Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Miracle of Ettal Abbey

By Kathy Kovach

Ettal Abbey
Snuggled in the Bavarian alpine foothills 11km from the castle Linderhof is a monastery with decidedly divine roots. One would think all churches dedicated to God would fall under that category, but Ettal Abbey has a charming legend that one could argue was a miracle.

Though Ettal is a small quaint village, it boasts one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in Germany that was established on April 28, 1330.
King Ludwig IV of Bavaria, Grand Duke of Hessen
The founder, King Ludwig IV the Bavarian (not to be confused with Mad King Ludwig II  who came along five centuries later), had an illustrious, if not tumultuous, military political career in Rome and Munich. He crowned himself Holy Roman Emperor in 1328 and three months later deposed Pope John XXII on grounds of heresy. Two years later after a power struggle, the pope excommunicated him. He was the last Bavarian king until 1742.
Madonna and Child, circa 1420
Not the original Ettal statue
My family had the privilege to visit this beautiful Baroque church some years ago. During the tour, the guide explained that while King Ludwig IV traveled back to Bavaria from Italy, he and his men were attacked on the road. Badly beaten and stripped of his royal clothing, he was the only survivor. With his dignity in tatters, a “grey monk” appeared to him. He insured Ludwig safe passage if he would promise one thing—to honor the Virgin Mary in the Ampferang forest. Upon his oath to do so, the monk placed a statue (or possibly a painting) of the Madonna and Child in his hands, instructing him to build a monastery and display the holy likeness inside as a figurative foundation.
Genuflecting horse
Ludwig did, indeed, travel safely to Bavaria, but he had no idea where this forest was located. He found a hunter who happily guided him into the alpine woodland. Ludwig’s horse followed dutifully until it stopped suddenly and refused to budge any farther. It then genuflected (bowed with one knee) three times. There may have been other, more strategic places to build a monastery, but Ludwig took this as a sign. Thus, the village of Ettal and its Benedictine monastery were birthed.

Ettal Abbey has had its ups and downs throughout history, at one point becoming secularized in 1803. The grounds changed hands several times with talks of turning it into a penitentiary, a wire and brass factory, and a rescue house for neglected children. As none of these came to fruition, the path was clear for the re-establishment of the monastery in 1900. The new owner gave the buildings to the Benedictines of Sheyern Abbey who became dedicated to the restoration of the order.

World War II came along and the monastery became the temporary home to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and double agent against Hitler and the Nazi regime. He spent a few months there as a guest of the abbot, while he worked on his book Ethics.

The walled abbey



Dom Fresco

Side altars

Despite the destruction of some its buildings in a fire in the 18th century, Ettal Abbey has risen from the ashes and thrives today. Thirty-plus monks make their home there and live under the Benedictine rule Ora et Labora (pray and work). Besides a school, on the premises sits a brewery known for producing world-class beer that is exported to fifty countries. Herbal liqueurs made from a centuries-old recipe are also distilled there. These businesses, in addition to the tourism of the building and grounds, help finance the operations.

The Lord had plans for the little village of Ettal and the abbey 600 years ago
and it started with a horse kneeling in obedience to its King.



A secret. A key. Much was buried on the Titanic, but now it's time for resurrection.

Follow two intertwining stories a century apart. 1912 - Matriarch Olive Stanford protects a secret after boarding the Titanic that must go to her grave. 2012 - Portland real estate agent Ember Keaton-Jones receives the key that will unlock the mystery of her past... and her distrusting heart.
To buy: Amazon

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband, Jim, raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado, she's a grandmother—and soon-to-be great-grandmother—though much too young for that. Kathleen has been a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. Thank you for your post today. What a gift that you got to visit.

  2. Fascinating blog, Katie! Ettal Abbey must have been a great place for Boenhoffer to retreat to during the War. It's the kind of place I'd love to visit someday.