Knechtsteden Monastery

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Basilica of the Knechtsteden Monastery, view from the south
Basilica, view from the southeast

The monastery Knechtsteden is a former Norbertine abbey from the early 12th century, since 1896 owned by the Spiritanerordens located. It is located west of Dormagen not far from the town of Delhoven .

The monastery complex is located on a gentle hill next to the depression of a former arm of the Rhine. It consists of an area from which the gatehouse and the St. Andreas monastery basilica protrude. The Catholic Norbert grammar school and a restaurant are also located on the monastery grounds . The monastery is located in a local recreation and nature reserve.


Floor plan of the monastery church
Nave to the east

Initiated by the Archbishop of Cologne Friedrich I , the cathedral dean Hugo von Sponheim donated the Fronhof Knechtsteden to the Premonstratensian order around its founder Norbert von Xanten . A few years later, construction began on the monastery next to the Fronhof. The basilica was built in two phases between 1138 and 1181 in the Romanesque style . The second construction phase was largely funded by donations from cleric Albert von Aachen . He was buried behind the altar around 1164; the grave was rediscovered in 1962. As a result of armed conflicts such as the Battle of Worringen (1288) and the Neuss feud with the siege of Neuss by the Burgundian Duke Karl the Bold (1474), the buildings of the monastery and the basilica were destroyed. The east apse in particular was so badly damaged that Abbot Ludger had it renewed in Gothic style in 1477. Since the monastery was financially well equipped at the beginning of the 18th century, most of the buildings were rebuilt in the Baroque style, including the gatehouse (1723).

When Napoleon occupied the areas on the left bank of the Rhine in 1795 and two years later legally linked them to French territory, the members of the Knechtsteden monastery fled and the monastery was looted by the residents of the surrounding towns. Through the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss , according to Napoleon's will, all ecclesiastical imperial estates and thus also the monasteries and monasteries were dissolved. The Knechtsteden monastery also fell victim to this secularization and changed hands several times. Finally, the Cologne poor administration acquired the entire complex in order to set up a sanatorium for people with nervous disorders. However, a devastating fire destroyed the entire complex (1869). In 1895, with the help of Archbishop Philipp Krementz of Cologne and the permission of the Prussian government and financial support from the Africa Association , the ruin was acquired by Father Amandus Acker for the order of the Spiritans . After the basilica, the other buildings of the monastery were also rebuilt by 1908. In the years 1896–1905, Father Acker built a mission school, a novice brotherhood and a seminary there.

During the National Socialist dictatorship, the monastery was confiscated and expropriated in 1941, the members of the order were partly conscripted, partly expelled or conscripted into the military.

Since the end of the Second World War , the monastery has been used again by Spiritans.


The three - aisled groin vaulted basilica with columns and pillars in the "Rhenish column change " has a transept in the east and an eight-sided crossing tower . With this emphasis on the east, it is hard to guess from the outside that the church is actually a double choir . The west building is emphasized only by an apse ; the east choir was reserved for the monks, the west choir served the parish.

The view to the east shows the comparatively high pointed arched windows that this brightly lit east choir has been renovated in a Gothic style. Romanesque choirs look different, which can be seen on the same building, because the west choir has been preserved in its original form from 1150/60.


Apse frescoes

Apse frescoes in the west choir

The paintings in the west apse had been whitewashed for centuries and were only exposed in 1869; they date from the middle of the 12th century and make the church particularly valuable. In the apse calotte , Christ is represented in a mandorla on a rainbow as a pantocrator . Pantocrator actually means “all ruler”, but also applies to the risen Christ (according to Revelation 1,8 EU ) and especially in Byzantine art as a general representation of the enthroned Christ. It is surrounded by the four evangelist symbols (4.7 EU ) and additionally on the left by Peter as prince of the apostles and on the right by Paul as the teacher of the nations. Lying at his feet, the founder of the church, Albert von Aachen, has himself immortalized. In the window zone below, the eleven remaining apostles are in four groups (Paul, as apostle of the Gentiles, was counted among the 12 apostles). This fresco was restored in 1951/52; a curtain was painted in the lower zone in 1975 - in even earlier times a curtain actually hung in such places.

Nave decor

Until the beginning of the 20th century there was a colored Romanesque decoration of the architectural parts of the interior. In addition to the red of the columns, there were the blue, golden yellow, red and black-blue of the capitals , spars , cornices and arches , creating a wonderful color tone. It was one of the earliest and most complete Romanesque decoration systems on the Lower Rhine. However, it has been eliminated and replaced with a gray paint job. In 1938, the 800-year celebrations, the interior has been re-based on old color traces taken .


Noteworthy are the non-figurative capitals from around 1150, the color of which has been restored under the supervision of the preservation authorities . Your decor comes from the Ottonian and Salic shapes. The bases of the columns are also colored.


There are only a few figures in the monastery church; Particularly noteworthy is an approx. 70 cm high Pietà figure from the 14th century on the southern choir pillar, popularly referred to as “Not Gottes” (Not God) , the color of which was renewed at the end of the 19th century.

Church window

The church windows were renewed between 1889 and 1910 by the Cologne glass painting workshop Schneiders & Schmolz .

Today's monastery complex

About 20 Spiritans currently live in the monastery, but they have given up the original large-scale agriculture of the monastery and now live in the main building. You perform pastoral tasks in the region. The formation of missionaries takes place in the training workshops of the congregation on an international level.

In religious and cultural terms, pilgrimages, music and other events such as the annual 'Oktoberfest' take place. The Festival of Early Music, which was founded in 1992 by Hermann Max , is particularly well-known across the region . Once a year, a pilgrimage of the sixth grade of the archbishopric schools of the Cologne district leads to the Knechtsteden monastery. Next to the church there is a monastery shop and the monastery cemetery with the memorial plaque made by Father Heinz Sand CSSp. The monastery is freely accessible, special tours can be arranged.

In addition, the ZVA education center has been located in the monastery complex since August 2003. Its main task is to opticians part-time to prepare for the master exam in optician craft. This enables the participants to continue to work. In addition, the ZVA-BZ, in cooperation with the Aachen University of Applied Sciences, offers a part-time bachelor's degree in optics and optometry as well as subject-specific seminars. Several hundred course participants are trained every year on an area of ​​almost 1000 m² using optical equipment and presentation techniques.

Until 2003, the “Libermannhaus” (named after one of the two founders of the Mission Society of the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Franz Maria Paul Libermann - a converted rabbi from Zabern / Saverne in Alsace) housed the “Libermannhaus” as a conference and educational center . Since 2003, the building has been operated as "Pension Moment Knechtsteden" by the ZVA education center (the use of the religious training and retreat house, which was initially retained to a limited extent, ended on December 31, 2007) and is also open to external guests .

William Holt organ

Knechtsteden - William Holt Organ

A historic organ from England has been in the Knechtstedener basilica since 2009. It was built around 1850 by William Holt in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the English Romantic style and stood in a Methodist church in Tockwith. After this church was closed, the organ was restored by the Dutch organ builder Feenstra and installed in Knechtsteden, where it replaced an electronic instrument. The organ has 15 sounding registers , distributed over two manuals and a pedal . Originally, the organ case was mahogany and the prospect pipes were completely covered with gold leaf. However, the pipes were painted over as early as 1900, and the housing for Knechtsteden was painted white. The organ is often heard in organ and ensemble concerts, always with free admission.


The Knechtstedener basilica has had its five-part chime since 1931, which was cast by the Otto bell foundry in Hemelingen near Bremen. The striking notes are b 0 , des 1 , es 1 , f 1 and gb 1 . The bells have the following diameters: 1791 mm, 1513 mm, 1348 mm, 1201 mm, 1134 mm. They weigh: 4021 kg, 2325 kg, 1649 kg, 1185 kg, 963 kg. The bells are decorated with reliefs by the Cologne artist Toni Stockheim .

The bell was supposed to be melted down in World War II. The large church bell was allowed to remain in the tower, however, as it did not fit through the winding hole in the tower. After the end of the war, the bells were found undamaged in the bell cemetery in Hamburg-Veddel , hung up again in the tower, and since then they have been calling the faithful to worship again.


  • Winand Kayser, Premonstratensian canon of Knechtsteden Abbey, bought the abbey buildings and the estate after the abbey was closed. Supporter of agriculture in the Neuss district.
  • Emil August Allgeyer , spiritual father and apostolic vicar of Zanzibar, received the episcopal ordination here in 1897 and awarded it to Franz Xaver Vogt himself in 1906 , the new apostolic vicar of Bagamoyo.
  • Josef Theodor Rath CSSp (1900–1993), historian of the Order University (mission and order history), Knechtsteden.


  • Gottfried Bitter (Ed.): Fundatio Knechtstedensis . In: Annals of the historical association for the Lower Rhine 165th vol. (1963), pp. 54–72.
  • Nic. Bömmels: The former manors in the Grevenbroich and Neuss districts. in: Almanach des Kreis Neuss, Neuss 1979, pp. 32–51.
  • Anton Bohlen: Knechtsteden. Story of an old monastery . Mission house, Knechtsteden 1924.
  • Heinrich Döring: From Jew to Order Founder . Missionshaus publishing house, Cologne 1930.
  • Ferdinand Ehlen: The Premonstratensian Abbey Knechtsteden. History and document book . Missionshaus publishing house, Cologne 1904.
  • Ferdinand Ehlen: The Mission House Knechtsteden and the German order province of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit . Missionshaus publishing house, Cologne 1905.
  • Winand Kayser: History of Knechtsteden. According to information from the last religious in Knechtsteden, Canon Kayser . (Manuscript)
  • H. Kissel: The former Premonstratensian Abbey Knechtsteden . (Analecta Praemonstratensia; Vol. 5), Tongerloo 1929.
  • Mission Society of the Holy Spirit. Spiritaner (Ed.): Knechtsteden. A monastery guide. Signposts and information. Zimmermann, Cologne 2015.
  • Josef Theodor Rath CSSp: On the history of the German Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit: The Knechtstedener Province (1895-1948) . Missions-Verlag Knechtsteden, 1973.
  • Josef Theodor Rath CSSp: The fate of the Knechtsteden Abbey from 1842 to 1895 . KONTINENTE-Missionsverlag, Cologne 1994.
  • Josef Theodor Rath CSSp: Wienand Kayser - The last 'monk' from Knechtsteden . Knechtsteden 1989.
  • Fritz Schlagwein: Knechtsteden in old and new times . Verlag des Missionshauses, Cologne 1920.
  • Walter Schulten: The former Premonstratensian collegiate church Knechtssteden in Dormagen . Neusser Verlag, Neuss 1984, ISBN 3-88094-474-1 .

Web links

Commons : Kloster Knechtsteden  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Knechtsteden Monastery - History
  2. Knechtsteden Monastery - apse paintings
  3. Knechtsteden Monastery - Pietà
  4. ^ Church window of the basilica of Knechtsteden Monastery , accessed on June 17, 2013
  5. cf. Organa Britannica: Organs in Great Britain 1660-1860, Vol. 1, pp. 115f. (without proof of this instrument)
  6. organ history in (accessed August 2016)
  7. Organ at from December 23, 2009 (accessed August 2016)
  8. Audio samples on Youtube under "Klosterbasilika Knechtsteden" (accessed August 2016)
  9. ^ Gerhard Reinhold: Otto bells. Family and company history of the Otto bell foundry dynasty . Self-published, Essen 2019, ISBN 978-3-00-063109-2 , p. 588, in particular pages 82, 85, 316-323, 537 .
  10. Gerhard Reinhold: Church bells - Christian world cultural heritage, illustrated using the example of the bell founder Otto, Hemelingen / Bremen . Nijmegen / NL 2019, p. 556, especially pp. 101, 104, 284–288, 496 , urn : nbn: nl: ui: 22-2066 / 204770 (dissertation at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen).
  11. Bells on the monastery page (accessed February 2016)

Coordinates: 51 ° 4 ′ 37.8 "  N , 6 ° 45 ′ 9.2"  E