The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


25 Oct 2010
  Walkenried - From Monastery to Museum

I have too many photos in my files. When I posted those pictures from odd angles a few weeks ago, I added one from Walkenried monastery and realised I had never introduced you to the place. So here we go.

Walkenried was founded as Cistercian monastery by Countess Adelheid of Clettenberg in 1127, member of one of the smaller and more obscure noble families in the Harz area.

(Remains of the choir against the autumn sky)

The Cistercians were an enclosed order which means they had to stay within the confines of the land belonging to the monastery. Other orders, like for example Benedictines and Franciscans, enjoyed more freedom of movement. Cistercians were a fairly new order that started in Citeaux / Burgundy in 1098 out of the Benedictine rule which they still fowllowed in a purified version. Adelheid had met them in Kamp at the lower Rhine. She invited some monks to move to the Harz foothills and offered them a suitable piece of land, sufficiently distant from settlements, with water access and chances of agricultural development. A first convent moved in and started building the first church on the grounds, in the older Romanesque style. They got additional money from Emperor Lothar of Süpplingenburg (the one who founded the church in Königslutter), and in 1137, Pope Innocenz II officially confirmed the foundation.

The white monks (as they were called because of their white habits) started to drain the swamps along the southern Harz to gain arable land, got involved in mining in the Harz mountains that are rich in silver and other ore, and also in financial transactions. Their possessions - fields, mines, forests and charcoal kilns - grew during the next two centuries and extended outside the Harz area. More than a hundred monks and two hundred lay brothers worked on Walkenried lands in the 13th century.

It was one of the foremost tasks of the Cistercians to cultivate lands and establish an infrastructure in hence 'wild' areas. They had special knowledge in techniques like draining swamps and improving soil for the growth of corn, or the breeding of farm animals. Though the monks did a lot of work themselves, the also employed lay servants.

View from the dormitory into the cloister yard
(The reflections are due to the glass of the dormitory windows)

Walkenried became one of the richest and politically important Cistercian monasteries. Heidenreich of Walkenried became abbot of Morimond, one of the four Citeaux daughter foundations in 1202. Duke Heinrich the Lion spent some time in the monastery to recover from a riding accident (1194) and his son, Emperor Otto IV, received the sacrament of the extreme unction from the hands of the Abbot of Walkenried as he lay dying in Harzburg Castle in 1218.

View from the main nave to the ruins of the choir

The timeline on the official website mentions a meeting of 53 Cistercian abbots under the leadership of Abbot Heidenreich and Emperor Otto IV in 1209. Too bad nothing is mentioned of the reason for that meeting, but it surely underlines the importance of Walkenried. Heidenreich initiated the building of a new church in the early Gothic style, an endeavour that was financially supported by Otto.

The new building followed a layout taken from Morimond, a three nave basilica with five bays in the main nave. The eastern part was used for service since 1253, but the entire church would only be finished in 1290. With a length of 90 metres it was one of the largest sacral buildings in northern Germany at that time. The original choir was replaced by an equilateral polygon in the 14th century - some of it is left today.

The double cloister

The enclosure (the cloister with the rooms above, like dormitory, library etc.) was finished in 1330. It is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic cloisters in Germany with an unusual double-naved northern wing where the gross grain vaults are supported by an additional row of pillars. This part of the cloister is today used as concert hall.

The decline of the monastery began in the 14th century with a crisis of the Harz mines, plague and other problems. The monastery was attacked during the Peasant War in 1525, though the monks had fled and taken most of the valuables and manuscripts with them. But the crossing vault was badly damaged and the church could no longer be used. When the monks returned, they changed the chapter house into a church.

Chapter house

The few remaining monks converted to Protestantism in 1546 and the church was used as quarry. The enclosure housed a Latin school since 1556, and most of the lands were sold or pawned out.

The counts of Hohnstein took over the administration of the monastery in 1578 until the line died out in 1593 and Walkenried fell to the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. An interesting tidbit is that the father of the last count, one Volkmar Wolf of Hohnstein was married to Agnes of Everstein, descendant of the family we have met in Kugelsburg Castle.

(Another shot of the remains of the choir)

Some basic renovations took place in the 19th century to prevent the ruins from tumbling into a heap of debris. The remains of the choir and and the southern nave still made for a picturesque view, and people in the 19th century loved that.

The remains of the church and the enclosure that was still in decent condition have been preserved and renovated since 1977, when the monastery was taken over by the Foundation Braunschweigischer Kulturbesitz. Part of the choir polygon had to be rebuilt to prevent further decline in 1988, and the cloister got glass windows. Archaeological digs showed some foundations of the older Romanesque church.

Today the buildings are still used. The chapter house is a Protestant church, concerts take place in the cloister since 1984, and a new museum about the Cistercians and about the history of Walkenried monastery opened in the rooms above the cloister in 2006. The museum won a few prizes for innovative presentation of history - and rightfully so; the hour we spent there wasn't enough to do it justice, so it's on the Have to Go There Again-list.
 
Comments:
Wow, what a lovely, lovely place (and a great blue sky too!) I especially like the chapter house.
 
Very impressive, especially that the buildings are still in use after 900 years. Countess Adelheid might have been pleased about that.
 
What a beautiful building!
 
What a beautiful site! I wonder if the statue pictured on the official website Timeline page is of Countess Adelheid?
 
Thank you, everyone.

Carla, yes I think she would be pleased.

Annis, good question. Have to try and find out.
 
And you are right of course...I NEVER tire of them. Though they DO tend to blend in together...
 
Stag, I can't blame you for mixing them up. It's sometimes difficult to tell a bunch of churches apart if you only have photos to go by.

Visiting them in real is different; there's always a particular atmosphere to a place, for those who can feel it.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


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King David and the Civil War, Part 2

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Alexander of Argyll
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Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


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Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

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The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


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Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


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Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


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Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

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The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

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King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Roman History

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The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
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Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Miscellaneous Events

The Legend of Alaric's Burial

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History and Literature

The Weimar Classicism
The Weimar Classicism - Introduction

Theodor Fontane
Short Biography of Theodor Fontane
Fontane Ballads, translated by me
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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