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Alpirsbach Monastery

Portrait of Ambrosius Blarer, 16th century. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain
BOUND TO THE REFORMATION

Ambrosius Blarer

Ambrosius Blarer (1492–1564) lived in Alpirsbach as a monk and prior. In this function, he introduced his brothers to the ideas of Martin Luther, which is why he had to leave Alpirsbach. The story of his life exemplifies the upheaval of the Reformation.

Dedication of the University of Tübingen in 1476: Count Eberhard I von Württemberg presenting the papal bull, lithograph by Carl von Häberlin. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Robert Bothner

Blarer studied in Tübingen.

WHAT WAS BLARER'S EDUCATION?

Ambrosius Blarer von Giersberg came from one of the oldest patrician families in Constance. He studied classical languages in Tübingen before becoming a monk at the Benedictine monastery in Alpirsbach. Even during his studies, he was acquainted with the later reformer Philip Melanchthon, with whom he stayed in contact after concluding his studies. At Alpirsbach, the well-read Ambrosius Blarer was quickly elected as prior.

Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521, woodcut. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521.

HOW DID LUTHER'S WRITINGS REACH ALPIRSBACH?

During his time as prior, Ambrosius Blarer came into contact with the writings of Martin Luther. Ambrosius learned of the Reformation from his Wittenberg-educated brother Thomas Blarer, subsequently acquiring Luther's writings. He distributed the new doctrine through sermons and readings at the monastery, and this is ultimately why he was relieved of his position. He secretly left the monastery in 1522 and returned to Constance.

Erhard Schnepf, copper engraving. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Not necessarily the best of friends: Schnepf and Blarer.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

In 1534, Duke Ulrich von Württemberg tasked Ambrosius Blarer and Erhard Schnepf with bringing the Reformation to Württemberg. Blarer, who was influenced by Zürich reformer Zwingli, frequently argued with the Lutheran Schnepf. They therefore agreed on separate domains: Blarer would reform the southern region from Tübingen and Schnepf would reform the northern region from Stuttgart. Blarer eventually became too radical for even the duke, and was forced to leave Württemberg permanently in 1538.

St. Nicholas and St. Benedict, mural in the winter vestry at Großcomburg Monastery, by Michael Viol. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

He shares his day with St. Nicholas.

HISTORICAL COINCIDENCE?

Ambrosius Blarer Day, a Protestant day of commemoration, is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, the 6th of December. It is a peculiar coincidence that, within the Catholic church, the 6th of December is also St. Nicholas Day, the feast day for the patron saint of Alpirsbach Monastery.

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