Imperial Abbey of Quedlinburg
Castle and abbey of Quedlinburg
|Historical era||Middle Ages, Early modern|
• Abbey founded
• Turned Protestant
• Incorporated into
Province of Saxony
|Today part of||Germany|
Quedlinburg Abbey (German : Stift Quedlinburg or Reichsstift Quedlinburg) was a house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in Quedlinburg in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was founded in 936 on the initiative of Saint Mathilda, the widow of the East Frankish King Henry the Fowler, as his memorial. For many centuries it and its abbesses enjoyed great prestige and influence.
Quedlinburg Abbey was an Imperial Estate and one of the approximately forty self-ruling Imperial Abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire. It was disestablished in 1802/3.
Today, the mostly Romanesque buildings are a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The church, known as Stiftskirche St. Servatius, is used by the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Germany.
Quedlinburg Abbey was founded on the castle hill of Quedlinburg in the present Saxony-Anhalt in 936 by King Otto I, at the request of his mother Queen Mathilda, later canonised as Saint Mathilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial.Henry was buried here, as was Mathilda herself.
The "Kaiserlich freie weltliche Reichsstift Quedlinburg" ("Free secular Imperial abbey of Quedlinburg"), as its full style was until its dissolution in 1802, consisted of a proprietary church of the Imperial family to which was attached a college of secular canonesses (Stiftsdamen), a community of the unmarried daughters of the greater nobility and royalty leading a godly life.The greatest and most prominent foundations of this sort were Essen Abbey, Gandersheim Abbey, Gernrode Abbey, Cologne Abbey and Herford Abbey, in the last of which the young Queen Mathilda had been brought up by her grandmother, the abbess. Through the efforts of Queen Mathilda, Quedlinburg Abbey became one of the scholastic centers of Western Europe.
Thanks to its Imperial connections the new foundation attracted rich endowments and was soon a wealthy and thriving community. Ecclesiastically, the abbess was exempt from the jurisdiction of her diocesan, the Bishop of Halberstadt, and subject to no superior except the Pope.The Bishops of Halberstadt were constantly engaged in dispute with the abbesses, as they claimed to have spiritual jurisdiction over the abbey in virtue of subjection of women to men.
The abbess, as head of an Imperial Abbey, had seat and voice at the Imperial Diet. She sat on the Bench of the Prelates of the Rhineland of the Ecclesiastical Bench of the College of Ruling Princes.
During the Reformation the abbey became Protestant, under Abbess Anna II (Countess of Stolberg).
In the course of the German Mediatisation of 1802 and 1803 the Imperial Abbey was secularized and its territory, properties and subjects were absorbed by the Kingdom of Prussia as the Principality of Quedlinburg. Between 1807 and 1813 it belonged to the short-lived French puppet state Kingdom of Westphalia.
In the first decades after the foundation the community was favoured by numerous gifts of land, particularly from the Imperial family. All later clearances (i.e., of previously uncultivated land) in the immediate vicinity were also theirs, but in addition they acquired far more distant possessions, such as Soltau, 170 kilometres away, given by Otto I in 936.
Among other property the abbey also received the following:
The abbey also received numerous gifts of precious books, manuscripts and liturgical items, which were stored in the treasury. The Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission describes the treasure as "the most valuable medieval church treasure" next to Aachen and Halberstadt.
At the end of World War II a number of the most valuable items were stolen by an American soldier, Joe Tom Meador, including the reliquary of Saint Servatius, from the time of Charles the Bald; the 9th century Samuhel Evangeliary (Samuhel Evangeliar); the printed St. Wipert's Evangeliary (Evangelistar aus St Wiperti) of 1513; and a liturgical ivory comb. The stolen items reappeared in 1987 and after much litigation were returned to the church in 1993.
The abbey is also known as the home of the "Annals of Quedlinburg" (Latin: Saxonicae Annales Quedlinburgenses, German : Quedlinburger Annalen), begun in 1008 and finished in 1030 in the abbey, quite possibly by a female writer. Quedlinburg was well suited for gathering information on current political affairs, given its connections to the Imperial family and the proximity of Magdeburg, an Imperial centre. The "Annals" are mostly concerned with the history of the Holy Roman Empire.
|Collegiate Church of St. Servatius|
Stiftskirche St. Servatii Quedlinburg
|Website||Website of the congregation|
|Founded||1070 (current building)|
|Founder(s)|| Otto I |
|Consecrated||1129 (current building)|
|Heritage designation||UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Region||Europe and North America|
The collegiate church or Stiftskirche St. Servatius, is sometimes colloquially referred to in German as Quedlinburger Dom (Quedlinburg Cathedral), although it was never the seat of a bishop. It is dedicated to Saint Servatius of Tongeren and Saint Denis and is a significant Romanesque building.
Construction of the three-nave basilica on the remains of three predecessor buildings began sometime before 997 and finished in 1021. The immediate predecessor building where Henry I was initially buried in 936 in front of the main altar had been a small three-aisled church with narrow side aisles. In 961 the remains of St Servatius were brought from Maastricht to Quedlinburg. 86–90:
The basilica was consecrated in 997. A fire in 1070 caused severe damage. The building was rebuilt in its previous form, and was rededicated in 1129 in the presence of Lothar III. The church contains the architectural feature known as the niedersächsischer Stützenwechsel .
Later alterations included a new choir (c. 1320), the southern wall of the transept (1571) and the southern wall of the nave (1708). 90:
Significant renovation work was done in 1863-82. The western towers were rebuilt. The pulpit was also added at that time and the crypt was given a new front. In 1936-9 changes were made to the choir to make it better suited as a Nazi shrine (also see below under burials). The Gothic structure was internally "returned" to Romanesque style. The church was rededicated in 1945 and restoration work on some part of the church has since been ongoing to this day. 90:
It is used by the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Germany.
Since 1994, the church has been a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO. It is also a designated stop on the tourist route Romanesque Road.
The graves of Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler), King of East Francia and his wife Mathilda are located in the crypt of the church. Heinrich's grave only contains a battered empty stone coffin; the whereabouts of the king's remains and time and circumstances of their disappearance are unknown. Under the Nazis, Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS, came to Quedlinburg several times to hold a ceremony in the crypt on the anniversary of the King's death, 2 July. This started in 1936, 1,000 years after Henry died. Himmler considered him to be the "first German King" and declared his tomb a site of pilgrimage for Germans. During archaeological excavations, the remains of the king were allegedly found and, in 1937, reinterred in a new sarcophagus.After the war, this sarcophagus and its content, a rather clumsy fake, were removed; remains are on display in the museum.
Matilda of Ringelheim, also known as Saint Matilda, was a Saxon noblewoman. Due to her marriage to Henry I in 909, she became the first Ottonian queen. Her eldest son, Otto I, restored the Holy Roman Empire in 962. Mathilde founded several spiritual institutions and women's convents. She was considered to be extremely pious, righteous and charitable. Mathilde’s two hagiographical biographies and The Deeds of the Saxons serve as authoritative sources about her life and work.
Quedlinburg is a town situated just north of the Harz mountains, in the district of Harz in the west of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. In 1994, the castle, church and old town were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Gernrode is a historic town and former municipality in the Harz District, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Since 1 January 2014, it has been part of Quedlinburg. It was the seat of the former Verwaltungsgemeinschaft of Gernrode/Harz.
Essen Abbey was a monastery of secular canonesses for women of high nobility in Essen, Germany. It was founded about 845 by the Saxon Altfrid, later Bishop of Hildesheim and saint, near a royal estate called Astnidhi, which later gave its name to the religious house and to the town. The first abbess was Altfrid's kinswoman, Gerswit.
Memleben Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Memleben on the Unstrut river, today part of the Kaiserpfalz municipality in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The convent, now ruined, was established by Emperor Otto II and his consort Theophanu about 979.
Gandersheim Abbey is a former house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in the present town of Bad Gandersheim in Lower Saxony, Germany. It was founded in 852 by Duke Liudolf of Saxony, progenitor of the Liudolfing or Ottonian dynasty, whose rich endowments ensured its stability and prosperity.
Gernrode Abbey was a house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in Gernrode in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Gernrode was founded in 959 and was disestablished in the seventeenth century. In the Middle Ages the abbey was an Imperial abbey had the status of imperial immediacy and an Imperial State. In the early modern period, the abbey was part of the Upper Saxon Circle.
Herford Abbey was the oldest women's religious house in the Duchy of Saxony. It was founded as a house of secular canonesses in 789, initially in Müdehorst by a nobleman called Waltger, who moved it in about 800 onto the lands of his estate Herivurth which stood at the crossing of a number of important roads and fords over the Aa and the Werre. The present city of Herford grew up on this site around the abbey.
Saint Altfrid was a leading figure in Germany in the ninth century. A Benedictine monk, he became Bishop of Hildesheim, and founded Essen Abbey. He was also a close royal adviser to the East Frankish King Louis the German.
Beatrice I, also known as Beatrice of Franconia, was Abbess of Gandersheim Abbey from 1043 and Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg Abbey from 1044 until her death.
Adelaide II, a member of the Salian dynasty, was Abbess of Gandersheim from 1061 and Abbess of Quedlinburg from 1063 until her death.
Adelaide I, a member of the royal Ottonian dynasty was the second Princess-abbess of Quedlinburg from 999, and Abbess of Gernrode from 1014, and Abbess of Gandersheim from 1039 until her death, as well as a highly influential kingmaker of medieval Germany.
Matilda, also known as Mathilda and Mathilde, was a German regent, and the first Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg. She served as regent of Germany for her brother during his absence in 967, and as regent during the minority of her nephew from 984.
Sophia I, a member of the royal Ottonian dynasty, was Abbess of Gandersheim from 1002, and from 1011 also Abbess of Essen. The daughter of Emperor Otto II and his consort Theophanu, she was an important kingmaker in medieval Germany.
Drübeck Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery for nuns in Drübeck on the northern edge of the Harz in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. Today it is a conference venue for the Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony with an educational-theological institute and pastoral centre.
Hedwig of Saxony was Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg from 1458 until her death.
Saint Cyriakus is a medieval church in Gernrode, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is one of the few surviving examples of Ottonian architecture, built in 959/960-965 by Margrave Gero, although it was restored in the 19th century. From its foundation until 1614 Saint Cyriakus was the collegiate church of the abbey of Gernrode, also founded by Margrave Gero. The church and the abbey became Protestant in the mid-sixteenth century, and the church is now used by the Protestant community of Gernrode.
The Cross of Otto and Mathilde, Otto-Mathilda Cross, or First Cross of Mathilde is a medieval crux gemmata processional cross in the Essen Cathedral Treasury. It was created in the late tenth century and was used on high holidays until recently. It is named after the two persons who appear on the enamel plaque below Christ: Otto I, Duke of Swabia and Bavaria and his sister, Mathilde, the abbess of the Essen Abbey. They were grandchildren of the emperor Otto I and favourites of their uncle, Otto II. The cross is one of the items which demonstrate the very close relationship between the Liudolfing royal house and Essen Abbey. Mathilde became Abbess of Essen in 973 and her brother died in 982, so the cross is assumed to have been made between those dates, or a year or two later if it had a memorial function for Otto. Like other objects in Essen made under the patronage of Mathilde, the location of the goldsmith's workshop is uncertain, but as well as Essen itself, Cologne has often been suggested, and the enamel plaque may have been made separately in Trier.
Mathilde was Abbess of Essen Abbey from 973 to her death. She was one of the most important abbesses in the history of Essen. She was responsible for the abbey, for its buildings, its precious relics, liturgical vessels and manuscripts, its political contacts, and for commissioning translations and overseeing education. In the unreliable list of Essen Abbesses from 1672, she is listed as the second Abbess Mathilde and as a result, she is sometimes called "Mathilde II" to distinguish her from the earlier abbess of the same name, who is meant to have governed Essen Abbey from 907 to 910 but whose existence is disputed.
The abbey Vilich is a former monastery. Today it is used as a retiring home. The facility is named after the canonized Adelaide of Vilich, who lived from 970 to 1015. After her death, a cult formed around her and the convent. Vilich is located in North Rhine-Westphalia.
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