The Monastery Church
Unfortunately, we do not know anything about the building of the first Monastery Church, which is said to have been consecrated on the Sunday before All Saints’ Day of 1142 and was destroyed by the great fire in 1190. Provost Konrad II of Rodank (1178–1200) then had the church built that still exists today, with three naves and the massive bell tower that can be seen from miles away. The dedication of this impressive structure took place in 1198. Construction of the tower had been completed in 1218 at the latest, when Bishop Otto of Freising consecrated the chapel on the second floor to St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Augustine.
The Gothic Minster
In 1464, a Gothic Chapel of Mercy (Gnadenkapelle) was built on the north side of the Monastery Church. Under Provost Leonhard Pacher (1467–83), the renovation of the Monastery Church in the Gothic style was finally to be completed. However, what was built was only the high choir that was consecrated solemnly on November 6, 1485, as well as the adjacent vestry. Its ceiling is decorated with medallions created by Michael Pacher showing the four Church Fathers with evangelists’ symbols. In the subsequent years, according to documents preserved in the Abbey Archive, many new altars were consecrated whose plate paintings were created by the most renowned artists of their time, and at least some of which can be admired today at the Pinakothek.
However, not much of this former splendid array of Gothic wing altars remains to be seen today. As early as in 1695-96, the Chapel of St. Mary was renovated under Provost Fortunat Troyer and provided with frescoes by Kaspar Waldmann and Egidius Schor from Innsbruck.
Its current design of a light-suffused, colorful late Baroque “theatrum sacrum” came to the Monastery Church from its “Baroquization” that began in 1735 and was mostly completed by 1744. The master builders Josef Delai and Georg Philipp Appeller had succeeded in creating “a harmony of seven centuries and three building styles” (Max Schrott). The fancy stuccowork stems from Anton Gigl, probably the most significant representative of the Wessobrunn School. The frescoes by Matthäus Günther (1705–88) from Augsburg show the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the life and works of St. Augustine, the order’s father, and scenes from the lives of excellent canons. All images share strict composition, and a theologically demanding program in iconography. But what is striking is the abundance of color, the jubilation, the serene and positive, as well as the love of detail.
An initial major restoration of the church was already performed as early as at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1982, the paintings were cleaned, and since then their original radiance can be seen clearly again. Over the past years, all of the church roofs have been covered anew. In 2015, the façade of the bell tower was cleaned.
The Monastery Church was elevated to the status of a basilica in 1956 and received the honorific of a basilica minor, which has been assigned to famous pilgrimage churches and excellent abbey churches since the eighteenth century.