How often has something been justified by, declared to be, or blessed as ‘in the name of’ some cause or other? How can it be that opposing armies and the use of weapons are ever ‘in the name of…’? This is a common thread in the history of different faiths. Good was created but evil was committed and all ‘in the name of…’ This thread is also found in the history of the Premonstratensian Abbey at Wadgassen. The abbey was built in the 12th century on unfertile, desolate moorland, which later evolved into the most powerful religious community in the Saarland. The history of the abbey records quite astounding achievements under the motto desertum florebit quasi lilium (‘the desert will bloom like a lily’); but also the harsh treatment of delinquents. The order had its own school, in which children were taught the seven liberal arts (which included music as well as geography and astronomy), but the poor were left to starve outside the abbey walls and were only allowed to eat from the members’ leftovers on feast days. The medieval witch trials demanded their pound of flesh, and one group that fell victim were ecstatic dancers who moved wildly to music—which was interpreted as the devil’s work. The result: a show trial that sentenced the dancers to death by fire. All in the name of…“
The year is 1789: Abbot Bordier is in the tenth year of his command. He does not yet know that he is to be the last abbot of an almost 700-year tradition. Not far from the abbey is the French border, which has long been making itself felt with the sound of gunfire, and the brothers continue to keep a nervous eye on it. The first portents of the French Revolution loom, but no one wants to believe it—that is, until the French pound the door down, storm the abbey and come right into the brothers’ chambers. In a blind fury, all the pipes of the abbey organ are torn out, icons beheaded with swords and brothers beaten death while numerous buildings are set on fire. The abbey church is in flames. A frantic and desperate escape begins. Abbot Bordier and a handful of brothers make their getaway via the River Saar, adjacent to the abbey, to the neighbouring village of Bous. They survive, but their life—the Premonstratensian abbey—is destroyed. While they flee towards Prague and the sanctuary of the Strahov Monastery, the abbey at Wadgassen is razed to the ground and becomes a stone quarry. The desert blooms once more, however. A few short decades later, a glasswork arises from the foundations of the abbey. As peace returns to the region, it brings jobs and a new vision for its people.