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Eppenberg Charterhouse

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Felsberg De Merian Hassiae

Felsberg (centre), Heiligenberg (right, to the front), Eppenberg Charterhouse (right, to the back): engraving from Topographia Germaniae by Matthäus Merian the younger, 1655

Eppenberg Charterhouse was a Carthusian monastery, or charterhouse, now a ruin, situated on the Eppenberg next to the Heiligenberg in Gensungen, now part of Felsberg in Hesse, Germany.


Eppenberg Priory

In about 1217 the Premonstratensian canonesses of Ahnaberg Priory near Kassel were permitted to establish a subsidiary house on the Eppenberg, on the shoulder of the Heiligenberg. This foundation was confirmed on 3 March 1219 by Siegfried II, Archbishop of Mainz, who took it under his protection. The total number of canonesses in Ahnaberg was set at 40, and the remainder moved to the newly established daughter house at Eppenberg.

The relationship of the new priory to its mother house was clearly not without friction. In 1223 the provost and community of Ahnaberg re-stated their rights in Eppenberg. On 17 February 1224 Archbishop Siegfried once more confirmed the rights of Ahnaberg Priory. But in 1250, for reasons now unknown, the prioress of Eppenberg openly rejected the rights of Ahnaberg, and Eppenberg became an independent house, now, like Ahnaberg, under the supervision and protection of Spieskappel Abbey.

The newly independent priory rapidly flourished, mostly because of gifts and acquisitions of land in the nearby villages of Altenbrunslar, Böddiger, Besse and Gensungen. In 1269 Eppenberg was able to undertake the foundation of a daughter house at Homberg an der Efze. Growing prosperity however led to a decline in morals and discipline, and eventually to prodigality, mismanagement and economic collapse.


Landgrave Ludwig I of Hesse, greatly offended at the conditions in the priory, the neglected estates and buildings, and the loss of discipline, rigour and order, obtained a Papal bull in 1438 which dissolved the Premonstratensian priory and replaced it by a charterhouse, to be settled by monks from Erfurt, who moved in in 1440. The monastery was re-dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and was generously and extensively rebuilt. In 1471 Landgrave Ludwig II of Hesse gave the monastery the estate of Wimmenhof (now Domäne Mittelhof) and the nearby, half-derelict castle Burg Heiligenberg, with the one condition that the monks should pray weekly in the castle chapel for his salvation.


In 1527, in the wake of the Synod of Homberg of 1526, which introduced the Reformation in Hesse, the monastery was dissolved and taken over by Landgrave Philip I of Hesse for use as a hunting lodge and farm. In about 1610 Landgrave Maurice of Hesse-Kassel had the hunting lodge remodelled on the pattern of Italian Renaissance. The buildings and lands were maintained from the nearby Mittelhof.

In the Thirty Years' War the building complex was mostly destroyed, and afterwards became a subsidiary building and sheep-farm to the state-owned Domäne Mittelhof. In the Seven Year's War (1756-63) French troops were holed up here for seven weeks after losing the Battle of Grebenstein; two dugouts on the slopes of the Heiligenberg remain as a reminder of their camp.

Present day

In 1957 the principal building was struck by lightning and burnt down, leaving only the bare walls. The buildings and the monastery church fell increasingly into dereliction, until in 1984 the Felsberg Beekepers' Asssociation took on the task of restoring and caring for the site. In the former gatehouse they established a highly-regarded museum of bee-keeping. Of the monastery itself the only remains are those of the church.

The area round the charterhouse site and the ruins themselves were declared a nature reserve in December 1988.

Sources / External links

Coordinates: 51°08′39″N 9°27′51″E / 51.1441°N 9.4642°E / 51.1441; 9.4642

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