Ettal Abbey, Bavaria, Germany -- This place has had a tough history and been invaded several times including by the Swedes in 1632 during the Thirty Years War when the Holy Roman Empire lost 20% of its population. This stubby column commemorates the Swede "visit." But the French caused more problems. Germany had been so fragmented that by 1797 it consisted of over 300 independent states -- many led by bishops and abbots. In that year, the troublemaker named Napoleon appropriated all of the Holy Roman Empire west of the Rhine. The emperor then had to compensate the nobles who lost their land -- which he did in a process called "secularization." What was owned by a bishop (or in Ettal's case by an abbot) was now given to a noble who put it to uses that would generate revenue for him. Deprived of the farmland that made them self-sufficient, the Benedictines left Ettal for a century.

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