When we entered through the first gate of the abbey, you could really hear how everybody in the group made a deep sigh, so lovely was the atmosphere. The first gate itself is quite nice, you can see it on the picture of the main page of this Steinfeld page.
When you have entered, you first walk along an avenue of big trees, and then you enter the courtyard through another gate. Due to this walk along the avenue, the abbey feels as if it was a long way from the rest of the village. While you walk there, you get calm and prepared for the beautiful place you are to encounter.
The courtyard is a very tranquil place. You can enter the basilica, the cloister and the other buildings from here, and there is also a lawn and several benches so that you can relax. It is a very green place and you can admire the historical buildings that surround it.
My pictures show:
Picture 1: One of the buildings
Picture 2: The avenue
Picture 3: The towers of the basilica
Picture 4: Another building, on the opposite side
The cloister of the abbey was originally of roman style, but it was changed to a gothic one during a renovation from 1492 until 1517. The cloister leads to the refectory on the one side and to the basilica on the other side, it also gives access to the abbey garden (which was closed when I was there) and to the traditional abbey fountain.
I came here after our lunch and it was wonderful - nobody was here and it was such a tranquil and relaxing place.
The story of Steinfeld's glass paintings is a complicated one, both exciting and sad.
There were several wonderfully painted windows in the cloister. The first windows - unpainted - were installed after its renovation in the first half of the 16th century. In 1632, it was decided to get the windows painted. They should depict the whole of the bible story, from Adam and Eve in paradise until doomsday.
Over the years, the windows were often removed during times of war, in order to save them from destruction. In 1785, they were packed away to save them from the approaching French troops. Now, after the secularisation, they were brought to Cologne, and from there, on dubious ways, they were sold to England. At the time, there was a lively market for glass paintings, and the Steinfeld windows were sold to many different parishes and churches.
The windows were lost for a long time and have only been re-discovered in the beginning of the 20th century. The finding of some of them happened through an incident that itself sounds like a crazy story! The writer M. R. James, a famous author of ghost stories, worked for Lord Brownlow of Ashridge Park who had bought several of the Steinfeld windows. On one of the windows, James discovered the words "Abbas Steinfeldensis". James rightly thought that these windows were from Germany and was inspired to write a ghost story about an (imagined) abbey of Steinfeld (see General Tip). In 1907 a man from the Eifel heard about the story. He travelled to England and decided to meet M. R. James, who told him about the windows that had inspired him to write the story - and thus, some of the Steinfeld windows were found!
Today, most of the windows (thirty-six of them) are presented in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, they have passed there after Lord Brownlow's death. Others are still in small country churches, mainly in Suffolk, Norfold and Cambridgeshire. Only two paintings have been brought back to Steinfeld, you can see one of them in my picture. It depicts St. Simon with a relic.
Steinfeld can be reached by public transport, although it is not that near to a train station.
From Cologne, trains leave every hour from platform one (usually at 21 minutes past the hour). The last station of the line is either Gerolstein or Kall, so be careful that one of those towns is displayed on the train.
You need to leave the train in Kall-Urft (be careful not to leave in Kall, it must be Kall-URFT, which is one station past Kall). The ride takes about an hour and costs about 6,60€.
From the train station, it is about a 3km walk (follow Urfttalstraße and then Hermann-Joseph-Straße), or you can take a taxi which will cost about 10€.
The abbey shop sells many goods produced in the abbey and the surrounding regions. You can also buy religious books and souvenirs. A special highlight is the beer that is home-brewed in the abbey after a traditional recipe. There is also home-brewed herb-liqueur and other drinks, as well as wine from the Eifel, bread, mustard and other groceries. The shop also sells books and maps on walking and hiking in the Eifel.
The shop is located right at the entrance of the abbey, you cannot miss it. It is closed on Mondays, open from 14.30 until 17.00 on Tuesdays, and open from 10.30 until 12.30 and 14.30 until 17.00 on all other days.
Hermann Joseph von Steinfeld is a saint who was born in Cologne and later lived in Steinfeld. He was a Premonstratenserian monk who worked as a priest, sexton and pastor in Steinfeld.
You can see his tomb in the basilica, it is a beautiful stone tomb with his lying sculpture on it. The remarkable thing was that there were several apples placed on the tomb and I wondered what kind of custom this was, so I did a little research.
The custom of the apples is connected to a legend: When still living in Cologne, Hermann Joseph offered apples to a statue of the Virgin Mary. Legend has it, that once, the child Jeses which was also a part of the statue, outstretched his arm and took an apple from Hermann Joseph's hand. Thus, he became known as the "Saint of Apples" and the people still bring apples to his tomb in Steinfeld.
The statue of the Virgin Mary is located in the church "Maria im Kapitol" and it is a custom to give apples to this statue as well. I have not been there, but I want to go and see it. I think it is a quite facinating custom because I was so astonished when I saw the apples on the tomb.
As I explained in the tip on the Steinfeld windows, one of the windows inspired the author R. M. James to write a story taking place in an imaginary Steinfeld Abbey. The story is called "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" and deals with a lost treasure found in that abbey.
It was published in the volume "Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" and can still be bought today - I have not read it so far, but I really want to. I think the story of the windows is so fascinating and crazy that I really wish to read the story they inspired, which in the end led to their re-discovery.
Picture (c) Amazon