Community ID
Alternate Names
Ebbekestorpe; Ebbikesdorp (1197); Hebbicstorpe (1241); Ebbistorf; Ebstorppe; Ebstorff
Medieval Location
The community was located in the dukedom of Saxony circa 961 and then came under the dukedom of Braunschweig-Lüneburg .
Modern Location
The convent lies in the western part of the district of Uelzen in the Lüneburg Heide (heath). It is located approximately 25 kilometers from the town of Lüneburg, not far from the city of Uelzen on an important North-South route.
Corporate Status
S. Mauritius
Date Founded
1160 (circa)
Date Terminated
still extant
Religious Order
The reform of 1469/70 was influenced by the Benedictine convent of Huysburg and the Bursfeld Congregation.
Foundation Information

No foundation document remains; information about the convent's foundation comes from a history written circa 1478 by a nun of the community. According to this record, Count Volrad von Dannenberg (1158-1174), from the noble family of Bodwede, and his wife, Gerburg, founded the community for canons. (It is not known if the canons were Augustinian or Premonstratensian; although Jaitner thinks it likely that they were Premonstratensian due to the dedication to S. Mauritius). The foundation was confirmed by Bishop Hermann von Behr. Shortly after its foundation a fire burned the buildings and the canons left the location (Urkundenbuch). Heinrich, the son of Count Volrad, at the request of his sister and the reform-minded canonesses from the neighboring convent of Walsrode, took the place of the male canons (Riggert). It probably assumed the Benedictine rule from the beginning. The first documentary mention of the community is in 1197, when the provost from Ebstorf is named in the foundation document of the Old-convent of Buxtehude (Hoogeweg, 30). The convent is first mentioned in a tithe-list of the foundation charter of the Benedictine convent of Altkloster bei Buxtehude in 1197 (Riggert). Under provost Albrecht in the thirteenth century the convent experienced an economic and artistic peak (Jaitner, 167).

First Members

Nuns from the neighboring convent of Walsrode under the prioress Hassica? (Jaitner, 166). The first documented prioress was Mechtild (listed in 1255 in a convent document); tradition records the first prioress as Hassica. In order the prioresses were: (Hassica); Mechtild (1255, 1307); Elisabeth (1317, 1328); Margarethe (1330); Adelheid (1331, 1338); Jutta Provest (1342, 1342); Adelheid (1344); Jutta Provest (1346, 1366); Elisabeth (1368, 1377); Bertha von Boldensele (1383); Irmgard (1390, 1393); Hildeburgis (1397, 1406); Anna Provest (1408, 1426); Mechthild (1429, 1432); Margarethe von Wenden (1434, 1440 resigned); Gertrud von der Molen (1451-1469 resigned); Gertrud von dem Brake (1469); Mechthild von Niendorf (1470-1495); Barbara von Hodenberg (1495-1510).

Population Counts

Population counts are unavaliable prior to the fifteenth century. In October of 1464 the community recorded forty-nine sisters and a prioress. Students and novices are also mentioned (Urkundenbuch).

Priveleges & Papal Exemptions

The convent's relationship to the papacy and Benedictine order is difficult to establish since no documents specifically address these factors.


The provosts held spiritual jurisdiction over the community and the right of visitation. In 1469/70 Johannes Busch visited the community while Knesebeck was in the process of reforming the convent (Jaitner, 172). In 1496 there was a visitation by the bishop of Verden and administrator from Hildesheim, Bertold von Landsberg, together with the abbot of Oldenstadt and the provosts of Lüne and Medingen and the observant Franciscan, Heinrich Anckem (Jaitner, 173). The result was the confirmation of Knesebeck's reform and the establishment of a division between the holdings of the provost and the convent.


Count Volrad von Dannenberg and his wife Gerburg. Count Heinrich von Dannenberg and his sister. The counts of Danneberg assumed the protectorship/advocacy over the convent until 1303. Since 1303, as vassals of the counts of Dannenberg, the dukes of Lüneburg possessed the advocacy over the convent (Urkundenbuch). The dukes generally worked to strengthen the privileges of the convent, and since the fourteenth century, they had a direct influence over the development of the convent through the presentation of the provost (Urkundenbuch). Families which sold or bequeathed their possessions to the convent included the families of: Meltzing, Boldensele, Bodendike, Estorff, Schack, Grotes, Dyse, Heide, Bispingen, Berge, and Oedeme.

Secular Political Affiliations

Until 1303 the counts of Dannenberg from the founding family of Bodwede held the right of protectorship over the convent. The descendants of Count Volrad held the protectorship over the convent for 150 years; it then came into the hands of the dukes of Lüneburg (Jaitner, 181). The dukes repeatedly confirmed the privileges of the convent. The convent had close relations with the local ruling families. From 1290 on the convent grew close to the Welf ruling house and was increasingly influenced by this connection (Riggert). Circa 1303 the Welfs acquired the right of protectorship over the convent (Jaitner, 167). The Welfs held the right of presentation of the provost. In 1322 the duke freed the convent from tolls and garanteed all previous privileges (Jaitner, 168). The relationship with the local nobility was expressed in 1330 in the extension of spiritual confraternity to the deceased Otto II and his wife Mathilde, his son Otto III and his wife Mathilda (Jaitner, 168). From the time of Heinrich von Offensen (1365-1393) to the Lutheran Reformation there was a practically unbroken line of ducal notararies and chancellors who occupied the position of provost in Ebstorf (Riggert).

Social Characteristics

The nuns were drawn from the local nobility in the dukedom of Lüneburg and the urban patriciate, primarily from the towns of Lüneburg and Uelzen (Urkundenbuch). Through the dowries of these women, the convent acquired land and salt possessions.

Relative Wealth

The community was quite wealthy. The wealth of the community is illustrated by the report that following the reform of 1469, the new abbess confiscated such quantities of gold and silver jewelry that after fashioning a portion into reliquaries so much remained that it had to be stored in a coffer (Hamburger, 119). The financial foundation of the convent rested on landed possessions, tithes and patronage-rights as well as urban possessions in the salt-works, of houses, and of rents in Lüneburg and Uelzen (Jaitner, 175). The period of growth in the possessions of the convent existed from 1300-1350. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the convent tried to secure and increase its economic basis. From 1293-1345 the convent was in the position to invest approximately 2440 Marks for tithes and 3060 Marks for possessions, and in 1367-1394 again approximately 180 Marks for tithes and 2850 for possessions (Jaitner, 176). After 1350 the convent experienced economic decline.


At the time of foundation the community probably possessed tithes, cottage tithes, and farms in the protectorship of Bienenbuettel (Urkundenbuch). The economic basis of the priory was founded on the dowries of the nuns entering the community (Riggert). The community also had numerous landholdings and holdings in the Lüneburg saltworks. Among all the convents in the principality of Lüneburg, Ebstorf had the largest number of saltholdings. The community held land and tithes in Bardenhagen, Bornsen, Ebstorf, Golste, Luchtmissen, Oetzfelde, Oldendorf, Tatendorf, Walmstorf, Wittenwater, Addenstorf, Bahnsen, Cote, Eddelstorf, Graulingen, and property in Abbendorf and Grieben (Urkundenbuch). The convent's possessions in these areas probably came from the founder or his son, Heinrich (Jaitner, 176). Circa 1225 the convent came into disputes with Corvey and Kemnade over six houses in Bahnsen and three in Graulingen. At the time of foundation, the convent also acquired tithes and farm land. In 1262 the convent sold a village near Eddelstorf to Medingen. In 1318 the convent received the posision of Estorp bei Vinstedt, which was probably the ancestral seat of the family from Estorff (Jaitner, 175). The convent's possessions were divided between the provost and the community's holdings, as in all Benedictine convents (Urkundenbuch). In 1368 the convent received a half of the village of Hanstedt from Huner von Oedeme (Jaitner, 169). On May 25, 1372 the nephews of Huner freed the provost from the accusation-the confirmation of Duke Magnus followed on July 2- and transferred all their possessions in Hanstedt and its surroundings to the convent for 950 Marks (Jaitner, 169). Circa 1568 the provost held the largest portion of the tithes and landholdings and approximately half of the salt possessions (Urkundenbuch). In 1293 the convent acquired the tithe from Lehmke, Bohlsen and Hansen from the families from the Berge and Schulenburg. In 1300 the convent made its single biggest investment in the acquisition of the "villam totalem Melzingen" from the family of Meltzing for 100 Marks silver, which was composed of 15 farms and the family seat in 1568 (Urkundenbuch). There followed in 1318, two farms in Estorp; in 1324 the purchase of Barnsen for 300 Marks; 1325 three farms in Hohenbuenstorf and circa 1337 several farms in Westerweyhe and Altenebstorf (Jaitner, 177). In 1318 the convent received farms in Wessenstedt and Kirchweyhe; in 1320/21 the tithes of Bargfeld and Breloh and in 1322/23 several farms in Lehmke. In 1320 the convent purchased the whole villa in Linden (approximately 10 farms in 1568)for 210 Marks. In 1321 it acquired possessions in Stadorf for 335 Marks and the mill in Wittenwater for 25 Marks. The tithes from Tatendorf and Teendord were acquired for 100 Marks from Herman Klueving in 1244; from Etzen for 130 Marks from the family of Dyse in 1319; and the tithes from Bargfeld for 180 Marks from the family from the heide in 1321 (Jaitner, 178). Between 1368-1372 the convent acquired property in Oedemeschen and around Hanstedt for 1850 Marks silver. On February 14, 1368 Huner von Oedeme sold to Duke Wilhelm six farms, a half a castle, and a half a mill as well as the jurisdiction and patronage rights in the parish church in Hanstedt as well as further farms in Teendorf, Bode, Brauel, Allenbostel, Eitzen, Holthusen and Betzendorf. The duke in turn gave these to the convent in June of 1368 (Jaitner, 178). This included forest holdings and all the rights in these areas (Urkundenbuch). The community was exempt from regulations on cutting wood in Suessing in Hanstedt, Melzinger and Barnser. After 1360 the convent acquired by purchase and donation holdings in the cities of Lüneburg and Uelzen, primarily consisting of rents from houses (Urkunden). From 1430-1451 the convent acquired property in Müden. In 1568 the convent held landed possessions in 66 places (40 of which belonged to the provost) (Jaitner, 177). The convent also owned mills in several locations, inluding Ebstorf, Lehmke, Eimke, Wittenwater, Stortenbuettel, Hanstedt, Barum and Hoesseringen, and Molzen (Jaitner, 179). The convent also had charge of a winery near Wessenstedt, a number of pastures, a fishery and brick-works and tile-works production, which was sold to Celle (Jaitner, 179). The convent also had extensive forest holdings, the most important of which was in Süsing.


The community's income was drawn from tithes, rights in the Lüneburg saltworks, landed property, rents, annuities, and religious bequests (Riggert). The convent held an important portion of the Lüneburg saltworks; these were acquired primarily through purchase in the fourteenth century (Urkundenbuch). After the male house of S. Michael, Lüneburg, and the convent of Lüne, Ebstorf was the third largest holder of salt-pans (Urkundenbuch). The convent held a few salt-holdings in the thirteenth century (4 documents are extant); however, in the fourteenth century the convent acquired several more holdings (32 documents are extant from 1300-1355). The convent thus reached its economic highpoint in the first half of the fourteenth century. Another important source of income came from the convent's legal and jurisdictional authority in Ebstorf and Munster (Jaitner, 179). The community also received income from rents from houses and bonds of the city treasurer (Jaitner, 181). In Lüneburg the convent recieved taxes from 17 houses in 1414, amounting to approximately 170 Marks (Jaitner, 181). The houses often came into the hands of the convent through the entrance dowries of the nuns or memorials.

Other Economic Activities

The nuns in the principality of Lüneburg were famous for their wool and silk embroidery and their textile production. It is unclear whether they received income from these productions. The convent also engaged in making loans to local families (Jaitner, 180). The convent also benefitted financially from the pilgrimages to the Ebstorf martyrs, which began during the fourteenth century (Jaitner, 187).


The convent had legal and jurisdictional authority (through its provost) in the
Gow of Ebstorf since its foundation.

Literary Works

The Ebstorf Weltkarte [map of the world] is quite famous; it was produced during Johannes Propst's time as provost (1256-1281) and was presumably conceived by the cleric, diplomat, and writer, Gervasius von Tilbury. The original was destroyed by bombing during World War II, but it has been reconstructed on the basis of a copy of the original. The Ebstorf Weltkarte may be viewed online at ">http://www.landschaftsmuseum.de/seiten/Museen/Ebstorf.htm"/>
By clicking on various parts of the map, you may view the image in more detail.

Art & Artifacts

The convent of Ebstorf preserves many of the medieval artworks and tapestries. Circa 1420 the fifteen stained glass windows in the west-wing of the convent, depicting the "mirror of human salvation" (Heilsspiegel), were created. These glass windows are still extant. Ebstorf, Arisen ChristEbstorf, Christ Prepared for Burial The stained glass windows in the Nuns' choir date from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. They were partially financed by the city council of Lüneburg. Several trunks from the period of the convent's foundation still exist. There is also a "triumphal cross" which dates to circa 1230 and resides in the Landesgalerie in Hannover. Most of the remaining artifacts date from the high point of the convent between 1290 and 1350. The choir stools date to circa 1290; a wooden statue of S. Mauritius dates from the end of the thirteenth century. There is a bronze baptismal by Master Hermanus from 1310 as well as important tapestries, including an altar cloth from the first half of the fourteenth century (Jaitner, 187). A statue of the enthroned Madonna with child from the period of the pilgrimages to Ebstorf (circa 1290-1350) still exists in the nuns' choir. It once served as a shrine or reliquary for the holy blood of the martyrs. The convent also preserves wooden chests from circa 1177. Statues of the patron of the cloister, S. Mauritius, Christ Ebstorf, Arisen Christ, and the apostles still exist as well. The convent preserves embroideries and liturgical items in a small museum. The convent seal, which remained in use unaltered until the Reformation, was created in the twelfth century. It depicts S. Mauritius with a halo in armour with his left arm on a shield and a lance with a pennant in his right arm (Jaitner, 192). The provost's seal changed over time, but always depicted S. Mauritius. The only extant seal of the prioress is the seal of Elisabeth von Dannenberg, which depicts a large profile of a saint (either S. Anna or Elizabeth) with a smaller praying nun with a veil (Jaitner, 192). The illustrations in the two illustrated manuscripts still extant show that the nuns drew iconographically from works produced in the other convents of the region and from other older models, such as French and English works of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Uhde-Stahl, 27). Both manuscripts date to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. One contains several images of the Virgin Mary and the life of Christ; the other manuscript (Ms. V,3) is an instructional manual for music education. This manuscript contains images for teaching the muscial scale and tones (ut, re, mi, fa, so, etc.) Ebstorf, Guidonian hand and depicts Benedictine nuns playing instruments and instructing children in the muscial arts Ebstorf, Hortus Conclusus. The familiarity with which musical instruction in a convent and the nuns are portrayed indicate that this manuscript was produced by a female member of the convent. Other manuscripts from Ebstorf contain hymns and a Latin grammar, presumably also used in teaching (Uhde-Stahl, 28-29).

Architecture & Archaeology

The community flourished from 1290-1350 under provost Albrecht. Circa 1280-1290 (perhaps as late as 1350) the community's gothic-style buildings were completed (the convent buildings were built partly from Romanesque remains). The western portion of the church with the Nuns' choir and the eastern portion with the High choir were roofed circa 1384/5-1396 (Jaitner, 186). At the time of internal reform (circa 1450-1467) structural and architectural changes were undertaken under Provost Knesebeck. In 1469/70 he built a new church;in 1471 the refectory was refurbished. Ebstorf, church and bell tower In 1485-87 a high wall was erected around the garden, in order to enforce strict enclosure (Jaitner, 186). Ebstorf Reform Wall At this time the garden buildings, the cloister and the chapels in the cemetery were restored as well as the ducal house. The church was built in the Gothic Brick-style. Ebstorf church (detail) The church and chapel were lavishly decorated. In 1296 there is mention of an altar dedicated to S. Mary. The parish church had no contact with the nuns in the Nuns' choir. A bell-tower on the south-west corner of the church stems from the fifteenth century (Jaitner, 186). Ebstorf Bell Tower The convent has a north-oriented cloister. The south-wing of the convent lies underneath the Nun's choir within the church structure and takes one-third of the space. On the north side of the High choir a side chapel is located, which was consecrated to S. Bartholomew; on the eastern side there is another chapel and the sacristry. In 1474 Provost Knesebeck permitted a new arrangement of the Nuns' choir, in which he placed a wooden gate, through which the communion could be passed to the nuns and the reliquaries could be viewed (Jaitner, 187). Around the cloister were grouped the convent buildings: on the east stood the entrance, chapter hall, and pilgrim-lodgings Ebstorf, east wing. The provost's house was attached to the western wing. Ebstorf Provost's House In the north wing were the refectory and the sleeping quaters; on the east side lay the prioress and abbesses' wing. To the north of the cloister were the economic buildings, such as the kitchen, brewery, and house for the curia. Ebstorf brewery Ebstorf Brewery (side) In the cemetary precinct to the sourth and east of the convent church lay the chapel dedicated to the Ebstorf martyrs; in 1439 a new chapel was erected next to this one and dedicated to S. Anna. The chapels were presumably destroyed in the period of the Reformation (Jaitner, 187). Later many buildings were rebuilt in the baroque style (Riggert).

State Of Medieval Structure

The convent and many of the medieval artworks from it still exist. (See Art and Architecture). Several of the buildings were remodeled in the baroque style.


The community became a pilgrimage site between 1290-1350; pilgrims came to worship the Ebstorf martyrs, who gained their martyrdom in a Norman battle circa 882, and were worshiped in a chapel located in the cemetary precinct. Ebstorf's position as a pilgrimage site gave the community a prominence which none of the other Lüneburg convents possessed (Riggert). The convent still preserves a statue of the enthroned Madonna, which once served as a reliquary for the holy blood of the martyrs.

Manuscript Sources

The medieval documents still exist and are housed in the Lüneburger Klösterarchive. Ebstorf has one of the richest manuscript holdings, numbering approximately 426 documents from circa 1220-1741. Most of the extant manuscripts stem from the fifteenth century, including several homilies and theological tracts. A Latin grammer, Latin-Niederdeutsch vocabulary list and a musical tract were probably used in the conventual school (Jaitner, 186). The two illustrated manuscripts are Ms. VI, 2 and Ms. V, 3, which were held in the conventual library of Ebstorf.

Published Primary Sources

Litterarisches und geistiges Leben in Kloster Ebstorf am Ausgange des Mittelalters
JAITNER, Klaus, ed. Urkundenbuch des Klosters Ebstorf. Hildesheim: August Lax, 1985.

Secondary Sources

Die Luneburger Frauenkloster'In Treue und Hingabe': 800 Jahre Kloster EbstorfDie Bibliothek des Klosters Ebstorf am Ausgang des MittelaltersKloster Ebstorf.Art, Enclosure and the Cura Monialium: Prolegomena in the Guise of a PostscriptVerzeichnis der Stifter und Klöster Niedersachsens vor der ReformationFigürliche Buchmalereien in den spätmittelalterlichen Handschriften der Lüneburger Frauenklöster.Studien und Texte zur Literarischen und Materiellen Kultur der Frauenklöster im späten Mittelalter: Ergebnisse eines Arbeitsgesprächs in der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, 24-26 Februar 1999Evangelischer Klosteralltag: Leben in Lüneburger Frauenkonventen, 1590-1710, untersucht am Beispiel EbstorfDas Projekt einer Neuausgabe der Ebstorfer WeltkarteDas mittelalterliche Vesperbild und der zwei noch vorhandenen Werke in Eimke und Kloster EbstorfEbstorf : aus der Geschichte des KlosterfleckensDrei Miniaturen aus den ehemaligen Klöstern Lüne und EbstorfDas Benediktinerinnenkloster Ebstorf im Mittelalter : Vorträge einer Tagung im Kloster Ebstorf vom 22. bis 24. Mai 1987Die Lüneburger Klöster und ihr Verhältnis zum LandesherrnConvent Chronicles: Women Writing about Women and Reform in the Late Middle Ages'...wie in einem Rosengarten...': Die Ebstorf Klosterreform im Spiegel von Chronistik und TischlesungMonastisches Leben im Kloster Ebstorf und den anderen Heideklöstern während des Spatmittelalters
Zur Geschichte der lutherischen Frauen-Kloester im Fuerstenthum Lueneburg. Archiv fuer Geschichte und Verfassung des Fuerstenthums Lueneburg 9 (1863): 403-555.
BORCHLING, C. Litterarisches und geistiges Leben in Kloster Estorf am Ausgange des Mittelalters. Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins fuer Niedersachsen (1905): 361-420.
Ibid. Die Gruendung des Klosters Ebstorf (1905): 600-609.
Ibid. Die Normannenschlacht vom Jahre 880 und die Maertyrer von Ebstorf (Hannoverland 1907, Heft 1): 4-7.
KRUEGER, F. Die Kloester Ebstorf, Luene und Medingen. Georges-Spahr-Fuhse, Vaterlaendische Geschichte und Denkwuerdigkeiten der Lande Braunschweig und Hannover 2 (Hannover, 1927): 546-555.
SCHULTE, M. Gestickte Bildteppiche und Decken des Mittelalters. Vol. 2: Baruanschweig, die Kloester Ebstorf und Isenhagen, Wernigerode, Kloster Druebeck, Halberstadt. Lepzig, 1930.
APPUHN, H. Der Buchkasten aus dem Rathaus zu Lueneburg. Grosse Baudenkmaeler 176. Muenchen und Berlin, 1963.
Ibid. "Die Paradiesgaertlein des Klosters Ebstorf. Lueneburger Blaetter 19/20 (1968/69): 27-36.
GROENWOLDT, R. Bilkataloge des Kestner-Museums Hannover 7: Textilien I, Webereeien und Stickereien des Mittelalters. Hannover, 1964.
HAHN-WOERNLE, B. Kloster Ebnstorf. Die Bauplastik. Ebstorf, 1980.
Handschriften des Klosters Ebstorf

Miscellaneous Information

The community experienced economic difficulties and a period of stagnation after the plague in 1350 and as a result of the Lüneburg succession wars circa 1369. The community aligned itself with the side of the duke of Braunschweig and experienced economic losses (Riggert). In 1464 the convent underwent an internal reform, promoted by provost Matthias von dem Knesebeck and completed in 1476. The reform was associated with the Bursfeld congregation. At this time structural and architectural changes were undertaken. The goals of the reform were a renewal of strict observances, strict adherence to poverty and enclosure, the establishment of the mensa communis, increased educational standards for the nuns, and sanitation of the convent buildings(Urkundenbuch). The reform began in the middle of May with the removal of the disputed prioress Gertrud von der Molen and the election of Gertrudis von der Brake (Jaitner, 172). Knesebeck then entrusted the reform of the liturgy to the abbess of the Benedictine convent of Hadmersleben and two nuns from her convent (Jaitner, 172). The convent never became an official member of the Bursfeld congregation, however. After the reform, the convent experienced a period of renewal with the erection of new buildings, artistic embellishment of the church and chapels and the assembly of new texts for the liturgy. On March 3, 1496 Prioress Barbara von Hodenberg complained to the Lüneburg council about the condition of the convent, both spiritually and in worldly things (Jaitner, 173). After this internal reform duke Ernst removed the provost and placed a ducal cloister-administrator in his place until the position was dissolved in 1528. In 1528 the income of the community was attached to the ducal domains (Hoogeweg, 30). The community came under the pressure of the Lutheran Reform in 1529 under Duke Ernst. The nuns greatly resisted the duke's efforts at reformation under the prioress Elisabeth von Dannenberg. Despite the visitation of Urban Rhegius and threats from the neighboring rulers, the convent resisted. It also wi

Manuscripts Produced

The Ebstorf Weltkarte was produced during Johannes Propst's time as provost (1256-1281) either at or for the convent. The convent used to have a very rich library. However, the first act of the reforming prioress, Gertrude von dem Brake, was to confiscate all existing choir books, declare them corrupt, and have them cut to shreds. Thus none of Ebstorf's choir books survive (Hamburger, 121). The nuns appear to have been active in copying and illustrating manuscripts, but only two illustrated manuscripts managed to survive (see manuscript sources).

June Mecham
Date Started