Quedlinburg Abbey

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Imperial Abbey of Quedlinburg
Reichsstift Quedlinburg
Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire
Duchy of Saxony
936–1803


Coat of arms

Castle and monastery of Quedlinburg
Capital Quedlinburg
Government Elective principality
Historical era Middle Ages, Early modern
 -  Abbey founded 936
 -  Upper Saxon Circle 1500
 -  Turned Protestant 1539
 -  Secularised to Prussia 1803
 -  Incorporated into
    Province of Saxony

1816
Today part of  Germany

Quedlinburg Abbey (German: Stift Quedlinburg or Reichsstift Quedlinburg) was a house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was founded in 936 on the initiative of Saint Mathilda, the widow of Henry the Fowler, as his memorial.[1] For many centuries it enjoyed great prestige and influence.

Quedlinburg Abbey was an Imperial Estate and one of the forty-odd self-ruling Imperial Abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire.

History[edit]

Former collegiate church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, now a Lutheran church

Quedlinburg Abbey was founded on the castle hill of Quedlinburg in the present Saxony-Anhalt in 936 by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, later canonised as Saint Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial.[1] Henry was buried here, as was Matilda herself.[2]

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.[3] 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 Matilda had been brought up by her grandmother, the abbess.

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.[4] 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, has 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.[5]

During the Reformation the abbey became Protestant, under Abbess Anna II (Countess of Stolberg).

In the course of the German Mediatisation of 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 Kingdom of Westphalia.

Church[edit]

The church of St. Servatius[6] is dedicated to Saint Servatius of Tongeren and Saint Denis and is a significant Romanesque building. Construction of the three-naved basilica on the remains of three predecessor buildings began sometime before 997 and finished in 1021. 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.[7]

Endowments[edit]

Lands[edit]

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:

  • In 956 the church of Saint Michael next to the cave of Volkmarskeller (near Blankenburg am Harz) was granted them by Otto I (later refounded by abbess Beatrix II as Michaelstein Abbey)
  • In 974 the locality of Duderstadt in south-eastern Lower Saxony was acquired, which the abbey owned for 262 years. The village of Breitenfeld bei Duderstadt belonged to the abbey until its dissolution.[8]
  • On 3 July 993 a deed of gift was executed by Emperor Otto III granting ownership of Potsdam, of which place this is the first documentary evidence. The deed marks a turning point in the struggle to win back territory east of the Elbe, from which the East Frankish lordship had been driven back by the Slav Uprising of 983.
  • In 999 the provincia of Gera came into the hands of the abbey. In 1209 the abbess appointed the Vögte of Weida as administrators of the territory.
  • The gifts of Emperor Otto I: 936, 25 estates; 937, two estates; 944, one estate; 946, two estates; 954, one estate; 956, 11 estates; 961, 7 estates.
  • The gifts of Emperor Otto II: 974, estates places; 979, one estate; 985, five estates.
  • The gifts of Emperor Otto III: 992, three estates; 993, two estates; 995, four estates; 999, one estate.
  • Later acquisitions totalled more than 150 estates.[9]

Treasury[edit]

The abbey also received numerous gifts of precious books, manuscripts and liturgical items, which were stored in the treasury. At the end of World War II a number of the most valuable items were looted by an American soldier, Joe Tom Meador (born 30 June 1916, died 1 February 1980), 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 abbey in 1993.[10]

Annals[edit]

Main article: Annals of Quedlinburg

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.[11]

Abbesses[edit]

See List of princess-abbesses of Quedlinburg.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The "Later Life" of Queen Mathilda Page 99
  2. ^ The "Later Life" of Queen Mathilda Page 126
  3. ^ The term "secular" ("weltlich") refers to the fact that they took no formal religious vows and were bound to no monastic order. In the Middle Ages and the early modern period these Frauenstifte were important facilities for the care of unmarried and widowed noblewomen. The Stiftsdamen or "canonesses" were often learned, and skilled at artistic works
  4. ^ The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911
  5. ^ G. Benecke, Society and Politics in Germany, 1500-1750, Routledge & Kegan Paul and University of Toronto Press, London, Toronto and Buffalo, 1974, Appendix III.
  6. ^ sometimes in German called Quedlinburger Dom - Quedlinburg Cathedral, although it was never the seat of a bishop
  7. ^ "Lower Saxon support alternation", by which is meant that after every two columns is placed a pillar
  8. ^ cf. the deeds of grant in the digitised municipal archive of Duderstadt at: [1]
  9. ^ cf. the presentation by Manfred Mehl: Die Münzen des Stiftes Quedlinburg. Hamburg, 2006, pp. 42-49.
  10. ^ see Theft of medieval art from Quedlinburg
  11. ^ Thietmar, David Warner, 2001: Ottonian Germany, p.43

Sources[edit]

  • Kremer, Marita, 1924. Die Personal- und Amtsdaten der Äbtissinen des Stifts Quedlinburg bis zum Jahre 1574. Leipzig (= Phil. Diss. Univ. Leipzig 1924).
  • Wilberg, Max, 1906, repr. 1987. Regententabellen: Eine Zusammenstellung der Herrscher von Ländern aller Erdteile bis zum Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts. Original edition Frankfurt/Oder, reproduced in facsimile by Transpress VEB Verlag für Vehrkehrswesen, Berlin. ISBN 3-344-00094-2

References[edit]

  • Gerchow, Jan (ed.), 2003: Essen und die sächsischen Frauenstifte im Frühmittelalter. Essener Forschungen zum Frauenstift 2. Essen.
  • Giese, Martina (ed.), 2004: Die Annales Quedlinburgenses. Hanover: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum In Usum Scholarum Separatim Editi, vol. 72.
  • Heydenreuter, Reinhard, 1993: Kunstraub. Die Geschichte des Quedlinburger Stiftsschatzes. Munich.
  • Honan, William H., 1997: Treasure Hunt. A New York Times Reporter Tracks the Quedlinburg Hoard. New York.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°47′09″N 11°08′13″E / 51.7859444444°N 11.1368055556°E / 51.7859444444; 11.1368055556