultural landscape that represents immaterial cultural heritage.
The small-scale isolated location in a large-scale economically strong area is a special feature. The continuity of use as an educational institution and a place of music and an icon of romantic aesthetics is remarkable. Today Altenberg is an anchor point of regional identity frequented by visitors.
Fotos above (c) David Bosbach and (c) Anika Hohmeier