Kloster Wienhausen 3

Wienhausen Abbey

Wienhausen Abbey or Convent (German: Kloster Wienhausen) near Wietze in Lower Saxony, Germany, is a community of Evangelical Lutheran women, which until the Reformation was a Cistercian nunnery. The abbey owns significant artworks and artifacts, including a collection of tapestries and the earliest surviving example of a type of eyeglasses.


The abbey was established in Wienhausen, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the town of Celle, on the bank of the Aller, in or about 1230 by Agnes von Landsberg, daughter-in-law of Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria. According to the Wienhausen town chronicle, this was the relocation of a monastic foundation made 10 years previously on a site at Nienhagen several kilometers away, which was moved because it had been built on marshland.

In 1233 the foundation of the nunnery here was officially confirmed by Konrad II of Riesenberg, bishop of Hildesheim, who transferred to the new abbey the archdeaconry church that had stood in Wienhausen since the mid 11th century, and the tithes of several villages. The nuns lived according to the Cistercian rule[1] although it is unclear to what extent they were ever formally part of the Cistercian hierarchy.

In 1469 the abbey came under the influence of the reformist Windesheim Congregation and were obliged to tighten up their Cistercian practice; one side-effect of the reform was that the then abbess, Katharina von Hoya, was removed to another nunnery.

In the 16th century, Duke Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg enforced the Reformation in his duchy. Despite the opposition of the entire community, the nunnery was transformed from a Roman Catholic into a Lutheran Protestant establishment in 1531, after the Duke had broken the resistance of the community by the demolition of the provostry and most of the chapels in the church, and the confiscation of the provostry property, which formed a substantial part of the abbey's income. The destroyed buildings were rebuilt 19 years later (in about 1550) as half-timbered structures. In 1587, the first officially Protestant abbess was installed, and in 1616 the community stopped wearing Cistercian habits, although it had a reputation for secret leanings to Catholicism for many years afterwards.


Most of the historic buildings, in the style known as Brick Gothic, are well-preserved. East of the church are a water mill and the farm building. Directly north of the church and at right angles to it are the two conventual building ranges: one dates from the Middle Ages, while the one to the east is a post-Reformation half-timbered building of about 1550. Between them is a two-storey cloister, a Brick Gothic masterpiece.

The church consists of two parts: the original Romanesque 11th century church that belonged to the archdeaconry once based here, that predates the foundation of the nunnery, and originally had a tower that was demolished, in keeping with Cistercian practice, when the abbey was first established here; and a Gothic church built onto the west end of the earlier structure, which comprises the nuns' private chapel (Nonnenchor) on the upper floor and the strangers' church or pilgrims' hall (Pilgersaal) on the ground floor. The Romanesque and the Gothic parts of the building are today separated by a wooden partition wall and are used independently.

Completed in the 14th century, the nuns' chapel is remarkable even among Gothic places of worship for its intricate decorations. The ceiling and walls are completely covered with biblical images and ornaments, which portrayed, among other subjects, the Creation, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,and his reign in New Jerusalem. Several artifacts were discovered during a renovation in 1953, including the world's oldest preserved rivet spectacles which date back to the 14th or 15th century.[2][3]

The abbey is known for its collection of Gothic tapestries from the 14th and 15th centuries. Each year following Pentecost, the tapestries are on public display. Subjects include both Christian and secular themes, e.g. the legend of Tristan and Isolde, several saints' stories (including Saints Thomas, Anne and Elizabeth), as well as the Mirror of Human Salvation. The art treasures are maintained and displayed by the members of the community[1].

Today, with several other women's Lutheran religious houses in the area, collectively known as the Lüneburger Klöster, Wienhausen is under the administration of the Hanover Klosterkammer, a division of the Lower Saxony Department of Science and Culture.[4]


List of abbesses

name from until
Eveza 1230 1241
Benigna 1241 1243
Margaretha I 1243 1245
Elisabeth I von Wenden 1245 1270
Elisabeth II 1270 1286
Gerburg 1286 1295
Germod 1295 1301
Margaretha II von Schöningen 1301 1318
Margaretha III Bock 1318 1319
Luthgard I 1319 1325
Margaretha IV 1325 1328
Luthgard II von Braunschweig 1328 1338
Jutta von Braunschweig 1338 1343
Luthgard III von Delmenhorst 1343 1359
Elisabeth III von Braunschweig 1359 1386
Mechthild von Sachsen[5] 1386 1405
Olgard von Marenholz 1405 1422
Katharina von Hoya 1422 1469
Susanna Poltstock 1470 1501
Katharina II von Remstede 1501 1549
Dorothea Spörken 1549 1565
Anna von Langeln 1565 1587
Katharina von Langeln 1587 1609
Christina Havekost 1609 1644
Anna von Hohnhorst 1644 1670
Margaretha Walters 1670 1679
Anna Katharina von Wehlse 1679 1685
Anna Engel Maria von Garmsen 1685 1723
Anna Maria von Honhorst 1723 1755
Maria Anna Christiana von der Wense 1756 1767
Sophia Charlotte von Hohnhorst 1767 1788
Margarete Dorothee von Taube 1788 1793
Marie Veronica von Pufendorf 1793 1816
Margarete Dorothee Luise von Vogt 1816 1820
Justine Frederike Werner 1821 1825
Luise Sophie Juliane Eleonore Ritmeier 1825 1865
Wilhelmine Fischer 1865 1881
Jenny Kern 1881 1920
Marie Deneke 1920 1926
Maria Brandis 1927 1934
Bertha Mühry 1934 1950
Luise Fredrichs 1951 1978
Ruth Eckhardt 1978 1982
Hedwig Thierfelder 1982 1989
Mechtild von Döhren 1990 1998
Renate von Randow 1998




This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

External links

Coordinates: 52°34′50.66″N 10°11′6.1″E / 52.5807389°N 10.185028°E / 52.5807389; 10.185028