At 220 feet high and more than 300 feet long, Weingarten Basilica is the largest baroque church in Germany. It was built as the church of one of the oldest and most venerable convents in the country, founded in 1056 by the wife of Guelph IV. The Guelph dynasty ruled large areas of Upper Swabia, and generations of family members lie buried in the church. The majestic edifice was renowned because of its little vial said to contain drops of Christ's blood. First mentioned
by Charlemagne, the vial passed to the convent in 1094, entrusted to its safekeeping by the Guelph queen Juditha, sister-in-law of William the Conqueror. Weingarten then became one of Germany's foremost pilgrimage sites. To this day, on the day after Ascension Thursday, the anniversary of the day the vial of Christ's blood was entrusted to the convent, a huge procession of pilgrims wends its way to the basilica. It's well worth seeing the procession, which is headed by nearly 3,000 horsemen (many local farmers breed horses just for this occasion). The basilica was decorated by leading early-18th-century German and Austrian artists: stuccowork by Franz Schmuzer, ceiling frescoes by Cosmas Damian Asam, and a Donato Frisoni altar—one of the most breathtakingly ornate in Europe, with nearly 80-foot-high towers on either side. The organ, installed by Josef Gabler between 1737 and 1750, is among the largest in the country.