Frenswegen Monastery

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Main view of the Frenswegen Monastery meeting place

The Frenswegen monastery was founded in 1394 as the Augustinian canons of Sankt Marienwolde . It is located in Frenswegen , surrounded by some old farms, on the northwestern edge of the Lower Saxony town of Nordhorn in the county of Bentheim . Frenswegen was the first German monastery to join the Windesheim congregation in 1400 . On October 25, 1809, the monastery was closed and the last canon moved out in 1815. In 1974 an ecumenical meeting place was set up in the monastery building .

Name and patronage

The name of Frenswegen Abbey, which is common today, after the field name, was not used until the 16th century.

The monastery was named "Monasterium nemoris beatae Maria virginis" in the Latin sources and "Marienwalde" or "Marienwolde" in the German sources; other names were "Vrendeswede", "Grove of the Holy Virgin Mary" or "Paradise of Westphalia". The official name is St. Marienwolde after its patroness, the Virgin Mary .


The monastery is located near the town of Nordhorn in the former peasantry Frelstrup in the area of the yard Einolding.


Middle Ages to the Thirty Years War

Everhard van Eze gave the impetus to found the monastery. He was a doctor in Almelo , was ordained a priest after the death of his wife and pastor of Almelo. In Almelo he founded a community characterized by the Devotio moderna , which clergy and lay people joined, including his chaplain Heinrich von Marklo, known as Krull, who later became pastor of Schüttorf . On January 17, 1394, Everhard van Eze, Heinrich Krull, the Schüttorf citizen Johann Monike and the citizen Rembert van Goer, who came from Zwolle in the Netherlands , bought the Eynolding inheritance in the parish of Nordhorn and in the Frenstorpe peasantry from Count Bernhard I of Bentheim ( Frensdorf) on the Frendeswege (Frenswegen). There they founded a monastery according to the rules of St. Augustine .

In 1396, Count Bernhard I von Bentheim transferred two peasant heirs to the monastery. In the years from 1396 to 1498, the monastery acquired around 80 peasant heirs through purchase or donations. The monastery received 1400 by order of Pope Boniface IX. the connection to the Windesheim congregation and was thus directly subordinate to the Pope. In 1436 the foundation stone for the monastery church was laid. This sandstone and brick church was consecrated in 1445. For the year 1451 24 canons, three conversers (lay brothers), four clerics , ten donations , 57 craftsmen and agriculturally employed lay brothers, six gentlemen from Frenswegen outside and 33 farm workers working in the wider area are attested.

During the Reformation , the Count's house in Bentheim changed to the Lutheran denomination and subsequently caused great difficulties for the monastery convent, which remained Catholic. In 1560 the count forbade the convent to accept new novices. The monastery brothers acquired the castle in Nordhorn in 1578 and relocated there because of the unsafe situation during the war in 1580. The author Detlef Wilkens uses these processes as a template for his novel "The Time of the Islands". Count Arnold II . von Bentheim issued a new, reformed church order in 1588. In 1595 pictures were stolen from the empty monastery building and the furnishings were badly damaged. A number of relics were brought to Münster from the demolished altars of the monastery church.

At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War the convention consisted of only one member.

Until secularization

Kolkbrücke and monastery café

The rebuilding and renovation of the monastery buildings began in 1641, the convent returned to the monastery building in Frenswegen after the end of the war in 1655. In 1692 the renovation of the monastery building began.

The monastery now experienced a second heyday with the support of Prince-Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen . Under his influence, Count Ernst Wilhelm von Bentheim also converted to Catholicism in 1668. As early as 1700, the convent again consisted of seven priests, two conversations and 19 people working abroad (Expositi). The surroundings of the monastery were also structurally changed a lot. In the vicinity of the monastery several buildings were built, some of which are still standing today, as well as a grain watermill. An extensive system of avenues was laid out, in particular the avenue leading to the western front of the monastery, today's Fuchsweg. In 1719 the convent settled around eleven wage workers on the Hovesaat Frenswegen.

The renovation work begun in 1692 ended in 1725. Two years later, in 1727, another building was erected on the cloister courtyard wall. In 1742, the entire system of the convent building was completed with the completion of the west facade. The complex existed in this form for around 140 years until the fire in 1878.

The convent survived the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763 and the French Revolutionary War from 1792 to 1802 unscathed. With the beginning of the Napoleonic War in 1803, France took possession of the county of Bentheim and the Windesheim congregation was dissolved.

Until the First World War

On May 5, 1804 joined Count Ludwig of Bentheim and Steinfurt with Emperor Napoleon I. called Treaty of Paris . With that the count was reinstated in the government of the county of Bentheim. He paid a transfer fee of 800,000 francs and took control of the Frenswegen monastery.

Baron Droste's application to send for admission to the monastery in Frenswegen failed in 1806 due to the Count's intentions to close the monastery. The count offered the members of the monastery pensions, free right of residence and free use of the gardens, fishing and hunting.

On August 4th of the same year, the Grand Duchy of Berg took over the County of Bentheim under the Grand Duke of Cleve and Berg, and the monastery was placed under the Landdrosten von Elverfeldt. Three days later, on August 7th, Count Westerholt overturned the Bentheim monastery rescission decision.

In 1808, the monastery consisted of eleven people and a French clergyman, all but one of whom were priests. The convent included 47 peasant heirs in the parishes of Schüttorf, Nordhorn, Veldhausen , Uelsen , Emlichheim , Ootmarsum (NL), Oldenzaal (NL) and, in the Münsterland, the Stuvenburg estate, Nordhorn Castle and the court estate near the monastery with 17 wage apartments.

Three years after the count's attempt to repeal the monastery was finally abolished by the government of the Grand Duchy of Berg. Rumors of the impending union of the County of Bentheim with the Kingdom of Holland raised hopes that Frenswegens would be reinstated by the Dutch king.

South wing with kitchen wing

When the Napoleonic War ended, the French sold the Frenswegen monastery along with the church and the entire court estate for 196,000 francs to a society of Mannists, whose main characters were Messrs. Van Lennep and Tencaten zu Almelo, before they left. The Neuenhauser pastor and Frensweger Canonicus Esseling received the order from Bishop Baron Spiegel zu Theseberg to distribute the sacred objects to other churches and to receive the relics from the altars. The parish priest at Nordhorn received the approval for the main altar, the organ, the Calvary, the flags, twelve benches, etc. From spring to autumn, individual farmers' heirs were sold. In November the Hanover government returned to the county after the French had withdrawn; on December 19 it declared invalid all laws in force since 1804 under enemy occupation. However, the abolition of the Frenswegen and Wietmarschen monasteries was not withdrawn. The pensions of the House of Frenswegen were set at 600 Dutch guilders .

East wing with a labyrinth garden

The last canon of the convent left the monastery in 1815 and the buildings were empty. In order to give up sovereign rights, the Kingdom of Hanover left the monastery buildings together with an area of ​​around 131 hectares around the monastery as well as hunting and fishing rights to the princely house of Bentheim and Steinfurt eight years later.

In spring 1824, the longtime turned overseer at the ironworks St. Michaelis in Bocholt, Johann dog to Prince Alexis of Bentheim and Steinfurt with the plan to set up an iron melt in the buildings of the monastery. In August 1825 a preliminary contract for the construction of this ironworks was signed. With the exception of the church, all parts of the building should be used. The construction of a dam on the Vechte failed due to the economic use of the Vechtegefälles.

Monastery ruins around 1910

A fire in the monastery library destroyed irreplaceable holdings in 1855. After numerous books had disappeared from the library in the previous years, the remaining stock was saved and brought to the domain chamber of the Prince of Bentheim and Steinfurt in Burgsteinfurt. The remnants of the library that were moved to the domain chamber in Burgsteinfurt were given away to the University of Strasbourg , where they are still located today.

During the Franco-German War of 1870/71, up to 450 French prisoners of war were interned in the monastery buildings . Seven prisoners who were buried near the monastery near the church at that time died from a leaf infection. A memorial was built there in the 1960s, which is popularly known as the French Cemetery.

Fires in 1878 and 1881 destroy part of the monastery building and the monastery church. In 1905 two apartments for customs officers were prepared in the abandoned monastery building.

The ruins of the monastery church, which had been damaged by lightning, were torn down in 1910–1911. A modern church was built at the same location from 1994 to 1996.

The two world wars

South wing and Heuerhaus

The poet Erika Lichte , daughter of the royal district forester Georg Carl Ernst Lichte, who lived here, was born in Frenswegen in 1900 and spent her youth here until 1925. During this time she wrote numerous poems and verses.

In 1915, sixty Russian prisoners of war were temporarily quartered in the building, who were used as harvest workers in the farming communities of Frenswegen, Frensdorf, Bookholt and Altendorf. In 1918 a customs office with employees from the Reich Finance Administration was set up in the monastery building. After the end of the war, four customs apartments were prepared. At the same time, the princely custodian and several textile workers from the textile companies in Nordhorn lived in the building.

Cloister in the west wing

In 1936, a women's labor service camp was set up in the south wing . During the National Socialist era , the Hitler Youth took advantage of the house and called it "Hans-Queitsch-Heim". Meanwhile, the prince, the Heimatverein, the city of Nordhorn and the county administration of Grafschaft Bentheim were looking for ways to use the entire building. However, suggestions for use as a museum, youth hostel or hotel were rejected again.

Post-war until today

After the end of the Second World War , British occupation troops were housed in the monastery building for three months. After the troops had withdrawn, the city of Nordhorn made a larger number of apartments in the building available to refugees and displaced persons. In addition, until the mid-1960s, the royal Bentheim district forester lived in the rooms of the south wing as custodian of the monastery buildings.

Partial view of the courtyard
Today's chapel

The high school graduate from Nordhorn and today's religious scholar Burkard Sauermost (born February 9, 1947) wrote a voluntary annual paper on the history of the Frenswegen Monastery in February 1966 in the subject of social studies (history). In this work, accompanied by his class teacher Hermann Heddendorp, he encouraged the formation of a “Foundation for Ecumenical Diakonia”. On May 21, 1974, Ako Haarbeck founded the Frenswegen Monastery Foundation to establish an ecumenical meeting place, which Christian Fürst zu Bentheim and Steinfurt, as the previous owner, transferred the monastery building with outbuildings and the associated property. The total value of the donation was around 2.1 million DM. The Evangelical Reformed Church in the Synodal Association of Grafschaft Bentheim made a financial contribution to the foundation. The district of Grafschaft Bentheim was responsible for repairing the buildings. Here the Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed communities of the Grafschaft Bentheim, the Roman Catholic communities of the Grafschaft Bentheim, the Classis Bentheim of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony, the Evangelical Free Church and the Moravian Brethren came together to work together .

After the conversion and renovation work, on December 15, 1978 - with the handover of the building by the Grafschaft Bentheim district as the developer to the foundation - new life moved into the monastery in line with the foundation's project. The opening was celebrated in May 1979. The construction costs totaled 8.2 million DM. In 1996 the new chapel of the monastery, built according to plans by the architect Hans Busso von Busse , was inaugurated.


  • Wilhelm Kohl: The monasteries of the Augustinian canons. (Germania Sacra, NF 5: The Dioceses of the Church Province of Cologne. The Diocese of Munster, Vol. 2). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1971. ( PDF file, 4.23 MB )
  • The Grafschafter churches in Frenswegen Monastery (series of publications by the Frenswegen Monastery Foundation, No. 3). Nordhorn 1985
  • Herbert Pötter: Frenswegen - and the monasteries of the Windesheim congregation in Northern Germany . Dissertation Münster 1994
  • Irene Stahl: The manuscripts of the Frenswegen monastery library. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1994, ISBN 3-4470-3493-9
  • Ernst Andreas Friedrich : The former Frenswegen Monastery , pp. 168–170, in: If stones could talk . Volume IV, Landbuch-Verlag, Hannover 1998, ISBN 3-7842-0558-5

Web links

Commons : Frenswegen Monastery  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Kohl: The monasteries of the Augustinian canons. P. 19.
  2. The manuscripts of the Frenswegen monastery library from the Augustiner Canon Monastery of Sankt Marienwalde, p. 9
  3. ^ Kohl: The monasteries of the Augustinian canons. P. 19.
  4. Hildegard Schulten: "ad fontes - to the sources". Catholic life in Nordhorn from the beginning to the construction of St. Augustine's Church in 1913 . Catholic Church Nordhorn, Parish St. Augustinus, Nordhorn 2016, p. 15.
  5. Hildegard Schulten: "ad fontes - to the sources". Catholic life in Nordhorn from the beginning to the construction of St. Augustine's Church in 1913 . Nordhorn 2016, p. 16.
  6. ^ Contents The time of the islands , BoD, Norderstedt 2018.
  7. Wilhelm Horst Meyer: Against Forgetting. Heimatverein Grafschaft Bentheim, 1995, p. 4 f.

Coordinates: 52 ° 27  '16.7 " N , 7 ° 2' 20.7"  E