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Poor Clares' Priory, Copenhagen

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The Poor Clares' Priory, Copenhagen, was a short-lived house of the Poor Clares located in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The Poor Clares (Danish: Klarisserne) was the Franciscan Order for women. It was named for [Saint Clare]] (1194-1253) who was the co-founder of the Order of Poor Ladies with Saint Francis of Assisi. They followed the rule of St Francis regarding chastity, poverty, and obedience.

The Poor Clares first arrived in Denmark in 1249. An important convent was established at Roskilde, the capital of Denmark at the time.

In 1497 King Hans I and Queen Christina founded the convent in Copenhagen with a gift of a farm in the north part of the city near the city wall. The old name for that part of the city was Rosengård which was the name of an even earlier farm. In 1498 the Queen made donation of 40 Rhenish Guilders for construction of the convent. The convent was completed and consecrated on St Clare's Day, August 11 1505 with great ceremony. The convent consisted of a dormitory, refectory, church, hospital, cellars and places for lay sisters and a priest to stay.


The convent prospered in the early years, but as the Lutherans gained influence, the daily search for food and alms for the poor began to dry up. Many Danes felt that the mendicant orders, nicknamed the 'beggar monks and nuns' were an additional burden in addition to the regular tithes and fees paid to sustain the church. In 1527 a former priest assigned to the convent wrote to King Christian II describing a chest the prioress of the convent gave him to distribute to the Poor Clares in Odense, who were suffering dire poverty. The prioress had asked him to convey the money in secret because she was afraid if the amount became public knowledge the order would be held up to scorn and ridicule. He encouraged Christian II to return to Denmark to take in hand the care of the Poor Clares who had been his mother's 'particular and elect' daughters.

The city fathers passed a law that forbade the nuns or their agents from collecting food or alms on the street which quickly impoverished the convent. By January 1532 conditions had grown so bad that the 'nursing sisters' and the 'provisioner sisters' had abandoned the convent. The Franciscan monks had been expelled from their friary leaving the sisters virtually without a way to sustain themselves spiritually or temporally.

A few of the Franciscan monks were permitted to gather alms for the Poor Clares, but they could not solicit alms any closer than 40 miles from the city. The transport of large quantities of food back to Copenhagen proved to be so difficult that they attempted to sell the provisions for money. The Grayfriars were by that time generally hated, and few would purchase anything from them. On May 25 1535 the head of the Franciscan Order wrote to the prioress informing her that either they would have to abandon the priory or they would have to break their rule and accept cash money for their sustenance.

Denmark became Lutheran in October 1536 with the adoption of the Lutheran Articles. All Catholic church property and buildings became crown property. The convent was closed and the nuns either went to other locations or became ordinary Danes. Much of the priory was converted into shops and residences for the poor. The largest building eventually became a royal mint. Several city fires, the worst in 1728, destroyed the complex and no remnants exist of the Poor Clares' Priory today.


  • Nielsen, Dr. Oluf, 1877: Kjøbenhavn i Middelalderen. Copenhagen: G. E. C. Gads Forlag; text available online at Kjøbenhavn i Middelalderen (kap. XVI: Klostre og Hospitaler) (Danish)

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