Gandersheim Abbey
Gandersheim Abbey is a former house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in the present town of Bad Gandersheim
Bad Gandersheim
Bad Gandersheim is a town in southern Lower Saxony, Germany, located in the district of Northeim. , it had a population 10,572.Bad Gandersheim has many half-timbered houses and is located on the German Framework Road .- Geography :...

 in Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It was founded in 852 by Duke Liudolf of Saxony
Liudolf, Duke of Saxony
Liudolf was a Saxon count, son of one count Brun and his wife Gisla von Verla ; later authors called him duke of the Eastern Saxons and count of Eastphalia...

, progenitor of the Liudolfing or Ottonian dynasty, whose rich endowments ensured its stability and prosperity.

The "Imperial free secular foundation of Gandersheim" (Kaiserlich freie weltliche Reichsstift Gandersheim), as it was officially known from the 13th century to its dissolution in 1810, was a community of the unmarried daughters of the high nobility, leading a godly life but not under monastic vows, which is the meaning of the word "secular" in the title.


In the collegiate church
Collegiate church
In Christianity, a collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons; a non-monastic, or "secular" community of clergy, organised as a self-governing corporate body, which may be presided over by a dean or provost...

 the original Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 church building is still visible, with Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 extensions. It is a cruciform basilica with two towers on the westwork
A westwork is the monumental, west-facing entrance section of a Carolingian, Ottonian, or Romanesque church. The exterior consists of multiple stories between two towers. The interior includes an entrance vestibule, a chapel, and a series of galleries overlooking the nave...

, consisting of a flat-roofed nave and two vaulted side-aisles. The transept has a square crossing with more or less square arms, with a square choir to the east. Beneath the crossing choir is a hall-crypt. The westwork consist of two towers and a connecting two-storey block; it originally had in addition a projecting entrance hall, also on two storeys, the "paradise". The present church building, which has been subject to restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries, was begun in about 1100 and dedicated in 1168. Remains of the previous building are incorporated into the present structure.


Gandersheim Abbey was a proprietary foundation by Duke Liudolf of Saxony and his wife Oda, who during a pilgrimage to Rome in 846 obtained the permission of Pope Sergius II
Pope Sergius II
Pope Sergius II was Pope from January 844 – January 24, 847.On the death of Gregory IV the archdeacon John was proclaimed pope by popular acclamation, while the nobility elected Sergius, a Roman of noble birth. The opposition was suppressed, with Sergius intervening to save John's life...

 for the new establishment and also the relics of the sainted former popes Anastasius
Pope Anastasius I
Pope Saint Anastasius I, born in Rome the son of Maximus, was pope from November 27, 399 to 401.He condemned the writings of the Alexandrian theologian Origen shortly after their translation into Latin. He fought against these writings throughout his papacy and in 400 he called a council to discuss...

 and Innocent
Pope Innocent I
-Biography:He was, according to his biographer in the Liber Pontificalis, the son of a man called Innocens of Albano; but according to his contemporary Jerome, his father was Pope Anastasius I , whom he was called by the unanimous voice of the clergy and laity to succeed -Biography:He was,...

, who are still the patron saints of the abbey church. The community settled first at Brunshausen. The first abbess was Hathumod, a daughter of Liudolf, as were the two succeeding abbesses. In 856 construction began on the church at Gandersheim and in 881 Bishop Wigbert dedicated it to the Saints Anastasius, Innocent and John the Baptist, after which the community moved in.

Already in 877 King Louis the Younger
Louis the Younger
Louis the Younger , sometimes Louis III, was the second eldest of the three sons of Louis the German and Emma. He succeeded his father as the King of Saxony on 28 August 876 and his elder brother Carloman as King of Bavaria from 880...

 placed the abbey under the protection of the Empire, which gave it extensive independence. In 919 King Henry I
Henry I of Germany
Henry I the Fowler was the Duke of Saxony from 912 and German king from 919 until his death. First of the Ottonian Dynasty of German kings and emperors, he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia...

 granted it Reichsunmittelbarkeit. The close connection to the Empire meant that the abbey was obliged to provide accommodation to the German kings on their travels, and numerous royal visits are recorded.

Middle Ages

The establishment of the abbey by the founder of the Liudolfingers gave it especial importance during the Ottonian period. Until the foundation of Quedlinburg Abbey
Quedlinburg Abbey
Quedlinburg Abbey was a house of secular canonesses 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...

 in 936, Gandersheim was among the most important Ottonian family institutions, and its church was one of the Ottonian burial places.

The canonesses, commonly known as Stiftsdamen, were allowed private property and as they had taken no vows, were free at any time to leave the abbey. The Ottonian and Salian kings and their entourages often stayed in Gandersheim, and the canonesses were by no means remote from the world. Apart from the memorial masses for the founding family, one of the main duties of the canonesses was the education of the daughters of the nobility (who were not obliged to become canonesses themselves).

One of the abbey's best-known canonesses was Roswitha of Gandersheim, famous as the first female German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 poet. During a period of approximately 20 years — from about 950 to 970 or so — she wrote historical poetry, spiritual pieces and dramas, and the Gesta Ottonis, expressing her veneration of Otto I.

In the Great Gandersheim Conflict, as it is called, originating from the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries, the Bishop of Hildesheim asserted claims over the abbey and its estates, which were located in an area where the boundaries between the Bishopric of Hildesheim and the Archbishop of Mainz were unclear. The pressure from Hildesheim moved the abbey increasingly into the sphere of Mainz. The situation was only eventually resolved by a privilege of Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

 of 22 June 1206 freeing the abbey once and or all from all claims of Hildesheim, and granting the abbesses the title of Imperial princesses (Reichsfürstinnen).

With the death of the last Salian king in 1125 the importance of the abbey began to diminish and it came more and more under the influence of the local territorial rulers. The Welfs in particular attempted until the dissolution of the abbey to gain control over it. The abbey were not able to establish their own territorial lordship. No later than the mid-1270s, the Dukes of Brunswick succeeded in obtaining the Vogtei
Vogtei could be:* The residenz or domain of a Vogt* Vogtei , a municipal association in the Unstrut-Hainich district of Thuringia, Germany....

of the abbey and in the late 13th century built a castle in Gandersheim. Another way to gain influence over the abbey was to place relatives in the abbess's chair. This took the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg rather longer to achieve, but they were at last successful in 1402 with the election of their first family abbess, Sophia III, Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg.


The Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 was first introduced into the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in 1542 when troops of the Schmalkaldic League
Schmalkaldic League
The Schmalkaldic League was a defensive alliance of Lutheran princes within the Holy Roman Empire during the mid-16th century. Although originally started for religious motives soon after the start of the Protestant Reformation, its members eventually intended for the League to replace the Holy...

 occupied it. The Reformers ignored the abbey's Reichsunmittelbarkeit and ordained the use of Lutheran church services, the introduction of which however the canonesses were able to postpone on account of the absence of the prioress (Dekanin) who was governing the abbey on behalf of the seven-year-old abbess. The townspeople of Gandersheim had received the Reformation enthusiastically and on 13 July 1543 undertook an iconoclastic attack on the abbey church, where they destroyed images and altars. Henry V
Henry V, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Henry , Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, called the Younger, was Prince of Wolfenbüttel from 1514 until his death...

, changed his mind however and the principality changed back to Roman Catholicism. He made good at least some of the damages, and the church was re-dedicated.

In 1568 the Reformation was finally implemented under Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Julius of Brunswick-Lüneburg , Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, was prince of Wolfenbüttel from 1568 until his death....

. The abbey and its dependencies at Brunshausen and Clus
Clus Abbey
Clus Abbey was an abbey near Bad Gandersheim in Lower Saxony. It was a daughter-house of Gandersheim Abbey, having been founded in 1127 by Agnes, Abbess of Gandersheim, niece of the Emperor Henry IV, and was part of the Cluniac Reform movement.-History:In 1433 Abbot Johann Dederoth also became...

 became Lutheran, and the Marienkloster and the Franciscan friary were suppressed. A period now began of conflict between the abbess and the duke as both tried to extend their spheres of influence, a conflict which was not settled until 1593, when a treaty finally settled the points of disagreement.


Under the abbesses Henriette Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Elisabeth Ernestine of Saxe-Meiningen there began a new golden age of the abbey. The abbesses promoted arts and sciences. Elisabeth Ernestine Antonie had the summer castle at Brunshausen built, as well as the Baroque wing of the abbey with the Kaisers' Hall (Kaisersaal), and refurbished the church.


In 1802, faced with imminent secularisation
German Mediatisation
The German Mediatisation was the series of mediatisations and secularisations that occurred in Germany between 1795 and 1814, during the latter part of the era of the French Revolution and then the Napoleonic Era....

, the abbey surrendered their Reichsunmittelbarkeit to the sovereignty of the Dukes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, thus ending the centuries-long struggle with the Welfs.

During the French occupation Gandersheim belonged to the Kingdom of Westphalia
Kingdom of Westphalia
The Kingdom of Westphalia was a new country of 2.6 million Germans that existed from 1807-1813. It included of territory in Hesse and other parts of present-day Germany. While formally independent, it was a vassal state of the First French Empire, ruled by Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte...

. The abbess, who had fled, was permitted by Napoleon to return to the abbey and to live there until her death on 10 March 1810, after which there were no further elections for a successor. The abbey was dissolved, its assets were taken by the Westphalian crown and the remaining occupants pensioned off.

Even after the end of the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1813 the Duchy of Brunswick did not restore the abbey.

Present day

The abbey is now used by the Evangelical-Lutheran parochial group of St. Anastasius and St. Innocent. During restoration works in 1997 there came to light some of the old church treasure: relics, textiles and reliquaries. These have been on display since March 2006.

List of abbesses

  • Hathumod 852–74 (daughter of Liudolf, the founder)
  • Gerberga I 874–96/7 (daughter of Liudolf, the founder)
  • Christina I 896/7–919 (daughter of Liudolf, the founder)
  • Liudgard I 919–23
  • Hrotsuit (Rotsuita) 923–33
  • Wendelgard (Windilgardis, Wildigrat) 933–49
  • Gerberga II 949–1001
  • Sophie I
    Sophia I, Abbess of Gandersheim
    Sophia I , also known as Sophie I, was Abbess of Gandersheim and an important kingmaker of the medieval Germany.- Early life :...

  • Adelheid I
    Adelheid I, Abbess of Quedlinburg
    Adelaide I was Abbess of Quedlinburg and Gandersheim, as well as highly influential kingmaker of medieval Germany.- Early life :...

      1039–43 (daughter of Emperor Otto II
    Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
    Otto II , called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.-Early years and co-ruler with Otto I:...

  • Beatrice I  1044–61 (daughter of Emperor Henry III
    Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor
    Henry III , called the Black or the Pious, was a member of the Salian Dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors...

  • Adelheid II
    Adelheid II, Abbess of Quedlinburg
    Adelaide II was Abbess of Gandersheim and Quedlinburg.Adelaide was born in the autumn of 1045 as the first child of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Agnes of Poitou, his second wife. In 1061, she was elected successor to her older half-sister, Beatrice, as Imperial Abbess of Gandersheim...

      1061–96 (daughter of Emperor Henry III
    Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor
    Henry III , called the Black or the Pious, was a member of the Salian Dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors...

  • Adelheid III 1096–1104
  • Frederun (Vrederun) 1104–11
  • Agnes I 1111–25
  • Bertha I 1126–30
  • Liutgard II 1130/31–52
  • Adelheid IV, daughter of Fredrick II, Count of Sommerschenburg, and Countess Lutgard of Stade
    Lutgard of Salzwedel
    Lutgard of Salzwedel or Liutgard/Luitgard of Stade, was a Danish Queen consort, spouse of King Eric III of Denmark.-Life:...

  • Adelheid V (of Thuringia) 1184–96
  • Mechthild I (of Wohldenberg) 1196–1223
  • Bertha II 1223–52
  • Margarete I (of Plesse
    Plesse Castle
    Plesse Castle is situated to the north of Göttingen in Germany, close to the village of Bovenden.The castle was transferred in 1015 from the private estate of Meinwerk, bishop of Paderborn to the city of Paderborn. Since 1150 it is the seat of the noble lords of Plesse, who named themselves for the...

    ) 1253–1305
  • Mechthild II (of Wohldenberg) 1305–16
  • Sophia II (of Büren
    Büren, Westphalia
    Büren is a municipality in the district of Paderborn, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.-Geography:Büren is situated on the river Alme, approx. 20 km south-west of Paderborn and approx...

    ) 1317–31
  • Jutta (Judith) (of Schwalenberg) 1331–57
  • Ermegardis (of Schwalenberg) 1357–58
  • Lutgard III (of Hammerstein
    Hammerstein is a municipality on the Rhine River in the district of Neuwied in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany....

    ) 1359–1402
  • Sophia III, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg
    The Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , or more properly Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, was an historical ducal state from the late Middle Ages until the late Early Modern era within the North-Western domains of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, in what is now northern Germany...

  • Agnes II of Brunswick-Grubenhagen
    Agnes II of Brunswick-Grubenhagen
    Agnes II von Braunschweig-Grubenhagen was from 1412 to 1439 abbess of Gandersheim Abbey.- Life :She was a daughter of Eric I, Duke of Brunswick-Grubenhagen. She was about six years old when she was elected abbess of Gandersheim Abbey...

  • Elisabeth of Dorstadt
    Dorstadt is a municipality in the district of Wolfenbüttel, in Lower Saxony, Germany....

  • Elisabeth (Ilse), Duchess of Brunswick-Grubenhagen 1439–52
  • Sophia IV, Duchess of Brunswick-Grubenhagen (1452) 1467–85
  • Walburg (of Spiegelberg
    Spiegelberg is a town in the district of Rems-Murr in Baden-Württemberg in Germany.The name of the town refers to 18th century glass production on the hills, with mirror polishing being done in the valley of the Lauter river....

    ), rival abbess 1452–67
  • Agnes III, Princess of Anhalt
    Anhalt was a sovereign county in Germany, located between the Harz Mountains and the river Elbe in Middle Germany. It now forms part of the state of Saxony-Anhalt.- Dukes of Anhalt :...

  • Gertrud, Countess of Regenstein-Blankenburg  1504–31
  • Katharina, Countess of Hohenstein
    Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein was a county between Hesse-Darmstadt and Westphalia. It was formed by the 1657 partition of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Wittgenstein and raised from a county to principality in 1801. It belonged from 1806 to 1815 to the Grand Duchy of Hesse and after 1816 to Prussia. The capital...

    , rival abbess 1504–36
  • Maria, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel  1532–39
  • Clara, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1539–47
  • Magdalena of Chlum 1547–77
  • Margareta of Chlum 1577–89
  • Elisabeth, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, rival abbess 1577–82
  • Margarete of Warberg
    Warberg is a municipality in the district of Helmstedt, in Lower Saxony, Germany....

    , rival abbess 1582–87
  • Anna Erica (Erich), Countess of Waldeck
    -Places:* Waldeck Castle, a medieval fortress/castle in Germany* Waldeck, Hesse, a town in Hesse* Waldeck or Waldeck-Pyrmont, a principality in the German Empire and German Confederation, and a state in the Weimar Republic, named after the above castle and town* Waldeck, Bavaria, a village in the...

  • Dorothea Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1611–26
  • Catharina Elisabeth, Countess of Oldenburg
    Oldenburg is an independent city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated in the western part of the state between the cities of Bremen and Groningen, Netherlands, at the Hunte river. It has a population of 160,279 which makes it the fourth biggest city in Lower Saxony after Hanover, Braunschweig...

  • Maria Sabina, Countess of Solms
    Solms is a town west of Wetzlar in the Lahn-Dill-Kreis, Hesse, Germany.In the constituent community of Burgsolms once stood the ancestral castle of the Counts and Princes of Solms, whose main lines were Solms-Braunfels, with their seat in Braunfels, and Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, with their seat in...

  • Dorothea Hedwig, Princess of Schleswig-Holstein
    Holstein-Gottorp or Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp is the historiographical name, as well as contemporary shorthand name, for the parts of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein that were ruled by the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp. Other parts of the duchies were ruled by the kings of Denmark. The...

  • Christine Sophie, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1678–81
  • Christina II, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
    Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1348, when Albert II of Mecklenburg and his younger brother John were raised to Dukes of Mecklenburg by King Charles IV...

  • Henriette Christine, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1693–1712
  • Marie Elisabeth, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin 1712–13
  • Elisabeth Ernestine Antonie, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen
    The Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine line of the Wettin dynasty, located in the southwest of the present-day German state of Thuringia....

  • Therese Natalie, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1767–78
  • Auguste Dorothea, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel 1778–1810

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.