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May 9, 2021

Germany: Höxter, Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey



Civitas Corvey

Detouring on the way from Kassel to Goslar Germany allowed a stop to see the Abbey of Corvey near the town of Höxter.  It promised to be a quiet visit to a sleepy remote UNESCO World Heritage site.  In reality there were far more people visiting than we expected.  There was a long line of cars waiting to be directed to distant parking places.  Who knew that this remote abbey was the Disneyland of UNESCO sites?   

After parking a few blocks away, we walked back to the abbey expecting to wait in a long line at the entrance.  But it turned out the cars were coming to the abbey not to tour the historical buildings but instead to shop at a flea market held on the abbey’s grounds. 

Expansion parking
Inside the schloss

We’ve come to know a flea market by its French name “vide grenier”.  Vide grenier translates to English as “empty attic”.  I’ve always found this French expression amusing:  It is an optimistic glass half full term as one person’s attic empties while another one’s fills.  But according to Google, Germans use two words to describe a flea market:  It is a flohmarkt or a trödelmarkt, which translate as “flea market” or a more blunt “junk market”.  We’re not sure which one of the two names applied this day but it didn’t matter.   We were there to see the Abbey not to buy fleas, junk, or to empty an attic.  And once inside the abbey’s walls thoughts of the busy market were left behind.  Aside from the parking complications the market activity did not negatively impact our visit. 

The Carolingian Abbey of Corvey was consecrated in 844.  It was one of the half-dozen self-ruling princely abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire which originated in the Middle Ages and lasted until the time of the mass secularization.  Though the origin of the Corvey Abbey dates from the 9th Century, only the Westwerk, the main façade of the church, remains from the original building.  The remainder of the abbey was demolished in 1634 during the Thirty Years War, a war of religion between Protestants and Catholics that resulted in the loss of 20% of Germany’s population. 

The Carolingian westwork

After secularization at the beginning of the 19th Century a “schloss”, or what the French would call a château, was built on the site of the abbey.  Consequentially the rebuilt portions of the abbey and the schloss are in the baroque architectural style.  Our visit to what promised to be a 9th Century religious complex wasn’t as much of a step back in time as we thought it would be.  I’d say we should have read the fine print, but age of the buildings didn’t much matter.  It was still interesting to see.

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