Weihenstephan Hill

The St. Stephan church on the hill dates back to the early 8th century. When St. Corbinian arrived in Freising in 724, he established a cell at the site, which became the hub of his theological activities. In 843 the collegiate monastery of St. Stephan was formed by bishop Hitto, which was later destroyed by the Hungarians in 909, as was the nearby monastery St. Veit.

The first documented use of the name ‘Wihanstephan’ (Weihenstephan) can be found on a deed of donation to the two monasteries dating from 1003. St. Stephan was turned into the Benedictine monastery Weihenstephan by Bishop Egilbert in 1021 and remained so until German secularization in 1803.

Until the early 19th century, scientific education in Freising took place at Domberg (Cathedral Hill), also known as “Lehrberg” or “wisdom hill”, while Weihenstephan remained the site of the brewery – hence its nickname “Nährberg” or “nutrient hill”.

Chronology: Weihenstephan as a site for science and teaching

  • 1803  Founding of the “School of Agriculture” and the “Central Tree Nursery for the Electorate Weihenstephan”. First lecturer, Max Schönleutner
  • 1807  The Napoleonic Wars (1792 – 1815) force the closing of the school
  • 1822  Re-opening of the School of Agriculture in Schleissheim
  • 1852  Relocation of school to Weihenstephan
  • 1855  Founding of the Bavarian Agricultural Experiment Institute by Justus v. Liebig
  • 1895  Weihenstephan becomes the "Royal Bavarian Academy for Agriculture and Beer Brewing”
  • 1928 - 1930 The Weihenstephan Academy is incorporated into the Technical College of Munich (later to become the Technische Universität München or TUM)
  • 1970  Planned development of the campus, canteen and central auditorium buildings with practical training facilities
  • 1998  Relocation of the TUM Department of Biology to Weihenstephan
  • 1999  The Forestry Department of the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich now becomes part of the TUM
  • 2000  Establishment of the Wissenschaftszentrum für Ernährung, Landnutzung und Umwelt (TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan): the four departments on campus are united to become a single school
  • 2020  Transformation into the TUM School of Life Sciences (SoLS). This makes the TUM School of Life Sciences the first of seven TUM schools with a modern governance structure.

The French Bishop Corbinian first arrived in Freising in 724 on his way to Rome. According to legend, a hungry bear ate his mule. Having, now, no animal to carry his pack, the bishop tamed the bear, which then carried Corbinian’s baggage to Rome, where it was released. Freising’s coat of arms depicts the bear with Corbinian’s pack.

Corbinian was the first bishop of Freising and is considered the founder of the diocese – though the diocese and bishop’s see were only officially established by Boniface in 739. Saint Corbinian is still patron saint of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Asam Hall is one of the last remaining rooms of the old monastery and served as a dining hall for guests in former times. The hall’s fresco and elaborate stucco date from the period 1705 – 1710, when the room was restructured. The stucco, depicting shells, angel heads and palm leaves, is the work of artist Nikolaus Liechtenfurtner, who also decorated the Maximilian chapel in Freising’s cathedral.

Its ceiling fresco was painted by Georg Asam, father of the famous Asam brothers. It is possible that the young Cosmas Damian Asam worked on it together with his father. The ceiling frescos consist of a large middle painting and four smaller corner paintings, depicting scenes from the life of St. Benedict. As an act of self-punishment, St. Benedict is said to have rolled in thorns, which then turned into roses.

Max Schönleutner was the first teacher at the agricultural school after its establishment in 1803. Schönleutner's teaching methods sought to convey theoretical knowledge in combination with hands-on experience. In the wake of the Napoleonic wars and subsequent conscription of numerous farmers to the cause, there were no longer enough students to keep the school alive. In 1807, the school was forced to close its doors. Schönleutner became administrator of the crown lands of Schleißheim and Fürstenried, as well as the Weihenstephan brewery.

Schönleutner was a pioneer of scientific cultivation in Germany. He was convinced that the application of scientific expertise alone could foster agricultural progress. Among other things, he introduced crop rotation, bred different seed types, planted fruit trees along the roads and encouraged new technical agricultural developments. Moreover, he published several reports and books on the management of the crown lands he administered. Due to his early death in 1831, resulting from a stroke, he was not able to complete some of the work he had planned.

Corbinian’s fountain is located on the site of the former Corbinian chapel, or Asam Chapel, as it is sometimes called, having been decorated by the Asam brothers in 1720. Asam chapel, the second chapel to have stood at this location, was demolished in the wake of German Secularization in 1803. The first chapel was built at this pilgrimage site in 1608 on the spot where a spring is said to have emanated from the earth. According to legend, St. Corbinian awakened the spring during one of his visits to the St. Stephan church. To help some thirsty craftsmen, Corbinian thrust his stick into the earth – and the spring gushed forth. The spring water is supposed to heal a variety of ailments, among others fever, leprosy, respiratory and eye problems.

In 1715 a hospital with two wards was built over the chapel – and spring – at the same level as the monastery gardens. According to legend, the spring ran dry when Corbinian’s bones were moved to Mays and buried in the church of St. Valentine after his death in 730. Apparently the spring only re-appeared after Bishop Arbeo returned the mortal remains of Corbinian to Freising in 765. The ruins of the Asam Chapel are the only remaining church ruins of Secularization in Bavaria.

The TUM School of Life Sciences today

Some 70 professors currently teach and research at the TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan. Today the “green” campus represents a unique combination of tradition and modernity, of local and global. Hundreds of scientists perform interdisciplinary research to meet the existential challenges of food provision across the globe, diminishing raw materials and climate change. Here, thousands of students prepare for the careers of the future.