The Lost Fort

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


7 Feb 2021
  A Treasure in the Evening Twilight – The Romanesque Church in Gehrden / Brakel

This one was a chance find. My father and I returned from a longer tour, hit a diversion route which confused the GPS until I got out the good old road map and brought us back on track. We drove through several villages west of the Weser river in the fading light of an autumn evening and came across this beauty.
View to the St.Peter and Paul Church in Gehrden

The chapter church St.Peter and Paul in Gehrden / Brakel near Höxter at the Weser dates back to the 12th century, though the Romanesque apse has been replaced with a larger rectangular choir in the 17th century, and the interior is Baroque, which may be the reason that it is less well known than the Weser abbeys of Bursfelde and Lippoldsberg which were built at the same time and retained their architecture unaltered.
The Romanesque St.Peter and Paul Church in Gehrden

We don't know much about the early history of the church. A date confirmed is the gift of land and obviously some material goods as well, which the Lord Heinrich of Gehrden made to the Benedictine nuns who lived on the Iburg. The foundation of the monastery was sanctioned by Bishop Bernhard I of Oesede, and in 1142, the nuns moved into the new monastery.

The monastery flourished in the centuries to come; in 1474 it joined the Congregation of Bursfelde, a congregation of west- and central German benedictine monasteries of both genders who reformed the somewhat diluted Benedictine practice. The congregation became a considerable political power in the 15th-16th centuries.
Interior, view to the Baroque altar

The monastery got a Baroque makeover between 1693- 1711 (for alterations in the architecture of the church see below). The monastery was secularised in 1810 and came into possession of Jérome, one of Napoleon's brothers, who sold it to his Master of Ceremony, Count Wilhelm of Bocholz. Bocholz had the cloister and living quarters dismantled and built a three winged palace in the classicistic style in its place, together with a park. Today, the palace buildings are used as hotel.
The church seen from a different angle

The church was built about 1180 which means that the nuns must have used another church during the years between their arrival and the completion of the present building; probably some village church now lost, or an interim timber building.

The building was constructed with irregular ashlars of locally quarried limestone. It is a three naved basilica with a transept; the side naves are half the height and width of the main nave. The ceiling is constructed of groined vaults. Originally, all three naves ended in a semicircular apse; but today only the ones of the side naves remain.

The pillars are in the Lower Saxon style, rectangular with small round columns in the corners that share the plinth, but got each their own, individual capital.
The tower

The western tower was added in the beginning of the 13th century, some 50 years after the church itself. The stapled gable and the windows already show elements of the Gothic style.
The church from the east, with the the new choir

The Romanesque apse of the main nave was broken down and replaced with a rectangular, much larger choir in 1667. A gallery for the nuns was added in 1675 (now the organ loft) – obviously the church was not only used by the nuns but also by the inhabitants of Gehrden at the time, so that a separation proved neccesary. There was a direct connection between the gallery and the nuns' dormitory.

The choir windows and those of the transept have been replaced with larger windows with a pseudo-Gothic tracery, to allow more light to illuminate the Baroque altar.
Detail of the interior

The coloured windows in the side nave date to 1920; at the time the church underwent some repairs like stabilisation of the vaults and some of the pillars.

In the 1960ies, remains of Romanesque frescoes have been discovered, but those are mostly hiding behind the organ; and it was too dark to look for them anyway.
Interior, another angle

The church must have had problems with groundwater at some point. During a renovation in the 1950ies it turned out that the floor had been filled up with debris up to 70 centimetres (though I could not find out at which time during the church's history) so that the plinths of the pillars were no longer visible. The rubble has been removed, which also improved the acoustics of the church – those Mediaeval masons knew what they did even in that respect.
One of the classicistic palace buildings

The area around the church and the palace – the former cloister, refectory, dormitory etc. – once had been a garden for vegetables and herbs, including an orchard and a bleach green, as well as a fish pond; fish being an important part of the nuns' diet.

Count Wilhelm of Bocholz turned the site into a park in the English style in the early 19th century. This park still exists.
Another palace wing, now a hotel

We came home after dark and pretty hungry, but that detour was worth it.
 
Comments:
Fein, was Ihr alles so entdeckt. Da sieht man mal wieder, dass sich mitunter auch Umwege lohnen.
Einen lieben Gruß von der Silberdistel
 
Liebe Gabriele,

dein Blog ist eine wahre Fundgrube an geschichtlichem Wissen...

Leben in einem Kloster... auf Dauer, nein danke, doch soweit ich weiß, war das eine beliebte Methode für wohlhabende Frauen, unliebsamen Ehe-Arrangements zu entkommen...
Mal eine Woche in einem Kloster zu verbringen, ohne Kontakt zu Außenwelt, ohne Internet und Telefon, Fernsehen und Gespräche. Das würde mich reizen. Würde ich es als angenehm und beruhigend empfinden? Oder wird mich das Fehlen an äußeren Reizen in den Wahnsinn und in die Rastlosigkeit treiben? Mal sehen, vielleicht mache ich das mal... :-)

Liebe Grüße
Kasia
 
Liebe Kasia,

vielen Dank für das nette Kompliment.

Das Leben im Kloster war sicher für viele Frauen eine Alternative, zumal es zum einen moderne Konzepte wie Selbsbestimmung im Mittelalter nicht gab und zum anderen die Frömmigkeit insgesamt weit größer war als heute. Aber es wurden viele auch schon als Mädchen ins Kloster gegeben und hatten nie die Chance, eine andere Welt und ein anderes Lebenskonzept kennenzulernen. Waren sie unglücklich? Die meisten wohl nicht, da es die ihnen von Gott vorgegebene Rolle war, aber ich denke schon, dass einige der Mädchen später anders entschieden hätten.

Wenn man im Kloster aufstieg, war das durchaus eine Karriereoption; übrigens auch für Männer, jüngere Söhne beispielsweise. Mathilde (Tochter Kaisers Otto I), die erste Äbtissin von Quedlinburg, die als Elfjährige geweiht wurde und während der Abwesenheit des Vaters in Italien später die Reichsgeschäfte führte (967), hatte durch ihre Position eine Macht, die sie als Ehefrau eines Herrschers eines anderen Landes (die Gruppe, aus der die Heiratskandidaten gestammt hätten) wohl nicht gehabt hätte.

Es gibt Klöster, die solche Aufenthalte anbieten, aber meist mit Einbindung in das religiöse Leben und Gruppenveranstaltungen (z.B. Drübeck). Das evangelische Kloster Bursfelde beispielsweise bietet von April bis Oktober Übernachtungen im Rahmen von Pilgerreisen an, auch für Einzelpersonen und ohne Gruppenveranstaltungen (aber an den Gottesdiensten sollte man schon teilnehmen als Pilfer ;) ). Als totale, selbstbestimmte Auszeit könnten sich ein paar Übernachtungen in belgischen Beginenhöfen anbieten, etwas, das es in Deutschland nicht gibt.
____

English version about the part of women in monasteries:

Life in a convent was certainly an alternative for many women, especially since modern concepts such as self-determination did not exist in the Middle Ages and piety as a whole was far greater than it is today. But many were also given to the convent as girls and never had the chance to get to know a different world and a different concept of life. Were they unhappy? Most of them probably not, since it was the role given to them by God, but I do think that some of the girls would have chosen differently later.

If you rose in the convent, it was definitely a career option; for men as well, younger sons for example. Mathilde (daughter of Emperor Otto I), the first abbess of Quedlinburg, who was consecrated at age of eleven and later ran the imperial affairs during her father's absence in Italy (967), had a power by virtue of her position that she probably would not have had as the wife of a ruler of another country (the group from which the marriage candidates would have been chosen).



 
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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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The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
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Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors

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Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

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The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

House Welf and House Staufen
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

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Princes
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Duke Otto of Northeim
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Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

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The Marshals of Ebersburg
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The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

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Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
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The Star Wars


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Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

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Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

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King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Livonian Towns

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

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

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

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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