Herford Abbey

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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
Herford Abbey
coat of arms
Coat of arms of the Imperial Abbey of Herford
Location surrounded by the county of Ravensberg in 1801
Alternative names Oldenhervorde, St. Marys and Pusinna, Abbey of Herford
Arose from Founded as an own monastery in the 8th century
Ruler / government Princess Abbess
Today's region / s DE-NW

Reichskreis Lower Rhine-Westphalian

Denomination / Religions Roman Catholic , Reformation 1533

Incorporated into set in 1802 (de facto) / 1803 (officially) to Grafschaft Ravensberg , dissolved in 1810
Environment map
Location of immunity in Herford city
Herford Minster - Herford Imperial Abbey

The Herford (including as woman pin , convent , Reichsabtei , Fürstabtei or Reichsprälatur Herford called) was a woman convent in Westphalia .

The abbey was founded at the end of the 8th century and made an imperial abbey in 823. In the 12th century, the monastery gained imperial immediacy . The princess abbesses of Herford were therefore later represented at the district assemblies of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire . The monastery was later also a member of the Rhenish Reich Prelate College and was thus indirectly represented at the Reichstag .

In 1802/03 the abbey and its small territory around the Herford Minster in today's center of the city of Herford fell to the Prussian Ravensberg . The women's convention was converted into a collegiate for men in 1804 and abolished in 1810.



Herford Abbey was the oldest women's convent in the Duchy of Saxony . It was founded in 789 in Müdehorst (today near Bielefeld ) by a nobleman named Waltger as an own monastery , then moved around 800 to the grounds of his farm "Herivurth" at the intersection of important roads and fords over the Aa and Werre . It was later called "Oldenhervorde". Its foundation can be seen in the course of the Sachsenmission . Other important Christian centers in Saxony emerged in the vicinity, for example in Paderborn , Minden or Osnabrück . According to the oldest known Marian apparition north of the Alps, called the Herford vision , Abbess Godesdiu founded a daughter monastery of the Herford monastery on the Herford Stiftberg around 1011 .

Elevation to the imperial abbey

Under Emperor Ludwig the Pious († 840), Herford Abbey was elevated to an imperial abbey roughly parallel to the founding of Corvey in 823 and equipped with a third of the goods actually intended for Corvey. In close connection with the Imperial Abbey of Corvey, the Carolingian brothers Adalhard and Wala reorganized the founding of Waltger after 823. The Vita Waltgeri and a certificate from Ludwig the German from 853 report that Herford was established according to the model of the Carolingian imperial abbey of Notre Dame at Soissons . Soissons became Herford's mother monastery just as Corbie Abbey was for Corvey. Both foundations of monasteries thus had a backing in the central Franconian Empire. The Herford Abbess Tetta named in Ludwig's document came from Soissons.

In 860, at the instigation of Abbess Haduwy (Hedwig), the bones of Saint Pusinna , Herford's patron saint , were transferred from her hermitage Binson (“vicus bausionensis” near Châlons-en-Champagne near Corbie ) to Herford Abbey thereby gained significantly in importance and later the name “St. Marien and Pusinna ”wore.

During the time of Abbess Mathilde I, her granddaughter Mathilde was brought up here, who in 909 married the Duke of Saxony and later King Heinrich I through the mediation of her grandmother . Herford was destroyed by the Hungarians between 919 and 924 , but was rebuilt by Imma I in 927 . In memory of her husband who died in 936, Queen Mathilde , who was educated in Herford, founded a women's foundation in Quedlinburg in the same year .

Imperial immediacy

In 1147 the monastery was given imperial immediacy with 39 upper courts and around 800 lower courts subject to interest at that time. Initially the Billungers officiated as bailiffs , after their extinction Heinrich the Lion , who appointed the Counts of Schwalenberg as subordinates, who in turn performed this task from 1180, after the fall of Henry the Lion, for the Archdiocese of Cologne and the Dukes of Westphalia . As early as 1261, the office seems to have passed to the Counts of Sternberg and in 1382 to the Counts of Jülich-Berg .

With the imperial immediacy, the monastery became an independent, albeit only small, territory of the Holy Roman Empire . It comprised part of what is now the city of Herford and existed until secularization in 1803. Its abbesses were imperial duchesses and sat in the Reichstag in the Rhenish prelate college . The Reichsstift belonged to the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire . In the neighborhood of the monastery, the Herford settlement developed, which had had town charter since 1170/1180 and later also became imperial . In 1256 the city took over the protection of the abbey. From 1256 to around 1530, the city and abbey formed a joint government for the area, which was unique in the empire.

By the end of the 15th century, about 37 churches, chapels, monasteries, monasteries, hospitals and church houses (as independent buildings) had been built in "Sancta Herfordia" ( Saint Herford ). The spiritual life there was more like Cologne than with other cities of the time.


In 1533, in the course of the Reformation , Herford Abbey became Protestant (see also Introduction of the Reformation in Herford ). The Electors of Brandenburg tried to enforce the Reformed Confession, but they only succeeded temporarily. In 1652 Kur-Brandenburg occupied the imperial-free city of Herford and incorporated it into Ravensberg . The imperial abbey was nevertheless able to maintain its independence.

Labadists and Quakers

After the abbess Elisabeth von der Pfalz (1618–1680) had turned more and more to an enthusiastic and mystical direction, she took Labadists , then Quakers , to Herford in 1670 . Their mystical eccentricities, however, aroused great offense among the Lutheran population.

Her friend Anna Maria von Schürmann joined the Labadist community at the age of 62. The group reached Herford via Middelburg and Amsterdam in 1670, where the abbess, the highly learned daughter of the winter queen , was able to give the community refuge for a while. They did not live in the abbey, but they did live under its protection. In 1672 the group was expelled from there by an edict of the Reich Chamber of Commerce.

The Quakers Robert Barclay and William Penn visited Elisabeth, who even allowed Quaker worship in her abbey and actively campaigned for their tolerance by the King of England.

Around the turn of the year 1679/80 the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz came to Herford for her.


1802, the pen was in the wake of secularization and in anticipation of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss canceled and to the 25 February 1803 Prussia belonging county Ravensberg slammed shut. In 1804 the monastery was converted into a college for men and finally dissolved in 1810. Thereafter, a spinning mill was housed on the site, in which 200 people worked at times and which was one of the largest employers in the city. The owners of the spinning mill, the Schönfeld family, also lived on the site until they moved to a more representative house, the Villa Schönfeld am Deichtorwall, in 1874. When the Herford town hall and market hall were built on the site in 1916 , the monastery buildings were demolished.


Reconstructed foundation walls of the cloister
Results of the archaeological excavations

The abbey and its area were in today's center of Herford. The former women's monastery stretched from the Alter Markt across the area of ​​today's town hall to Stephansplatz on the street “Auf der Freiheit”, which is a reminder of the former immunity . The Herford Minster , which is today an Evangelical Lutheran parish church, served as the collegiate church. It was built in the early 13th century and is one of the largest hall churches in Westphalia. Immediately north of it, the Wolderus Chapel was built in place of an older chapel. According to legend, Saint Waltger (died 825) is buried in the chapel. The simple hall was originally built in 1735 from the house chapel of the reformed (!) Abbess of the Lutheran monastery and has been a Greek Orthodox Nektarios chapel since 1962, before that it served as a church for the reformed parish of Herford from 1807 to 1902. One of the oldest houses in Westphalia has been preserved on the former immunity, the Kantorhaus . The half-timbered house, filled with red brick, was built at the end of the 15th century. The Freie Hof, a half-timbered house on the south side of the Immunity, was built in the 17th century. The Labadist house adjoining it in the same architectural style was built in the 17th century as the home of the Labadists . The old abbey fountain in front of the town hall, which was uncovered from 1988 to 1990, has also been preserved.

The market halls and the town hall of Herford were only built in 1916 after the abbey buildings had been used as a factory since the abbey was closed. Most of the abbey buildings are only preserved as remains of the foundations. At Stephanplatz, the foundation walls of the cloister and the residential buildings of the canons were reconstructed after excavations. Today several monuments on the old immunity remind of the abbey. These include a bronze model of medieval Herford, a reconstructed boundary stone that marks the border between city and immunity, the imperial abbey monument from 1998, which deals with the relationship between city and abbey, and the abbey fountain in front of the market hall with the sculpture of an abbess. In the free courtyard there are bronze reliefs with a medieval depiction of Herford and the prince abbey.


The last abbess Friederike Charlotte von Brandenburg-Schwedt

coat of arms

The coat of arms of the prince abbey showed a red horizontal bar on a silver shield. To this day, the colors of the city of Herford and the city's flag are white and red. Until 1899, the city coat of arms was that of Herford Abbey, i.e. the red bar in a silver shield.


  • R. Pape: About the beginnings of Herford . Dissertation. 1955.
  • A. Cohausz: A millennium spiritual women's monastery in Herford . In: Herford Yearbook I . 1960.
  • Herford history sources . 1968.
  • R. Pape: Waltger and the founding of Herford . 1988.
  • R. Pape: Herford during the imperial era . 1989.
  • R. Pape: Sancta Herfordia. History of Herford from the beginning to the present . 1989.
  • T. Helmert-Corvey (Ed.): 1200 years of Herford . 1989.
  • CM Raddatz: Vita Sancta Waltgeri. Life of St. Waltger. The history of the founding of the monastery of the Herford Imperial Abbey . Munster 1994.
  • H. Bei der Wieden: The Abbesses of the Herford Imperial Abbey in Modern Times . In: Historical yearbook for the Herford district 2000 . 1999.
  • M. Kroker: Emperors, Kings and Pious Women. The Reichsstift Herford in the Ottonian, Salian and Staufer times . In: Olaf Schirmeister (ed.): Pious women and religious men. Monasteries and monasteries in St. Herford . Bielefeld 2000, p. 77-126 .
  • H. Bei der Wieden: The origin of the abbesses of the Herford Imperial Abbey from the end of the 13th to the middle of the 17th century . In: Historical yearbook for the Herford district 2002/2003 . 2002.
  • R. Dorn: The church of the former women's monastery St. Marien and Pusinna in Herford. Architecture under the nobles of the Lippe . Petersberg 2006.
  • Matthias Wemhoff : The Herford women's monastery. The archaeological results on the history of secular and sacred buildings since the late 8th century (=  preservation of monuments and research in Westphalia . No. 24 ). Habelt, Bonn 1993, ISBN 3-7749-2611-5 (in three volumes).
  • B. Suermann: The Pushpin in Herford . Aspects of a medieval manorial rule (=  Westphalia in the pre-modern era . No. 24 ). Aschendorff Verlag , Münster 2015, ISBN 978-3-402-15064-1 .
  • Ulrich Andermann, Fred Kaspar: Life in the Reichsstift Herford. Collegiate women, priests, vicars and citizens. Münster, 2019.

Web links

Commons : Stift Herford  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kroker 2000, p. 80ff.

Coordinates: 52 ° 6 ′ 47 ″  N , 8 ° 40 ′ 13 ″  E