|Welcome to Ochsenhausen
Ochsenhausen is located on the “Oberschwäbische Barockstraßeî, the baroque route, in the heart of Upper Swabia between Ulm and Lake Constance. Its rating as a recognised holiday resort is evidence of the quality it offers for recreational purposes. Its geographical location makes Ochsenhausen an ideal starting point for day trips to Lake Constance, to the Alps and to the attractions of Upper Swabian baroque. Ochsenhausen received the status of a town in 1950, has a population of around 9 000 including the villages of Mittelbuch and Reinstetten, and has been twinned with the towns of La Fère (France) and Subiaco (Italy) for many years now.
The monumental former imperial Benedictine monastery, which sits enthroned on high ground above the town, makes Ochsenhausen visible from far afield. For over 700 years monks lived here in the spirit of Saint Benedict: Ora et labora – pray and work.
The earliest documented mention of Ochsenhausen was in 1093 when the Bishop of Constance consecrated the first monastery church. The foundation of the monastery was the result of a donation by the aristocratic brothers Konrad, Hawin and Adelbert von Wolfertschwenden. The originally dependent priory of the monastery St. Blasius in the Black Forest, grew rapidly in size and significance and succeeded in becoming independent of its parent monastery almost three centuries later in 1391. Ochsenhausen gained its independence and in 1495, just over a further century later, rose to become a powerful imperial abbey with its own jurisdiction and seat and vote in the Imperial Diet. The monastery buildings were also developed enormously during that time, providing material evidence of the growing significance of the monastery.
The baroque era was the height of the Ochsenhausen monastery. The priors surrounded themselves with courtly splendour and an extravagant display of magnificence set in. In the refectory, the monks ate from silver plates and drank from golden goblets. The frequent visits of the most famous painters and sculptors of that time left their permanent mark. Music, in particular, received attention but in the era of elucidation the natural sciences were also not neglected. The fathers practised physics and chemistry, put their minds to mathematics and astronomy and were engaged as professors at the university in Salzburg. The baroque observatory in the corner tower of the Ochsenhausen monastery still serves today to demonstrate the exploratory spirit of the monks at that time. In the seventeenth century the learned Ochsenhausen priors even received their own university which, however, soon fell victim to the plague and the Thirty Years' War.
In 1803 monastery life came to an abrupt halt. The secularisation brought about by the Napoleonic Wars meant the end of the proud Benedictine Imperial Abbey in Ochsenhausen. The monks had to leave the monastery and the last prior, Romuald Weltin, who had reigned since 1767 was retired. The imposing estate – on its dissolution the monastery boasted 255 square kilometers of land, 8 665 inhabitants and an annual profit of 120 000 guilders – passed into wordly hands. Count Metternich, the father of the minister who became famous through the Viennese Congress, was the new master of the Klosterberg estate. This period of power turned out to be short-lived, however:
A mere two decades later, in 1825, the son sold the entire estate for 1.2 million guilders to the King of Württemberg. The valuable monastery library containing thousands of volumes and described by contemporaries as one of the most beautiful and comprehensive in Swabia, was scattered to the four winds. The only mementos of the princely intermezzo are the names of a couple of streets and buildings: Fürstenallee, Schloßstraße, Fürstenbau.
Once upon a time there was an oxÖ
If the legend is to be believed, it all started with an ox. One specimen of this species is apparently responsible for the existence of Ochsenhausen (literally: the home of the ox). Long before the current monastery was established, a convent is said to have been located in the area. During the Hungarian invasion in the 10th Century the nuns then fled to Salzburg after burying their precious objects in a field on high ground. Many years later an ox trod on the buried chest while pulling the plough and to everyone's great surprise the valuable relics and religious treasures were discovered. This event was interpreted as a sign from heaven to build a monastery on that spot. Ochsenhausen owes its name and heraldic animal - an ox stepping through the church portal - to this pretty legend.
The citizens of Ochsenhausen have borne this name proudly ever since. Not only do oxen adorn the monastery buildings, but are seen decorating everything, including the market fountain in front of the town hall and even as tasty cakes and pastries. The romantic steam railway, affectionately known to the locals as the little ox, the Öchsle which runs between Ochsenhausen and Warthausen, located close to Biberach, is also named after this heraldic creature.
Art and culture in the monastery
After its dissolution, the Ochsenhausen monastery estate was used for all sorts of purposes: as the Royal Agricultural School and Orphanage, as a military hospital and finally as a state training institute for female teachers and grammar school. Today the tremendous monastery buildings accommodate the State Youth Academy of Music in Baden-Württemberg. At a rate of 30 000 participant attendance days per annum, it is the largest musical training institute of its kind in Germany and makes Ochsenhausen the stronghold of music in the federal state. In the neighbouring stately home, the monastery museum brings the history of the Benedictine imperial abbey to life, and in the library and monastery fruit store, concerts and art exhibitions are held regularly. This means that the Ochsenhausen monastery and the magnificent church with its famous organ have regained the glory of the past centuries and again become a centre of art and culture drawing many visitors from near and far.
Romantic narrow-gauge railway
Anyone wanting to experienc a romantic journey to Ochsenhausen should use the Öchsle steam railway, the only narrow-gauge track still in existence in Baden-Württemberg. The 750 mm track, opened in 1899 was originally one of five narrow-gauge railways of the Royal Württemberg State Railway. When the Deutsche Bundesbahn (German Rail) closed down the service several decades ago, the future of this prettiest stretch of railway in Upper Swabia was under threat. Fortunately some railway enthusiasts, together with the district council of Biberach and the surrounding councils succeeded in maintaining the track and reviving it in the form of a museum railway.
Today from May to October the Öchsle runs through 19 kilometers of picture-book scenery betweeen Ochsenhausen and Warthausen.
A total of 40 000 to 50 000 passengers use the train every year, making this museum railway one of the greatest tourist attractions of the region.
Ochsenhausen has undergone considerable expansion from an insignificant market town in the shadow of the monastery to an attractive rural community in which tradition and progress go hand in hand harmoniously. All the important public facilities are available and over seventy clubs ensure the provision of a selection of culture and sports. The Liebherr Ochsenhausen table tennis club plays in the federal league and has twice won the national championships as well as being successful at an international level. The Ochsenhausen regional hospital and the modern senior residents' centre Goldbach serve the needs of the elderly.
The rich monastic history of Ochsenhausen is reawakened once a year by the Saint George's Pageant when 600 riders parade through the meadows singing and praying. This traditional procession dates back to a monastic ritual in the baroque era. Further highlights in the course of the year are the Shrovetime carnival, the Swabian Spring Music Festival, the Öchsle festival and the Christmas market, which transforms the monastery courtyard into a romantic Christmas village.
Education enjoys an important status with a long tradition in Ochsenhausen. The birth of the general school system was in the 17th Century with the foundation of a monastery grammar school. Today Ochsenhausen is a school centre for the whole region. Over a hundred classrooms are filled by around 2 500 schoolchildren in the seven municipal schools in the town. Every type of school ranging from one for children with special needs through to a grammar school are represented here. In addition, for the children of the region there is a municipal music school with 500 pupils and an arts' school. Four municipal and confessional kindergartens make 400 places available for the youngest citizens.
Trade and Commerce
Quite apart from its high residential and recreational quality, Ochsenhausen is also an important industrial and trade centre which provides jobs for a total of 4 000. Reputable companies in the household goods, packaging and electrotechnical industries are located here. The largest employer is the company Liebherr Hausgeräte-GmbH, whose 1 900 staff produce up to 6 000 refrigerators a day. Ochsenhausen also serves as a shopping centre for 15 000 inhabitants of the town itself and its neighbouring villages with a wide selection of stores and services. In addition, a new 20-acre industrial estate was recently established on the outskirts of the town offering companies an ideal location in beautiful surroundings. Ochsenhausen's convenient location with links to Europe's motorway network offers fast connections to Munich and the Lake Constance region as well as to Switzerland and Austria. The new industreial etate has set the course for the economic future of the town far into the new millineum.
Town council and administration
The Ochsenhausen town council has its headquarters in the historical town hall, which was built in 1606 to serve as the fruit store of the monastery. The head of the town administration with a staff of 20 is the mayor, Andreas Denzel, who was elected for a period of eight years in 1999 as the successor of Max Herold who no longer stood for office after holding this position for 24 years. Altogether the town of Ochsenhausen employs 130 people.
The full-time office of mayor does not only involve management of the town administration but also the chairmanship of the town council, which consists of 21 councillors. Of these, nine belong to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), seven to the Free Voters (FW), two to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and three to the Independent List (IL). The council is elected for a period of five years and is responsible together with the mayor and the town administration for an annual budget of 20 to 25 million Euro.