St. John's Monastery in front of Schleswig

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Church of St. Johannis

The St. Johannis monastery in Schleswig was founded in 1194 as a Benedictine monastery .

After the Reformation , it was converted into a women 's monastery, but the name St. John's Monastery was retained. The complex, which is located directly on the northern bank of the Schlei , has survived to this day and is considered the best-preserved medieval monastery complex in Schleswig-Holstein .


Historical view of Schleswig by Frans Hogenberg from Georg Braun's Civitates Orbis Terrarum (around 1600), the offshore island with the Holm (H) and the St. John's Monastery (I) can be clearly seen on the right, the St. Petri Cathedral on the left (D) right next to it the gray monastery / town hall (G)

The first settlement of the Benedictine order in Schleswig, which became the bishopric of the diocese of Schleswig , founded under the influence of Otto I. in 948 , was the monastery of St. Michaelis . This is first mentioned in a document in 1192, the time it was abolished by Bishop Waldemar von Schleswig , and described as a double monastery , but this is not considered to be historically confirmed. What is certain is that in addition to the monks, nuns also lived in the area of ​​the monastery, which triggered a religious and political crisis. The moral decline of its inhabitants is often given as the reason for the abolition of the monastery. It is certain that the monks were sent to Guldholm on the Langsee near today's municipality of Böklund , where Waldemar wanted to found his own house monastery, which was to be run according to the rules of the Cistercian order.

From 1194 on the Holm , an island ( Danish : Holm ) in the Schlei in front of the city of Schleswig, near a fishing settlement, the St. Johannis monastery was built. The Benedictine nunnery on the Holm, consecrated to John the Baptist , was first mentioned in writing in a document dated March 7, 1251 (not 1250, as erroneously stated) by the Danish King Abel . In it, Abel, as King of Denmark and Duke of Jutland (Schleswig), confirms extensive freedoms to the St. Johannis Monastery in front of Schleswig, including exemption from army burdens, tax claims and compulsory obligations. Jurisdiction was granted to the provisional . Only at the end of the 14th century is St. Johannis explicitly referred to as a Benedictine monastery. The widespread story that the St. Johannis monastery emerged directly from the St. Michaelis monastery cannot be historically proven either.

At the time the monastery was founded, Schleswig still held the position of Haithabus , which was given up in 1066 after a fire, as the supraregional trading center of the north, but it was to lose this position to Lübeck and the emerging Hanseatic League in the following years . As a bishopric and seat of the dukes of Schleswig , it initially remained a religious and political center. Around the same time as the St. Johannis Monastery, the Franciscan Monastery of St. Paul (1234) and the Dominican Monastery of St. Maria Magdalena (1235) were built in Schleswig . The St. Petri Cathedral in Schleswig was at that time still a Romanesque basilica , which was built before 1134 and partially collapsed in 1275; Around the time of the founding of St. Johannis, the Petri portal (around 1180), which still exists today, and the sacristy of canons (1230) were built.

Bellmann organ in the remter

In addition to the priestess, six nuns were attested for 1402 and nine for 1464. This agrees with the preserved early Gothic ten-seat nuns' choir stalls from around 1240. Fires in 1299 and 1487 led to massive destruction and subsequent reconstruction.

In 1536/1542 the monastery became the property of the Schleswig-Holstein knighthood and was converted into a monastery for the unmarried daughters of the Schleswig-Holstein nobility. Additional buildings were added to the monastery complex in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1840s, the then cantor of the monastery church, Carl Gottlieb Bellmann, composed the melody of the Schleswig-Holstein song Schleswig-Holstein Meerumschlungen .

Despite the two fires, the complex, which is a listed cultural monument, is today the best preserved medieval monastery complex in Schleswig-Holstein. The outdoor facilities are freely accessible, the interior of the monastery can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Parts of the monastery are now used for cultural events and weddings. Today, the monastery is mainly financed by leasing, while the restoration of the facility is being looked after by its own support association - in addition to the public sector.

Monastery complex and inventory

Throughout history, it always came back to structural and design changes, a deep cut is in particular the transformation of the Benedictine monastery in an aristocracy convent. The changes relate primarily to the design of the plant, the basic structure defined by the location of refectory and church is determined, was preserved. It essentially follows the St. Gallen monastery plan from the 9th century. The following section describes the current state, which is a mixture of elements from before and after the Reformation.

Death shields in the chancel of the church

Monastery church

Carvings on the choir stalls from 1240

In the north of the monastery complex, which is located directly on the Schlei, is the single-nave Romanesque monastery church from the period between 1200 and 1230. At this point, a parish church built in tuff and built before 1170 arose before the monastery was founded. The floor plan of the church is divided into the tower, the nave and the choir , which are located under a common gable roof . Instead of a visible tower, the church only has a simple roof turret . The end of the choir is not - as is usual in the Romanesque - semicircular, but flat.

Above the nave with the stalls for the common people is the nuns' gallery , which today serves as an organ gallery , from around 1240 with its painted balustrade. In 1936 remains of Gothic frescoes from the 15th century were uncovered on the west wall of the nave below the nuns' gallery. They were painted over in later centuries and partially covered by the retracted ribbed vault below the gallery. Due to the climatic conditions inside the church, the frescoes deteriorate more and more, they cannot be saved.

A choir portal from the period between 1505 and 1525 separates the nave from the choir. On it rises the group of crosses (the body of Christ and the inscription INRI are placed on the front and back of the cross). Left and right the statues of Mary and John. The chancel is dominated by Baroque elements: the main altar with a painting of the Crucified by D. Oberdorff dated 1712 , the pulpit and the ten prayer rooms of the conventuals from the period between 1711 and 1717. Next to the high altar on the east wall rises the late Gothic sacraments 4 , which was built around 1450 , 5 meters in height. The death shields of the deceased conventual women hang on the walls around the altar . Various sculptures and paintings, donated by the canons, decorate the walls of the church, including a late Gothic Maria in a halo and a Bartholomew from the same period.

Monastery around the cloister

Inner courtyard of the monastery
Cloister in the monastery

The remter, built after the fire in 1487, stands on a vaulted cellar from the 13th century in the southern part of the complex; it is the only part of the monastery with a cellar. The ten-seat nuns ' choir stalls from 1240, richly decorated with carvings , originally stood on the nuns' gallery of the church. The counterparts of the death shields from the chancel of the church hang on the walls. Bellmann is said to have composed the Schleswig-Holstein song on the small cabinet organ from the second half of the 18th century.

The monastery treasures are kept in the chapter house right next to the monastery church, including the head of John the Baptist, carved from oak around 1400, in a bowl, a so-called Johannis bowl . This head is present at all important events in the monastery. The table silver is said to come from the house of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe .

The buildings of the complex are connected by the four-winged cloister , the so-called Schwahl, with its ribbed vault from the 14th century, which surrounds the monastery courtyard. The living areas are arranged around the cloister. The nuns' gallery and the choir can also be reached from the Schwahl, so the nuns could reach their choir stalls and the conventuals their prayer rooms without having to enter the generally accessible nave. The east wing was largely rebuilt in 1899/1900.

The graves of the prioresses of St. Johannis are in the cemetery next to the monastery church . Bellmann and his wife were also buried in the cemetery next to the monastery church, a tombstone and a plaque on the monastery wall remind of him.

Pastorate and house of the monastery provost

Opposite the church is the residence of the provosts of the monastery, built around 1754, which today houses the St. Johanniskloster Bible Center , which deals with the history of the Bible. Next to the so-called Propsthaus there is a Bible garden and a sculpture park, designed by well-known artists for “prophets” and “animals of the bible”, a garden with stone sculptures made from Anröchter dolomite. The houses at Am-St.-Johannis-Kloster 2–6 (pastorate), 4 (house of the provost), dating from the 18th century, are under monument protection. House no. 10 probably dates back to the 17th century.

Ladies pen

The close ties to the Schleswig-Holstein nobility prevented the monastery from being abolished after the Reformation, but enabled it to be converted into an evangelical aristocratic women's monastery. Since the nobility was meanwhile largely Lutheran, the church ordinance of March 9, 1542 turned the monastery on the Holm into a Protestant convent. In place of the Benedictine rule, the rule of the reformer Johannes Bugenhagen, which is under the heading in the church ordinance: Eyne Godtfürchtige vnde Recht Christike ock der Olden Kercken lickmetige medals of the ceremonies in front of Domheren vne monasteries. In the confirmation of the privileges of St. John's Monastery by King Frederick II of Denmark on September 11, 1566, it was expressly pointed out that the church ordinance of 1542 must remain uncrenelled . Accordingly, it can be assumed that some conventual women, more or less openly, were true to the old rule. As a foundation for the proper care of the unmarried daughters of the Schleswig-Holstein nobility, the St. John's Monastery has survived to this day.

The nunneries of Preetz , Uetersen and the monastery in Itzehoe , which also passed into the possession of the Schleswig-Holstein knighthood, experienced similar fates .

It is part of the admission ritual of the high nobility virgin monastery of St. Johannis that the candidate kisses the wooden head of St. John. In the poem The Head of St. John in the Bowl from the book Adjutantenritt und other Gedichte (Leipzig, 1883) by Detlev von Liliencron it says:

Johannessschüssel of the St. John's Monastery

" But he [Isern Hinnerk] made the condition

Every young lady who wanted to become a nun
had to become

Should kiss that head. "

Even today, the daughters of the members of the knighthood can be accepted into the monastery. Usually the daughter is enrolled immediately after the birth, the expektance is confirmed with a letter from the monastery and the daughter becomes a so-called "expektierte Miss". If the expectant remains unmarried, she can be accepted into the monastery as a conventual after a position becomes vacant. With the admission she receives a lifelong right of residence in the monastery and - depending on its financial situation - the right to an appanage . However, the ladies do not have to live in the monastery. In 2001 there were six conventual women, two of whom lived in the monastery.

The priory and a provost run the monastery. The prioress is elected from among the conventual women, the priory and sole resident of the monastery until August 2012 was Henny von Schiller. His successor as priory is Baroness Gesa von Maydell. The provost (to be distinguished from "provost" as a cleric) is proposed by the Schleswig-Holstein knighthood and elected by the conventuals, the incumbent provost is Friedrich von Ahlefeldt-Dehn (status: July 2008).


  • 1382.1383 Lutghard (Luidgaard) von der Wisch
  • 1402 Grete Schinkel
  • 1439 Cecilia Esbern
  • 1464 Syle Esbern
  • 1487 Wybe Meynerstorp (Wiebe von Meinstorf)
  • 1498 Margarete Smalsteden (from Schmalstede)
  • 1515 Elisabeth of Aleuelde (from Ahlefeldt)
  • 1546 Margharete Strangens
  • 1864–1875 Ulrike von Pogwisch
  • 1984–1991 Gerda Baroness von Löwenstern ad Hs. Rösthof
  • 1991 to August 4, 2012 Henny von Schiller (born July 30, 1919 in Buckhagen ; † October 27, 2012 in Schleswig)
  • Aug. 2012 to 2014 Gesa Baroness von Maydell
  • since 2014 Irmgard-Anna from Samson-Himmelstjerna from Gut Falkenberg


Economic conditions

In the first two centuries of its existence, the monastery had to struggle with severe economic difficulties, also because the convent consisted of a maximum of ten nuns. In the second half of the 14th century the economic situation improved, especially with the acquisition of the patronage and the church of St. Mary in Kahleby (today a district of Schaalby ) in 1385. Finally, religiously motivated foundations from the nobility and bourgeoisie provided the monastery with an extensive one Real estate.

The administration of the monastery was in the hands of the monastery provost. Before the Reformation, the monastery provosts were clerical. Nevertheless, the priors seem to have had more powers than the provost. After the monastery was destroyed by fire in 1487, the Priory Wybe Meynerstorp alone issued a fire letter for alms. In contracts of 1383, 1402, 1439, 1446 and 1464, the priory was always named and not the provost.

In the 15th century, more lands were added in fishing and the area east of the Haddebyer Noors and grouped as Schleidistrikt . Up until the 19th century, the monastery owned extensive land of up to 6,500 hectares in the Schleswig area, including four farms, 140 smaller land sites, four mills and three churches. The total area was more than 6,500 hectares and included villages like Jagel .

In the 19th century, according to statements by the monastery provost Henning von Rumohr, the property and the lands were sold for reasons that were difficult to understand .

Worth mentioning


  • JF Noodt: Contributions to the explanation of the civil, church and scholarly history of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein 2 , Hamburg 1745, p. 119 ff.
  • Christian Kuss: The women's monastery on the Holm near Schleswig . State Magazin 9, 1829 pp. 600–616, Neues Statsb. Magazin 2, 1834 p. 552 ff.
  • Jensen / Michelsen: Schleswig-Holstein Church History 2. 1874 pp. 88–90 and 3. 1879 pp. 151–157.
  • Hartwig Beseler (ed.): Art topography Schleswig-Holstein. Neumünster 1974 pp. 706–710 (1 floor plan, 9 illustrations)
  • E. Freytag: The monasteries as centers of church life, Schleswig-Holstein church history 1. Neumünster 1977 p. 157.
  • Lorenz Hein: Schleswig, St. Johannis . GERMANIA BENEDICTINA Volume XI. The women's monasteries in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Bremen. Ottilien 1984 ISBN 3-88096-611-7 pp. 520-529.
  • Dieter-Jürgen Mehlhorn: Monasteries and monasteries in Schleswig-Holstein: 1200 years of history, architecture and art . Ludwig, Kiel 2007, ISBN 9783937719474 .
  • G. von Buchwald: Repertories of the document collection of the St. Johannis monastery. In: ZSHG 6, 1876 Rep. 113-122


  1. This year is given by the monastery itself; other sources assume that the monastery was founded between 1200 and 1230.
  2. ^ Mehlhorn, p. 89, and monastery project
  3. Schleswig-Holstein-Lauenburgische Regesten und Urkunden (SHRU) I. Nr. 178-181.
  4. Detlev von Liliencron processed this story in his poem The Black Monks in Schleswig in the 1909 book Gute Nacht .
  5. ^ After the abolition of Guldholm, they founded the Rudekloster in Glücksburg in 1209/1210 ; after the Reformation, Glücksburg Castle was built on the site .
  6. The name St. Johannis Monastery in front of Schleswig results from the location a little further away from the city around the cathedral .
  7. H. von Rumohr: The monastery provosts of St. Johannis , I. 1967 p. 13.
  8. a b Mehlhorn, p. 89
  9. St. Maria Magdalena was demolished and built over after the repeal in 1528/29; it was located a few meters south of the cathedral between today's Süderdomstraße and Pastorenstraße.
  10. ^ EJ von Westphalen III .: News from the old high-nobility maiden monastery Sanct Johannis on the Holm before Schleswig. 1739 p. 341.
  11. ↑ The race against decay is lost
  12. Beseler, p. 707.
  13. In the history of the monastery, the complex was never inhabited by more than ten nuns at the same time; after the conversion into a monastery, there were never more than nine conventual women in the walls next to the priory.
  14. The connection to Goethe exists through Ulrike von Pogwisch (1798–1875), who was priory of the monastery from 1864 to 1875. She was the sister of Ottilie von Pogwisch , the wife of August von Goethe , the poet's son.
  15. The term Schwahl derives from the Danish Svalen and is also used in connection with the St. Petri Cathedral in Schleswig, it means "cool walk."
  16. In connection with the St. John's Monastery, one speaks of the priory, although it should correctly be called the prioress. This designation, derived from the French word for prior, "prieur", is also common in other monasteries of the Schleswig-Holstein knighthood.
  17. Beseler, p. 710.
  18. His uncle Rochus von Liliencron was provost of the monastery.
  19. Detlef von Liliencron: The head of St. John in the bowl on
  20. These include noble families such as Reventlow , Brockdorff , Rantzau or Bülow (see also ).
  21. But there are also residents who do not belong to the monastery. Renting is one of the main sources of income for St. John's Monastery today.

Web links and sources

Commons : St. Johannis Monastery  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 54 ° 30 '41.81 "  N , 9 ° 34' 44.11"  O