Community ID
Alternate Names
Imperial chapter (Reichsstift)
Medieval Location
The church where the first three canonesses dwelled lay on the right bank of the Gande river in Gandersheim.
Modern Location
Bad Gandersheim; in the district of Northeim
Corporate Status
Imperial chapter
S. Anastasius; S. Innocent; S. John the Baptist
Date Founded
852 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The Annals of the convent Quedlinburg record the foundation of the church of Gandersheim in "antiquiori loco" (Heineken, 30). According to Heineken, the earliest documents refer to the pre-existing church and do not record the actual establishment of the community. In these documents Luidolf granted possessions to the church of Gandersheim as well as relics, whose authenticity were confirmed by the Pope Sergius. There is no date for this document, although it likely originates in the thirteenth century and may be based on an earlier document. An older papal document also records Pope Sergius' donation of relics to the Count Luidolf (Heineken, 8-9). According to the references, the relic consisted of a drop (or drops) of the Blood of Christ. According to the documents, Luidolf made his gifts to the community at the consecration of his daughter. The community was composed of female canonesses. The original community was presumably founded circa 852 in Brunshausen; after 856 it was transfered to Gandersheim. According to Hrotsvit, the church and relics were dedicated in 881. Heineken regards the Saxon Count Liudolf as the founder; he granted the church of Gandersheim and the three canonesses there property from his hereditary lands (28). Otto I confirmed this grant in 956. Further gifts to the community were made by Ludwig III and Oda or King Arnulf. Oda participated in the foundation as well and later dwelled in the convent. The foundation was intended for the salvation of Count Liudolf's soul. This was an imperial chapter of canonesses.

First Members

Luidolf and Oda's daughter joined the community.

Notable Heads

The community is famous for the authoress, NULL (a canoness), and for its abbess, Hathmuth. Oda's daughter, Gerberg, was an abbess.

Population Counts

According to the works of Agius, the community was small (Heineken, 24). Agius records five sisters and Oda living there. Two of the sisters later married, two others followed the first as abbesses (Heineken, 31). According to Hrosvit, however, all the sisters were consecrated to God. In the fifteenth century the chapter consisted of an abbess, a (female) sexton, one or two canonesses, three canons, and several vicars (Stumpf, 225).

Dependent Communities

The abbey of S. Marien (S. Mary's) was a proprietary convent of the imperial chapter. In the second half of the eleventh century Gandersheim founded other dependent convents, in which the Benedictine rule was observed. Brunshausen was another of the dependent communities.


The community was an imperial chapter and enjoyed the patronage of King Ludwig II and his wife, Liutgarde. Count Liudolf and his wife, Oda, were also patrons of the community. According to Bodo, "filiam principis abbatissam habent, futurum est ut patrem patiantur abbatem" (Heineken, 127). The imperial house acted as a patron of the community (e.g. [Letter to Gerberga, abbess of Gandersheim, 968]).

Secular Political Affiliations

In 1134 Count Siegfried IV of Boyneburg served as the head-advocate of the imperial chapter and its proprietary convents. On May 3, 1259 the imperial Abbess Margarete acquired the right of advocacy over the chapter from the counts of Wohldenberg. The Welf family acquired the right of advocacy over the chapter and its proprietary holdings with Duke Albrecht I of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Stumpf, 231).

Social Characteristics

The chapter was the exclusive preserve of women from the high nobility.

Relative Wealth

According to Heineken, Gandersheim was a very rich community (29). The widespread landholdings of the community enabled the abbess, when she travelled to Rome, to spend every night at one of the convent's own properties (or dependencies?) (29). According to the Saxon Annals (Annalista Saxo), Gandersheim retained only its richest properties, because Heinrich I disputed with his brothers over the property (Heineken, 51).


The oldest verifiable documents for the history of Gandersheim are two documents of Ludwig III. These record gifts made to the community by the king and record that the community was placed under his protection. Another document records a gift of Oda, in which she grants the convent possession of her properties which she had previously loaned to King Ludwig (Heineken, 18). Counts Brun and Otto, sons of the founder, transferred the convent into the king's power; before this time they oversaw the property of the convent, although Count Liudolf had personally conferred property upon the church of Gandersheim (Heineken, 52). According to this document then, the property of Gandersheim was not alienated from the family holdings until the count's sons transferred the convent to the king's possession. On the one hand, the king protected the property of the canonesses which lay within his holdings; on the other hand, he retained control over the administration of the property over those who held its usufruct (Heineken, 53). The character of their community thus appears to have been controlled by members of the imperial family. Ludwig III bestowed a gift upon Gandersheim, and his wife, Liutgarde, maintained a close relationship with the convent (Heineken, 61).

Early Documents

The oldest verifiable documents for the history of Gandersheim are two documents of Ludwig III. These record gifts made to the community by the king and record that the community was placed under his protection. There are two literary references to the nunnery in the works of Agius. In one Agius records a dialogue with the sisters of Gandersheim when he was in the community upon the death of Hathmut (Heineken, 18-19). The sources for Gandersheim are richer for the second half of the tenth century.

Architecture & Archaeology

The Abbey of Gandersheim still stands in the midst of the town of Bad Gandersheim.


Gandersheim had a relic of the Holy Blood, given to the community by Luidolf and authenticated by Pope Sergius. According to Heineken, Luidolf brought a rich treasury of relics from Rome to the community (30). There are also references to King Arnulf acquiring relics in Rome from the pope for Gandersheim (Heineken, 12).

Manuscript Sources

Landeshauptarchiv Wolfenbüttel. St. Gandersheim, n. 1-2; also Wolfenbüttel Archiv 3 and 4. Reg. imp. I 1550/51. The Kunstsammlung der Veste Coburg, in Coburg, contains an Evangelary, circa 860, from this community, #1. The chapter library of Gandersheim (Stiftsbibliothek) contians several works, including an Antiphonal (16th c.), #241; a manuscript from Clus, #242; two works by Nic. de Lyra (15th c.), #s 222 and 247; a Vocabulary (15th c.), #248; a copy of the Hist. schol. by Petrus Comestor (1447), #249; a Liber poenitentia (15th c.), by Thomas Chabham, #250; two calendars for prayer confraterinities, #s 251 and 253; Sermons by Theod. Arnvelde (15th c.), #256; a manuscript beginning "In sequentias" (1363), #254; and another beginning "In psalt." (1402), #255.

Miscellaneous Information

At Gandersheim the exercise of jurisdiction never lay in the hands of the abbess. Provosts held jurisdictional authority (Heineken, 55); although, the abbess of Gandersheim was granted the right to participate in the administration of justice (Heineken, 56). Luidolf's wife, Oda, built the nunnery of Brunshausen, dedicated to S. Stephanus, which became a dependency of Gandersheim. In July 1451 the imperial abbess hesitantly agreed to a reform movement in S. Marien (S. Mary's), pressured by the papal legate and the bishop of Hildesheim and fearing the reduction of her proprietary-rights in the exempt convent. However, the abbess of S. Marien (S. Mary's), Elisabeth von Ruscheplaten, opposed this and requested a letter of protection from the abbess of Hildesheim on February 6, 1452. In 1452, after the death of the cathedral abbess Elisabeth, two new abbesses were elected for the imperial chapter. The contest between the two abbesses, Countess Walburg von Spiegelberg and princess Sophie von Braunschweig-Grubenhagen lasted until 1468. There is a modern bronze statue of Hrostvitha giving Otto I her history near the church of Gandersheim. The Abbey is now used as a Lutheran church. The town of Bad Gandersheim can be found at

Manuscripts Produced

A few works from the convent's library remain. (see manuscript sources)

June Mecham
Date Started
Date Finished