Altenberger Dom, Odenthal, Germany
In 1133, twelve monks and their abbot Berno from Morimond in Burgundy arrived on the site of today’s monastery. Count Adolf of Berg had offered them the castle of Berge, the former family residence, for the foundation of a new monastery. Even today, the site of this castle, formerly situated on a hill spur, can be discerned in the terrain roughly 400 m to the south-west of the church. Following an argument of Count Adolf of Berg with the Erzstift of Cologne in 1115, the Caste of Berge had been rebuilt on a new site: Schloss Burg on the Wupper. The old castle of Berge (hence the name “Altenberg” had lost its strategic signification and was given to the monks.

The old castle turned out to be unsuitable for a monastery, and the monks moved to the valley. The medieval monasteries of the Cistercians always kept their distance from existing settlements, but that doesn’t imply that they were cut off from civilization. A mere 2,5 km downstream was and still is the town of Odenthal, and even Cologne was less than a day’s ride distant.

After determining the building site the monks began with the construction of the first Romanesque abbey church. On March 3, 1259, in the fifth year of the babbot Giselher, the Counts Adolf IV of Berg and his brother Waltram IV of Limburg laid the foundation stone in Altenberg. The motives for the rebuilding of the original abbey church in the new Gothic style can only be surmised. Graf Adolf III of Berg having died without male issue, the Limburg branch of the family took over the county of Berg, and this family branch may have wished for representation within the political context by means of the Gothic rebuilding of the dynasty abbey in Altenberg. After stand stills in construction due to financial constraints the church was completed during a last building campaign from 1386 – 1400.

It was the Gothic building which fulfilled the function of representative burial site of the Counts of Berg. The first burials were executed as simple graves in the northern transept, the so-called Herzogenchor ((Dukes’ Choir). In time, the burials evolved into the representative memorial tombs.

Tombs of the Counts of Berg and their families:

1. Count Adolf II of Berg. D. 1152 (?), founder of the monastery, Count Everhard of Altena (son of the former?) and Conrad of Berg, d. 1313, provost at Cologne (after the demolition of the Romanesque church, 1313 at the earliest, transferred here)

2. Count Adolf III of berg, d. in the years 1160.

3. Count Adolf IV of Berg, d. 1259, and his spouse, Margareta of Hochstaden, d. 1314.

4. Duke Wilhelm II of Berg, d. 1408.

5. Duke Wilhelm IV of Berg, d. 1511, and his spouse Sybilla of Brandenburg, d. 1524.

6. Duke Adolf I of Berg, d. 1437.

7. Duke Gerhard II of Jülich and Berg, d. 1475

High Tombs of the Counts of Berg and their families:

8. Count Adolf VI of Berg, d. 1348.

9. Graf Gebhardt I of Jülich, d. 1360, and his spouse, Margarete of Berg and Ravensburg, d. 1389.

10. Count Wilhelm 1 of Berg, d. 1308, and his spouse, Irmgard of Kleve, d. 1319.

11. Archbishop Bruno III of Cologne, d. 1200 (High Tomb of ca. 1400).
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