The Parish of Eggersberg

The churches in the parishes of the former Hofmark Eggersberg

Summary June 2007, H.-P.M. Tassilo Wenzl-Sylvester
On the barren Jura plateau above the wonderfully charming Altmühltal valley rises the impressive building of Eggersberg Castle. The Castle is a typical example of a Renaissance Hofmark, the smallest jurisdiction of the country at that time. The parish of the former Hofmark Eggersberg was among the smallest in the diocese of Regensburg. Nevertheless, it has a turbulent history.

There had been a notable rivalry between Eggersberg Castle and the parish church of Georgenbuch. In this church a unique piece could be preserved: The Romanesque carved stone embrasure of a portal, a remnant of the origins of the church. Dr.iur.utr. Robert F.E. Weigand, owner of Eggersberg Castle since 1962, prevented the demolition of this precious cultural item and thereby saved it from irrevocable destruction.

Even nowadays the mysterious animals and mythical creatures engraved in the Romanesque portal have an impact on people. Still, the knowledge of their origin and creator will remain a secret.

It is worth mentioning,

that the presbytery of Georgenbuch was not originally situated in its current location but in Obereggersberg at the place of the ancient castle and the later ‘new’ Eggersberg Castle. There, the presbytery was built on the foundations of a medieval chaplain’s dwelling. Above the exit door on the rear of the house a remnant of that time, a picture of God the Father from 1593, is set into the wall

The presbytery, a baroque axial building in the style of Italian palaces, was built in 1722 by the well-known master builder Gabriel di Gabrieli by order of the barons de Bassus.

Apart from Georgenbuch and Obereggersberg there is another place worth mentioning within the parish of the barons de Bassus: the Hofmark Harlanden. This small church is only plain from the outside. The inside is outfitted with works of the sculptor Johann Georg Günther from Altmannstein. He was the father of the famous Ignaz Günther, a sculptor of the Rococo period who was promoted by Baron Thomas de Bassus .

Baron Thomas de Bassus

This brief introduction to the historic parish of the former Hofmark Eggersberg illustrates that many a thing of importance can be found at this place.

Historical Overview

From the very beginning, a castle chapel and a chaplain’s dwelling were part of the ancient, early medieval Eggersberg Castle, that rose on a rock outcrop 90 metres above the Altmühltal valley. The chapel had been assigned to the monastery of St Emmeram in Regensburg in the 9th century.

(Layout plan of the ancient Eggersberg Castle: altered according to F.-W. Krahe – "Burgen des deutschen Mittelalters", 1998. A building plan by the architect Dr Landgraf is on display in the Hofmark Museum.)

This marked the beginning of a tug-of-war over relevance and dominance between the parishes Georgenbuch and Eggersberg that lasted for centuries. For not only the lords of the Hofmarks but also the priests tried again and again to take the title of Georgenbuch to Eggersberg.

With the downfall of the ancient Eggersberg Castle in the 16th century, the castle chapel vanished as well. The people of Eggersberg, now left without a sanctuary, had to walk to Georgenbuch to attend church.

Baron Joseph von Bassus, at that time lord of the Hofmark, took up his late father’s plan and built a new chapel on the castle hill in 1720. Two years later he commissioned the famous architect Gabriel di Gabrieli with the construction of the presbytery in Obereggersberg to replace the old building from 1593. This was to add authority to the parish of Eggersberg. The presbytery is an axial building in the style of Italian palaces and resembles the presbytery in Schambach, which had also been built by Gabriel di Gabrieli. The similarities range from the structure of the façade and the proportions to the economic area.

The new church on the castle hill was completed in 1736, but people could not enjoy it for long. In 1806, the year Bavaria became a kingdom by the grace of Napoleon, the roof came down. Consequently, Georgenbuch became parish church again. On the premises of the castle ruin there are still three sides of the castle chapel’s apse. The inside of the apse (left picture below) is still partly covered with red paint, which was made from ox blood.

Apse of the Holy Cross Chapel on the castle rock at Eggersberg
(Author’s note: The rock viewpoint has been secured and is open to the public. Entering of the unsecured private grounds of the castle ruin is not advisable and is at your own risk!)

The view from the castle rock is one of the most beautiful in the lower Altmühltal valley: Right at the foot of the mountain meander old branches of the river Altmühl, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal passes, and you can see a small part of the old Ludwigskanal (King Ludwig I) with a restored sluice house from the 19th century. If you look further along the edge of the forest, you can see the church spire of the former Commandry of the Teutonic Order in Altmühlmünster. By the way, you can take a hiking trail from there to the next viewpoint, the Rosskopf Mountain.

The successor of Joseph von Bassus as lord of the Hofmark, Baron Thomas von Bassus (member of the Illuminati, code name “Hannibal”), had to face a problem. To attend church, the 53 people of Obereggersberg had to walk to Georgenbuch, a village with only 17 inhabitants. Therefore, Thomas von Bassus arranged for a private chapel in the “new castle” in 1807. The arched ground floor windows on the east side of the castle are still testament to that time.

Later though, the family de Bassus resided mainly at the castle in Sandersdorf near Altmannstein, and Eggersberg Castle only served as agricultural holding and venue for hunting expeditions. Consequently, the dignity of the castle and chapel suffered quite a bit. In 1873 Father Lukas complained bitterly about it to Baron Bassus. He described the castle courtyard as a dung heap and lamented over the fact that he had to cut his way through this dung heap and along four stable doors in order to get to the chapel .

He also complained that the chapel only comprised half of the former hallway while the other half was filled with cauldrons for the pig swill. According to his account, conducting a divine service was unbearable because of the smell of stable and dung.

Therefore, the family de Bassus relocated the chapel again in 1875, this time to the presbytery. In 1897/98, an altar apse was added as an extension to the interior. The priest spoke out against a bigger apse for which reason the chapel was soon too small again and Georgenbuch became the parish church once and for all. There, the Romanesque nave had been extended by 20 feet in 1833.

At that time, the noble family of Harlanden had their own manorial system. This led to the somewhat extraordinary fact that the succursal church of Harlanden was assigned to the former Commandry of the Teutonic Order in Altmühlmünster instead of Georgenbuch. Therefore the inhabitants of Harlanden had to pass through the parish Georgenbuch on their way to church. Such circumstances could not be maintained though and Harlanden was integrated into the parish Eggersberg in 1837 despite protests from Altmühlmünster.

Today, the parish priest of Riedenburg is in charge of the church in Georgenbuch and the chapel in Obereggersberg.

The presbytery of Obereggersberger

was built in the style of Italian palaces in 1722.
Baron Joseph von Bassus had commissioned
the famous architect
Gabriel de Gabrieli.

New limestone roof in 2006.

The presbytery is private property.

The presbytery’s chapel, which is equipped in 19th century style, is open to the inhabitants of Eggersberg for prayers and mass. Upon request it is possible to visit the chapel.
Please ask at the hotel!

Dr Sixtus Lampl – former Head Conservator at the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments.
Franz Seraph Scheibl – ‘Chronik der Pfarrey Eggersberg’, from 1 Oct 1829
Anna Höcker – Pfarrei Eggersberg 1438-1988