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The abbey was founded in about 1170 by Wichmann von Seeburg, Archbishop of Magdeburg, possibly in order to prevent the territorial expansion southwards of the lords of Luckenwalde. The monastery was built in the marshes of the Nuthe by Cistercian monks from the short-lived monastery on the site of Burg Berge, otherwise Altenberg, in the Bergisches Land near Cologne. With huge effort they drained the land and turned it into productive ground.
The abbey soon assumed immense economic significance throughout the whole region. In 1285 it bought the town of Luckenwalde and eleven surrounding villages. At its high point, in 1307, the abbey territory measured almost 300 km². For more distant trade the abbey kept town properties in Berlin, Wittenberg and Jüterbog, among others: the present Jüterbog Town Museum is in the former townhouse of the Abbot of Zinna.
After a lengthy period of decline, monastic life in the abbey came to an end in 1553 with the Reformation.
In 1764, in an effort to bring economic revival to the area, Frederick the Great established a new town for weavers from Upper Lusatia on the site (on which some of the monastic buildings still remain), which since 1902 has been called Kloster Zinna after the abbey and now forms part of Jüterbog. The success of the economic revival was extremely modest, but there is still a statue to Frederick the Great in the market place.
Of the monastic complex there still remain the abbey church, the brewhouse and the customs house, as well as some fragments of the cloisters and the guesthouse. Of the former pilgrimage site on the nearby Golmberg, however, there remains only a cross.
The plain abbey church is an early Gothic pillared basilica with a cruciform groundplan. In the late Gothic period vaulting was introduced into most parts of the structure. Of especial musical interest is the organ by Wilhelm Baer, dating from 1850/51, which on guided tours it is possible to walk through.
In the building known as the "New Abbey" is the local museum, with medieval frescoes and a model of the original monastery complex as it would have been in 1170, as well as displays relating to the abbey's history up to c. 1550 and the development of the weavers' colony. In the old customs house there are displays of traditional weaving techniques and live demonstrations. In the old brewhouse the sweet herb liqueur "Klosterbruder" is still produced, in which process the visitor is encouraged to participate.
The buildings and the attractive landscape are also used in spring and summer for concerts, and in co-operation with Lehnin Abbey the medieval music events of the Musica Mediaevalis concert series. There is also a traditional New Year's concert by candlelight in the church - at natural temperature.
- (German) Unofficial Website on Kloster Zinna
- (German) Tourismusverband Teltow-Fläming. E.V.
- (German) Kloster Zinna summer music events
- (German) Kloster Zinna, Brandenburg Info