Community ID
Alternate Names
Cellula que Burlage dicitur; claustrum in Burlaghe, conventus sancte Marie monasterii in Burlage
Minden; today it is in the bishopric of Osnabrück.
Medieval Location
The convent was located on a small island east of the Dümmer river in the municipality of Diepholz .
Modern Location
In the municipality of Diepholz
Corporate Status
S. Mary
Date Founded
1140-1150 or earlier
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

According to legend, the foundation is accredited to Charlemagne, who errected a religious house in thanksgiving for a successful battle against Saxon farmers. The practicalities of the foundation are unknown. The oldest mention of the community is in an undated document of Bishop Heinrich of Minden (1140-1153), in which the management of the community was given to Burchard, the previous abbot of Quernheim. To improve the economic position of the community, he subdivided the parish of Dielingen and founded another parish for the convent, which included the neighboring village of Marl (Brosius, 127). At this time the community was referred to as "cellula," which Brosius interprets as proving that the community did not have a long history and had not yet attainted the status of a convent (Brosius, 128). The bishop at the same time freed the community from its prior obligations. This may indicate that the church in Minden stood behind the foundation. The nuns are referred to as "monilis, santimonialis, ancilla Christi and klosterfrouw." Besides a prioress, a custodian, and cantoress are mentioned. Burlage lay in the archepiscopal district of Lübbeck in the diocese of Minden.

Notable Heads

Known Prioresses were: Margarethe 1272-1276; Swanhildis 1300-1309; Adelheid 119-1325; Gertrud (Gherdike) 1343-1350; Margarete 1357-1361; Jutta 1380-1387; Engel von der Strithorst 1434-1463; Metteke Bardewishes 1492-1507; Leneke von Schwega 1513-1520; Elsebe von Westrup 1526-1538; and Goesta Aspelcamp 1566.

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

Geseke Swake, a noble widow, entered the convent in 1462.

Population Counts

50 names of nuns are known for the community; 24 from the year 1350. In 1518 the number of nuns was eight.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

Other ecclesiastical relationships are uncertain, except for several economic exchanges with the convent of Levern. Spiritually, the community remained under the direction of the bishops of Minden (Brosius, 129). In 1526 the convent paid a large sum for freedom from all episcopal jurisidiction and a confirmation of its privileges and rights. The convent had a filial relationship to the chapel in Lemförd and also probably had control over a chapel in the village of Marl (Brosius, 131-2).


From 1319-1520 there are ten documented religious grants. Especially in the plague-year of 1350, grants and gifts of the faithful from the neighboring areas accumulated.

Secular Political Affiliations

In the thirteenth century, control over the community was disputed between the bishops of Minden and the nobles of Diepholz. The nobles from Diepholz exerted a considerable influence over the convent, although they did not have the formal protectorship of the convent. The community was under the counts of Diepholz. After this noble house died out in 1585, the community came under the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg and was under the dukedome of Lüneburg until 1665 (Brosius, 127).

Social Characteristics

The convent was composed of members of the lower nobility of the county of Diepholz and the neighboring areas of Mindend and Osnabrück. A few daughters of the patricians from these episcopal cities are mentioned. Provosts for the community stemmed from the patrician class.

Relative Wealth

In the fourteenth century when Frisian settlers developed the marshland surrounding the convent, the economic position of the convent improved.


The community's landholdings lay primarily within the county of Diepholz, mostly on the south-east side of the Dümmer river. The community also had possessions and rights in the villages which belonged to the chapter at Minden (Brosius, 130). Records of tithes only appear for the areas of Marl and Huede. Tithes at Marl were purchased in 1301 from Bishop Ludolf of Minden for 160 Marks (Brosius, 130). According to Brosius, near the convent there was an oil-mill and a bakehouse, and by Marl the provost had a windmill. A fishery also lay near the bakehouse. However, Brosius does not indicate whether these structures existed in the medieval period of the convent (Brosius, 131). The nuns also held personal possessions, which they could acquire and alienate without the intervention of the convent (Brosius, 131). According to the rule, after their death, these possessions went to the convent. Entrance into the community also required a dowry, which in 1434 amounted to 15 Marks (Brosius, 131).

Art & Artifacts

From the late Gothic period there are stone statutes of the Apostles, a Madonna, and a wooden group of the S. Anna "Selbdritt." There is also a clock from 1481 with a picture of Mary.

State Of Medieval Structure

The present sacristy in the parish church at Burlage appears to date to the convent's medieval period. It was presumably the choir of the previous convent church (Brosius, 128-9). No traces of a refectory or chapter hall survive. Burials of the nuns are found to the north of the convent church.

Manuscript Sources

The archival materials for the community are located in the Staatarchiv Hannover in the materials for Celle and in the Staatarchiv Münster, in the documents of the principality of Minden.

Published Primary Sources

[1]Diepholzer Urkundenbuch, ed. W. V. HODENBERG, Vol. 2: Archiv des Klosters Burlage, (Hannover 1842), which contains 63 documents of the convent from 1289-1543.
[2]Wesfaelisches Urkundenbuch 6, ed. H. HOOGEWEG, Muenster 1898.

Secondary Sources

MOOYER, C.F. Ueber das in der Mindenschen Dioecese gelegene vormalige Nonnenkloster Burlage (Vaterlaend. Archiv des Historischen Vereins fuer Niedersachsen 1844, 31-52).
LOHMEYER, F. Die Geschichte des vormaligen Nonnenklosters Burlage am Duemmer (Heimatbll. f. d. Gft. Diepholz, 1933), no. 5 and 6.

Miscellaneous Information

It is unknown how strictly this community adhered to the Benedictine Rule. No statutes or internal rules or writings from the convent exist. In 1538 the Lutheran reform was introduced into the community. Documents do not record opposition to this. The convent became a Lutheran community with a "Domina" in charge. The convent dissolved in 1672 with the death of the last religious woman.

Conversi/ae and servants

The provost had a chaplain under him; there is one mention of a scribe in 1384. The provost was chosen by the convent, but confirmed by the bishop in Minden. It is unknown whether the community also included lay sisters.

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

Few records from this community exist and other records, such as the Chronicle of Minden, totally by-pass this community. It is therefore difficult to determine the economic, political or spiritual influence of the convent on the surrounding locale (Brosius, 128). Very few references to conventual life exist. Presumably the nuns were concerned with the liturgy and the celebration of anniversaries and memories. There is mention of a memorial book in 1350. The convent's seal depicted an enthroned Madonna and child with a kneeling figure on the right side of the throne (Brosius, 133).

Date Started
Date Finished