Neuwerk Monastery (Mönchengladbach)

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The monastery Neuwerk is a former Benedictine - Abbey in the center of Mönchengladbach district Neuwerk . The monastery church is one of the most important architectural monuments and is the second oldest building in the city of Mönchengladbach. Today it serves the Salvatorian Sisters as a religious church.

Neuwerk Monastery, the monastery church from the east
Floor plan of the monastery church 1896


The exact date of foundation is not known, but it can be assumed to be in the year 1135. In a document dated December 5, 1135, the monastery was first mentioned as “novo oratorio”, the new chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the Gladbach Benedictine monastery ceded part of its income to support the sisters. The settlement itself was established at a compartmental estate on the "Cranendonk" area in the Niers lowlands. It was a small, flat-roofed chapel, the remains of which are still preserved and visible today, probably with a few small outbuildings. It was not until the years 1170–1182 that the chapel was turned into a church and the courtyard was turned into the actual monastery with around 20 nuns and an abbess . As Benedictine nuns, these belonged to the Benedictine order .

The name Neuwerk

Neuwerk Monastery, view from the nave to the choir

The court chapel on the Kranendonk was not immediately named "novum opus" (= Neuwerk) after it was built.

The oldest document from 1135 calls it "novum oratorium" (= new chapel). It is also mentioned under this name in 1168. But this is only the name for the house of God. The actual place name is in the same document "Cranendonk".

Only when the large church and the actual monastery were built does the term “novum opus” (= new work or new work) appear for the first time. This is what it says in a document from 1182.

The different names and spellings over time:

time Surname comment
Foundation (1182): novum opus (Latin)
Somewhat later: to the new work (literal translation)
In 1664: Nyenwerk
In 1780: Neuwerck
Again later: Neuenwerk
Today: Neuwerk (From 1836's "Neuwerk" the official designation for the already founded in 1798 under the name "Unterniedergeburth" community .)

The monastery and its inhabitants

Since the 16th century the name has been: “Spiritual aristocratic house of God Neuwerk”. From this name it can be inferred that only women of noble descent could enter the Neuwerker convent. To enter the monastery one had to be at least 10 years old. When they entered, the women and girls brought large assets as trousseau. After some training and preparation, the daughters of noble families were admitted to the probationary year. If they proved themselves during this time, the solemn outfit followed, to which all noble relatives were invited. After the following novice year, which had to be passed as the last exam, the young women often took their monastery vows at the age of 16-18.

The five stages for admission to the Convention at a glance:

  1. Training / preparation
  2. Probationary year (if proven)
  3. Celebratory outfit
  4. Novice year (last exam)
  5. Monastery vows

From the first years after the founding of the monastery until around 1250, female nuns also lived in Neuwerker monastery. This was the name given to those women who turned away from the world in order to serve God only by praying and fasting while studying the scriptures. In many cases they could be locked up in a church or even walled in.

Two clergymen worked in the monastery, one the prior and the other the chaplain . Both clergymen were appointed by the Abbot of Gladbach from 1342 on . But even before that, it was Gladbach monks who decided who would become prior or chaplain in the Neuwerker monastery. In 1712 the prior earned 20  Reichstaler and the chaplain 10 Reichstaler.

The two clergy lived outside the monastery. The gate house of the monastery, a two-story half-timbered house, which was renewed in 1771 and was documented as early as 1750, served as the clergy's apartment in the 18th century. Since efforts to preserve and restore the house, which today houses a local museum , in the 1950s, it has also been known as the prior house.

On the door beam of the priory house is the inscription:


The monastery employed a lot of staff who lived in the monastery.
In 1709 there were 23 people:

  • 1. Gardener
  • 2. Gardener
  • Monastery chamberlain
  • Head groom
  • Groom
  • Head worker
  • 2. Workers
  • 3. Workers
  • brewer
  • Pig keeper
  • "Piggy boy"
  • usher
  • Maid for the guests
  • Maid for the abbess
  • Head cook
  • 2nd cook
  • Maid
  • 2nd maid (for common work)
  • Reffendersmaid
  • Shipmaid
  • Madwoman
  • Head cattle girl
  • 2. Cattle maid

In 1712 an organist was also hired.

Some examples of the payment at the time:

  • The 2nd gardener received 16 Reichstaler, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 shirts and 1 smock,
  • the monastery chamberlain received 12 Reichstaler, 2 pairs of shoes, 12 yards of shirt and 2 yards of Schmaltuch,
  • the head cook received 7 Reichstaler, 3 pairs of shoes, 12 cubits wide cloth, 6 cubits Schmaltuch and 3 "Schürtzel".

As early as 1334, the monastery accepted rich, noble ladies in special guest rooms. In 1711 the cost of the fare was 30 Reichstaler.

Monastery life

Little is known about monastic life, but it followed the Rule of St. Benedict , which can be summarized briefly and meaningfully with the motto Ora et labora - pray and work . In contrast to medieval male monasteries, there was no science and research in women's monasteries, but charity and the exercise of Christian charity were in the foreground. This was expressed in the hospitality for travelers passing through and, moreover, those in need never asked for free at the monastery gate. In addition, the Neuwerker nuns distributed self-baked cookies and cakes to the flocking people on St. Barbara days, on Christmas, before Christmas, Easter and New Year.

For the physical well-being of the monastery residents, an excellent kitchen, which also did justice to the most pampered taste. She brought fresh and cured meat from ox, cows, calves , sheep, lambs and pigs to the table. In terms of poultry , geese , chickens , ducks and pigeons provided variety in the menu. There was venison on holidays , especially rabbits . On fasting days, people were content with salted fish or fresh fish. The kitchen also used large quantities of butter , milk , Dutch cheese , salt , herbs, spices, currants and raisins. The daily bread was baked from rye .

There was also beer from the monastery brewery and wine from the Moselle estates of the abbot zu Gladbach , later from the estates of the abbot zu Brauweiler .

Table reading was held during meals ; H. Read from religious scriptures, and according to an ancient custom, each nun served her fellow sisters on a weekly basis.

When one of the nuns died, the monastery usually donated rye to the poor. The nuns were buried in the monastery cemetery, which was east of the church choir. Only the abbesses found their final resting place in the monastery church.

So-called immunity and the right of asylum applied within the monastery walls. This means that the monastery and the people who stayed in the monastery were inviolable to public authorities (police, etc.).

Building history

Neuwerk Monastery. The north aisle

Before 1135 a small court chapel (= novum oratorium) was built on the estate in the Kranendonk. In this first Romanesque construction period , the court chapel was a three-aisled basilica made of simple masonry with a flat ceiling. Since only a few nuns lived there at the time, the chapel was not particularly large:

  • Width of the central nave: 3.65 m
  • Width of the aisles: 2.20 m
  • Length: 10.50 m
  • Height: 4.75 m
  • Total width: 10.30 m
  • Total length: 16.40 m.

Between 1168 and 1183 - in the second Romanesque construction period - the chapel becomes a real church. She gets an extension that makes her more than twice as big. After this expansion, the term "novum opus" was used for the first time for the church. At the same time, the actual monastery with around 20 nuns and an abbess emerged from the courtyard. These belonged to the Benedictine order.

In the last quarter of the 12th century ( 3rd Romanesque building period ) the church was enlarged again. It became a unified three-aisled basilica and got two towers on the west side. The northern tower was dismantled in the 16th century due to its dilapidation. Today the monastery buildings are directly connected to the church.

The basic structure has not changed significantly since then. As a result, however, there were various changes or refinements and restorations in the respective zeitgeist, so that the current shape of the church is much more magnificent.

After the monastery church suffered major damage in the Thirty Years' War , which lasted from 1618 to 1648, the former Romanesque tower was fitted with a baroque tower dome in 1771, which was only replaced by a Romanesque roof in the course of restoration work from 1886 onwards.

In 1804 the entire monastery complex consisted of the following areas:

  • In the center of the complex is the monastery church with the directly adjacent monastery building.
  • The square monastery building has a large open courtyard with a garden.
  • Next to and behind the church and monastery there is the inner tree garden , which is surrounded by a wall.
  • Outside the wall are the external garden and the external tree garden .
  • In front of the church and the monastery building are the courtyard and the monastery square.
  • The stables, the barn and the cloister gate in the middle form the end of the courtyard or square to the street .
  • A little to the side - next to the stables - is the gate house, which separates church access from the public path, directly on the path that leads past.
  • The monastery grounds are (almost completely) surrounded by a moat that can be crossed by a bridge at the gate. Only the gate or prior house is directly accessible from the path.

The decline and dissolution

Around 1650 there was unrest and the monastic discipline, discipline, love, unity and order deteriorated more and more. Also do's and don'ts, which were issued by the President of the Bursfeld Congregation to restore the monastery morale, had little influence on the disputes within the monastery. Only after the death of the rebellious nuns and under a new abbess, who had behaved extremely firmly in character during the disagreements, did a tolerable peace return. But by the time the monastery was dissolved, which was to follow around 50 years later, the good reputation was gone and only a few sisters entered the monastery, so that the entire convent consisted of only eleven to twelve nuns. Although it was the first time in the history of the monastery non-aristocratic women were allowed to enter the convent, the number of nuns remained small.

After the French had defeated the Austrians under Napoleon near Aldenhoven in 1794 , they took control of the whole of the left bank of the Rhine. When they moved into Mönchengladbach in October, they were initially greeted as liberators. But soon heavy burdens and high war taxes had to be endured. As early as 1794, the Neuwerk monastery had to deliver 50 pairs of shoes, 12 sacks of wheat, 21 Malter oats and 112 Reichstaler for requisition (= confiscation) in Maastricht. On January 22, 1801, a French government commissioner appeared in the Neuwerk monastery and ordered the abbess Rosa von Bronsfeld to assemble the members of the convent. When everyone was there, he counted them and took down the personal details of the only 10 sisters left. This French interest suggested nothing good. About 10 months later, on November 9, 1801, the Treaty of Luneville established the Rhine as France's eastern border. This sealed the end of the German monasteries on the left bank of the Rhine. On August 12, 1802, the monastery was officially dissolved. When the nuns left the monastery a short time later in autumn, the French government guaranteed them an annual remuneration of 500 - 600 francs. The French dissolution ordinances put a line under the development that had started 100 years earlier with the inner disintegration of the monastery and which would probably have led to its decline.

After the monastery was dissolved in 1802, however, it still had a very changeable time ahead of it. While it was still in French ownership in 1804, it was put up for sale by the administration at the time. There were several interested parties, but it was not sold until 1812, 10 years after the liquidation. In February 1812, the wealthy Rheydt textile entrepreneur and then mayor Dietrich Lenssen acquired the Neuwerker monastery buildings. However, he sold them again seven months later, in September 1812, as they were unsuitable for a textile company. The majority of the former monastery was bought by the Dapper couple, who were millers at the Broichmühle. They made a flour and fruit deal out of it. The buyer of the remaining part was the pastor of Neuwerk. In 1821 the General Vicariate of Aachen also authorized the Neuwerker church and school board to accommodate the parish apartment, vicarie and school in the west wing of the monastery building. After the school moved out in 1870, the west wing served as a parish and sexton apartment until 1964. At the beginning of the 19th century, the north wing of the former monastery had to be demolished because it was dilapidated.

Another important part in the history of the monastery begins in 1874. At this point in time, Therese von Wüllenweber was renting the vacant east wing, for which the Dapper heirs were looking for a new tenant. From then on, Therese von Wüllenweber played a major role in the former monastery.

Therese von Wüllenweber

She was born on February 19, 1833 at Myllendonk Castle and received a strict upbringing in the years that followed. As a 20-year-old she was enthusiastic about the idea of ​​mission and looked in vain for a female missionary order.

Although she entered various orders in both 1857 and 1868, she returned to Myllendonk in 1871 to meet with the pastor of Neuwerk, Dr. von Essen, because he was busy with the establishment of a missionary order. Because of the Kulturkampf, Dr. The mission institute planned by Essen did not materialize. That is why Therese von Wüllenweber took matters into her own hands in 1876 and - as already described above - rented the vacant east wing of the former monastery building. 3 years later, in 1879, she even bought it. Since the appearance of a monastery was not allowed, von Essen insisted that the house be called "Stift". Therese von Wüllenweber called it “St. Barbara Stift”. But the title of canon women did not attract women to a missionary profession. Therefore, she took in neglected children for education. In 1882 she then got in touch with the "Apostolic Teaching Society", which had been founded in December 1881 by the priest Johann Baptist Jordan in Rome. A few years later, Jordan called Therese von Wüllenweber to Rome to found a female order, the Salvatorians . On May 31, 1883, she made her perpetual vows in Neuwerk and received the religious name of Sister Maria from the Apostles . The hospital in Neuwerk still bears the name Maria of the Apostles today . Theresia von Wüllenweber died on Christmas night in 1907 and was beatified in Rome in 1968 .

Since 1889

When Therese von Wüllenweber left Neuwerk and went to Rome, the pastor at the time Hermann Koch bought the part of the monastery building that had belonged to her in January 1889. He intended to transform the monastery rooms into a hospital . So he tried to find an order that would take over the nursing and other social tasks in the community.

The sisters of the congregation of the Lüdinghauser Franciscan Sisters seemed to him to be most suitable for the problems to be solved in Neuwerk. The superior general agreed, and in November 1889 the first three sisters and their superior moved into Neuwerk. The newly founded monastery and hospital were named St. Josef and St. Barbara.

In 1906/1907 the hospital had to be enlarged by an extension because it had become too small. After the First World War , when parts of the house had served as a hospital , major new buildings and renovations were necessary. In addition, repair work has been carried out on the entire monastery complex.

In the last few years there has been a shortage of sisters in many orders. So also with the Franciscan Sisters. For this reason they had to give up the monastery in Neuwerk including the hospital in 1960 - after more than 70 years in which two world wars lay - in order to concentrate their efforts on a few larger settlements.

When the Franciscan Sisters were about to leave Neuwerk at the end of 1960, the Superior General of the Salvatorian Sisters announced their visit. After the necessary negotiations, the Salvatorians acquired the entire monastery complex with the hospital on January 1, 1961. About 30 sisters of the order replaced the Franciscan Sisters (as of 1988: 55 sisters). Shortly afterwards, the Salvatorians decided to build a new modern hospital. After the construction work had progressed rapidly, the modern Neuwerk hospital was opened on May 15, 1968. It was named after the founder of the Salvatorian Sisters: Mary of the Apostles. The old hospital buildings, which could no longer be used, were demolished and the north wing, which was demolished years ago, was rebuilt, so that after the restoration of the original condition, the monastery and the monastery church could be used again.

The monument description

It is a two-storey, irregular four-winged complex around a cloister with an inner courtyard. The fourth wing in the north is formed by a new building. East wing: The east facade, comprising twelve window axes on the first floor and 13 window axes on the upper floor, has 16th century masonry in the five southern axes . The first axis next to the choir , set off from the second by a vertical construction seam on the ground floor, represents the end wall of the north choir aisle from the 12th century, which is exposed through a pointed arch window on the ground floor. Smooth plastered ground floor, against the upper floor, which is divided by arched panels set off by a cornice with a water hammer and a German ribbon . Arched windows with profiled natural stone walls made of trachyte . The west facade has ogival cloister windows on the ground floor , and the old trachyte tracery in the third window from the south . Slate-covered hip roof with dormers in the old German style of decking. South wing: Clearly separated, two-storey connecting wing between the east and west wings. Smooth plastered ground floor with three arched windows on the upper floor, separated from each other by a cornice with a water hammer and a German ribbon. Former passage to the inner courtyard closed. The former north aisle is on the ground floor. The west gallery of the monastery church is accessible from the upper floor . Slate-covered hip roof with dormers in the old German style of decking. West wing: Two-storey building with 9: 3 axes under a slate mansard roof in the old German style of decking. Smoothly plastered ground floor, set off from the upper floor, which is structured by arched panels, by a cornice with a German band. Arched windows, pointed arched windows in the cloister. In the basement, heavily busted groin vaults from the 16th century made of brick with simple round belt arches. North wing: replaced by a new building in 1964.

For urban planning, architectural, art-historical and cultural-historical reasons, the property is absolutely worthy of protection as an important monument.


  • Leupi: The monastery and the monastery church Neuwerk , school report, Mönchengladbach, November 1988


  • Karl L. Mackes: The noble Benedictine monastery Neuwerk , 1st volume
  • Karl L. Mackes: From the old new work , 2nd volume
  • Holger, Schallenburger [Ed.]: Against the Gladbacher objections. - History of the parish St. Mariä Himmelfahrt, Neuwerk , Mönchengladbach 2004
  • Holger, Schallenburger: The Priorhaus in Neuwerk , Neuwerker Geschichte (n) 18, Mönchengladbach 2008

Web links

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

Coordinates: 51 ° 13 '26.2 "  N , 6 ° 28' 16.8"  E