Founded around 1200, Sayn Abbey dates back to a foundation set up by the Counts of Sayn, who wanted to build a burial place for their family there and a place of prayer for their souls’ salvation. The abbey church, consecrated in 1202, was also built as the church of the newly-founded parish. In its first construction phase, the church consisted of a Romanesque apse, the yoke for the choir room, a crossing and another adjoining yoke as well as two transepts – all forming a building in the shape of a cross. Three yokes were added around 1255. The new nave was connected to the adjacent St. Nicholas Chapel, which was about 100 years older, by two segmental arches. The tower with its baroque dome replaced the demolished left transept and crossing tower in 1730. The exterior paintings (around 1255) are the best preserved of the High Middle Ages in Germany.

To the south of the abbey church, the west wing of the abbey’s old cloister abuts the well house (first third of the 13th century). The abbey’s residential and farm buildings were grouped around the original square abbey. Three wings were demolished after the abbey was dissolved (1803). These can be seen in the consoles and yoke arches on the church wall and in the new end wall. The preserved west wing is divided by seven yokes with groined vaults. The painting was rediscovered under some whitewash and restored in 1925, and repainted between 1993 and 1998, documenting the original themes. The two-tiered fountain shows the late Romanesque style forms of its origin. It bears a striking resemblance to the baptismal font, which stands in the entrance to the church. Above the well house was the monastery library.

The 23 tombstones in the inner courtyard of the cloister date from the 13th to the 18th century. These originally covered the tombs of abbots in the chancel and respected personalities from the abbey’s surroundings in the nave of the church.

The youngest building of Sayn Abbey shows its year of construction by the inscription E C A P 1718 made out of iron wall hooks: Abbot Engelbert Colendal had this house built as a prelature.

The church itself has some great features. a new altar was erected and consecrated at Easter 1971 under the crossing dome, where it is possible that the altar of St. Peter and St. Paul formerly stood. This impressive gilded altar can only be described as magnificent. It is modelled on the altar of the former Premonstratensian monastery of Altenberg near Wetzlar, built around 1300. In it lies the shrine of Simon. The High Middle Ages were a time of fervent relic veneration. It was therefore highly significant that a relic, venerated as the arm of the Apostle Simon, was donated to Sayn Abbey in 1204 shortly after its foundation. The Premonstratensian Canons of Sayn had a dignified container made for the relic around 1220; a house-shaped shrine, the roof and side windows of which were inset with cut rock crystal.

The abbey church houses four important tombs: the larger-than-life tomb figure of Count Henry III (1247 – the replica erected in Sayn is significant because the original state of the medieval high grave was reproduced here); the tomb of Hildgard von Sierck (1435-1489 – she was married to Count Gerlach von Isenburg-Grenzau); the tomb of Baron Johann Philipp von Reiffenberg (1646-1722) and his wife Maria Margaretha von Hoheneck (members of the Reiffenberg family had come to Sayn from Oberreifenberg in the 16th century); and the grave monument of Friedrich vom Stein and his wife Fye Voß von Diebach (from the first half of the 15th century – the Steins were burghers of the Sayn counts).

A Stumm brothers’ organ was completed and set up in the west gallery in the abbey church in 1778. It was not until 1996/97 that Orgelbau Klais, the Bonn-based organ builder company, restored it to the condition originally conceived by the Stumm brothers.


Sayn Abbey
Abteistraße 132
56170 Bendorf
Tel.: +49 (0) 2622 2746

Homepage Sayn Abbey

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