Take a day trip to visit Maria Laach Abbey

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -The Maria Laach abbey is home of more than 60 monks. They obey the commandments of Saint Benedikt of Nursia, who in the sixth century preached a balance of work and prayer. The abbey is located left of the Rhien River off the A-16. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -The Maria Laach abbey is home of more than 60 monks. They obey the commandments of Saint Benedikt of Nursia, who in the sixth century preached a balance of work and prayer. The abbey is located left of the Rhien River off the A-16. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Fields, green woods, a deep blue lake and a monastery. Every year 2 million tourists, pilgrims, art-lovers and curious people from all around the world visit Maria Laach, a popular day-excursion site. Well-posted signs from the A-61 Autobahn, left of the Rhine River, point you in the right direction.

From the huge parking lot there are direct views of both the lake and the monastery.

Lake Laach, measuring 2.4 kilometers long and 1.8 kilometers wide, is the largest lake in the Eifel region. It originated from a volcanic eruption and is a Maar, or volcanic lake. At a time when people had already settled in the area, it must have been quite a strong eruption.

The abbey church officially opened aug 24, 1156. After the "Paradieses" vestibule was built, the church was finally finished in 1230. The Laach monastery became a center of art and science at the end of the 15th century. Like many other monasteries, it was closed after the French Revolution Aug. 2, 1802. Thirteen years later it was given to the Prussian state. The monastery was taken over by the Jesuit order in 1862, and it was turned into a Collegium Maximum to teach young aspiring monks of the order. At this time it was given its present name "Maria Laach.' Benedictine monks from the arch abbey of Beuron on the Danube river moved into the monastery in 1892.

Today, more than 60 monks live in the monastery. They obey the commandments of Saint Benedikt of Nursia, who in the sixth century preached a balance of work and prayer: ora et labora. The monks follow this lesson during their daily work, and there is plenty of work to be seen in the monastery. It has its own art publishing house, a nursery, a smith working wrought-iron, a stoneworking shop, book store and hotel. With its 200 employees, the monastery is one of the largest employers in the area.

Contrary to what some may thing, 20th century equipment has been incorporated into the abbey for some time: computers, electric typewriters, telefax, visiting cards, etc.

There is a new information center where monks will answer visitors' questions from. Soft music in the church provides the right background for a short meditation. When descending the wide steps of the west group, you can see the vestibule of the abbey. Arcades open on three sides and offer charming views of the inner courtyard, including fountains of gurgling lions.

When entering the interior of the abbey church it is advisable to head for the middle pews. You have the best view toward the high altar, mosaics, stained glass windows and vault built in the 13th century. In the western apse, the tomb of Count Palatine Heinrich II can be seen. The crypt and the Benedict Chapel are also worth seeing.