Arizona State University

Scholars fret about fate of 'holy grail' German abbey books

It was filthy, cramped and in major disarray, but when art historian Eva Lindqvist Sandgren entered the library in Altomuenster Abbey, off-limits to all but the German monastery's nuns for more than five centuries, she immediately knew she was looking at a major treasure.

The dusty shelves held at least 500 books, by her estimate, including precious illuminated manuscripts from the 16th century, chants used by the uniquely women-led Bridgettine Order and processionals bursting with colorful religious and ornamental decoration in their margins.

Unlike most Bridgettine libraries, the tomes had survived the Protestant Reformation, the 30 Years War and Germany's...

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