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Pfaffenwinkel is a classic alpine foothill region. Gently sloping hills and verdant pastures alternate with forests, fens, and small lakes. Geographically, the region is bounded by the Lech, Ammer, and Loisach rivers, and by the southern end of Ammersee and Starnberger See, reaching all the way to the Ammergauer mountains. It is known for its abundance of Baroque monasteries and Rococo churches, such as Benediktbeuern and Wieskirche, characterized by the style developed at the world-renowned stucco school at Wessobrunn. The name of the region comes from the words “Pfaffen,” which is local dialect for priest, and “Winkel” for corner. Natural beauty abounds in Pfaffenwinkel, with its gorges such as Ammerschlucht, romantic mountain lakes such as the deep, dark blue Walchensee, high mountains with lovely vistas, and lonely fens. By car, the region is reached from Munich via motorway A95 or regional roads B2 and B11. There are also excellent rail and bus links.

Wessobrunn Stuccowork

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the most important stuccowork masters came from around the monastery at Wessobrunn. Johann Schmuzer (1642–1701) is regarded as the founder of the Wessobrunn school. The Schmuzer, Zimmermann, and Feichtmayr families spread its fame throughout Europe. Stucco masterpieces are found in the monasteries and abbeys of Wessobrunn, Ettal, Rottenbuch, Weingarten, Zwiefalten, Ottobeuren, Bad Wörishofen, and Steingaden.


Freilichtmuseum Glentleiten

Upper Bavaria’s largest open-air museum opened in 1976 in the beautiful foothills of the Alps between Murnau and Kochel. An old Bavarian village has been set up here – with original farmhouses, mills, a pottery, workshops, and other farm buildings. There’s also a restaurant with beer garden.

  • Open Apr–Nov: 9am–6pm Tue–Sun, except Jul–Aug: 9am–6pm daily.

  • Adm.

  • www.glentleiten.de


Dießen, Ammersee

For information on Pfaffenwinkel, visit www.pfaffenwinkel.de or www.pfaffenwinkel.net


The Wessobrunner Prayer is engraved on a boulder in front of the local inn, the Gasthaus zur Post.


Munich composer Carl Orff (1895–1982) set parts of the medieval Carmina Burana to music in 1937.


The canyon-like Ammerschlucht (between Saulgrub and Peißenberg) is a rafter’s paradise. The Schleier waterfalls is a highlight.


Sights
  1. Kloster Wessobrunn

    In the 17th and 18th centuries, Wessobrunn was the centre of the art of stuccowork. Masterbuilders of monasteries and master stuccoworkers trained here, including Joseph Schmuzer (1683–1752) and Dominikus Zimmermann (1685–1766), who went on to build and decorate many of the monasteries and churches in southern Germany in the Baroque manner. Wessobrunn stucco became famous around the world through the work of the Schmuzer and Zimmermann families. Part of the monastery, including the gallery in the Fürstentrakt and Tassilo hall, is open to the public.

    One of the oldest German-language manuscripts, the Wessobrunner Prayer, dating to around 800, was once held in the monastery’s library. It is now part of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s collection in Munich.

    • 0 88 09 9 21 10

    • Open Mar–Oct: 10am–3pm & 4pm Tue–Sat, 3–4pm Sun; Nov–Feb: 3pm Tue–Sat, 3pm & 4pm Sun

    • www.kloster-wessobrunn.de

    • free

    Rococo interior, Kloster Wessobrunn
  2. Hoher Peißenberg

    At an elevation of nearly 1,000 m (3,300 ft), the Hohe Peißenberg is not only the geographical centre of Pfaffenwinkel, it also affords one of the most beautiful panoramic vistas in the Alpine foothills – the entire mountain range and the gently rolling hills and sparkling lakes at the foot of the Alps lie before you. Meteorological data have been recorded on the Hohe Peißenberg since 1781 – at first by Augustine choirmasters from nearby Rottenbach monastery (see Kloster Rottenbuch). Refreshments are available at the Bayerischer Rigi café, which features a large terrace.

  3. Kloster Steingaden

    In 1147, the Premonstratensians built this monastery and abbey under Duke Welf VI. It was the most important centre of monastic life in Bavaria during that era. Surviving elements include the Romanesque cloisters with late Gothic vaulting and a Romanesque basilica, whose exterior form has been preserved. The abbey’s interior is highly ornamented in the Rococo style.

    • 0 88 62 2 34

    • Open 8am–6pm daily in summer, 8am–5pm daily in winter)

    • www.steingaden.de

    • free

    Romanesque cloister, Kloster Steingaden
  4. Wieskirche

    Known simply as the Wieskirche, the pilgrimage church Zum Gegeißelten Heiland in der Wiese near Steingaden (1746–54) is renowned as a prime example of German Rococo. It represents the work of Dominikus Zimmermann, the famous architect and stuccowork master from Wessobrunn, at his peak. UNESCO listed the church as a World Heritage Site in 1984.

    • 0 88 62 93 29 30

    • Open in summer 8am–7pm daily, in winter 8am–5pm daily

    • www.wieskirche.de

    • free

    Ornate Rococo interior of Wieskirche
  5. Kloster Benediktbeuern

    Benediktbeueren (739) is one of the oldest monasteries in the foothills of the Alps. Karl the Great’s acquisition of the arm relic of St Boniface elevated the monastery to the most important cult site of the saint in German-speaking countries. Built between 1669 and 1679, the Baroque monastery is still intact today. Kaspar Feichtmayr of Weilheim built the church with twin towers in the Italian late Baroque style. Famous in its time, the holdings at the monastery library included the Carmina Burana – the most important collection of medieval minstrel songs. The manuscript dates back to the 13th century and is now housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

    Following secularization, the monastery complex was used for a time as a glassworks. At the beginning of the 19th century, it housed an institute for optics led by the famous optician and physician Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826), who discovered the waves in the solar spectrum that were named after him. Today, the monastery accommodates institutes of pedagogy and theology of the Silesian Order.

    Kloster

    Glashütte

    • Open 9am–6pm daily

    • free

  6. Kloster Rottenbuch

    Founded in 1073 by Duke Welf IV, this monastery for Augustine Canons survives to this day. It features a rare blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Rococo architectural styles. In the mid-18th century, Joseph Schmuzer and his son decorated the interior with lavish stuccowork.

    • 0 88 67 10 08

    • Open 8am–6pm daily (to 7pm in summer)

    • free

  7. Kloster Schäftlarn

    Benedictine monks founded a monastery at this site as far back as 762. The buildings seen at Schäftlarn today were built in 1702–07 after designs by Giovanni A Viscardi. Consecrated in 1760, the abbey is considered a masterpiece of Bavarian Rococo. Much of the stucco decoration is the work of the famous Zimmermann family. The beautiful beer garden attached to the monastery is perfect for a small repast.

  8. Kochel am See

    At the centre of this popular lakeside resort stands a monument to the legendary blacksmith Balthes, a hero of the Bavarian peasant uprising against Austria in 1705. This was also where the painter Franz Marc lived and worked in the early 20th century. His home has been converted into a museum of his works and those of his friends in the Blue Rider group.

    View of Walchensee near Kochel am See

  9. Kochelsee & Walchensee

    About half of Kochelsee is surrounded by steep hills. Covering an area of just under 6 sq km (2.5 sq miles), the lake is 66 m (215 ft) deep in some parts. Excellent hiking paths run along its shores. A short distance to the south, and some 200 m (655 ft) higher, lies the blue-green Walchensee. Covering 16 sq km (6.5 sq miles) and with a depth of up to 190 m (650 ft), it is the largest and deepest mountain lake in Germany and, in summer, a windsurfer’s paradise. A cable car affording a glorious view of both lakes runs up to Herzogstand (1,750 m/5,700 ft).

    • Herzogstandbahn (cable car): Walchensee

    • 0 88 58 2 36

    Herzogstand and Kochelsee
  10. Schongau

    This picturesque town is located on a hill on the river Lech. A historic town wall with walkways, towers, and gates gives Schongau a medieval air. Altenstadt, 3 km (2 miles) to the north, was previously Schongau’s old centre before the town spread. It boasts the Michaelskirche, the finest Romanesque vaulted basilica in Upper Bavaria. Containing, among other treasures, a carved Romanesque font, the church was built in 1200.

    Romanesque font, Michaelskirche

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