Heiligen Kreuz
Community ID
Alternate Names
Conventus sancte crucis in Rennelberch; Sancte crucis claustro quasi in preurbio civitatis Bruneswic sito (1254); Coenobium montis cursorum;S. Crucis; Kreuzkloster vor dem Petritor; Kreuzstift auf dem Rennelberg, in Monte cursorum
Medieval Location
In the principality of Saxony; 1235 in the principality of Braunschweig-Luenburg. It was located on the site of a previously mentioned foundation, known as "mons cursorum Rennelberg" in the western part of Braunschweig on the Heerstrasse towards Celle.
Corporate Status
S. Mary, Holy Cross, 1297 Apostle Bartholomew
Date Founded
1230 (circa)
Date Terminated
1545 (Cistercian); after 1944
Religious Order
Benedictine/ Cistercian (see foundation field)
Foundation Information

The convent was founded circa 1230 within the city of Braunschweig on the site of a previously mentioned foundation, known as "mons cursorum Rennelberg" in the western part of Braunschweig on the Heerstrasse towards Celle. According to the foundation legend, three pious women lived in claustration in Rennelberg. Next to their dwelling a cross-shaped tree grew, under whose shadows many miracles occurred. The knight Balduin von Campe founded a convent here after the resolution of a conflict with the city of Braunschweig. The convent church was dedicated in 1230 by Bishop Konrad II of Hildesheim (Römer-Johannsen, 68). According to tradition, the convent was founded as a Benedictine community (circa 1230-1409). The convent assumed Cistercian rules in the fifteenth century (circa 1409-1545) (Römer-Johannsen, 69). It appears that the abbesses asserted that the nunnery was part of the Cistercian order, whereas the ecclesiastical hierarchy did not acknowledge this. It is likely that Heiligen Kreuz was one of the many nunneries which followed Cistercian customs without being officially integrated within the order (Römer-Johannsen, 69). In 1409 the nunnery was officially accepted into the Cistercian order. The community remained Cistercian until 1545.

Notable Heads

The first documented abbess is Adelheid, named in 1266. Abbess Mechtild (Mathilde) von Vechelde, elected abbess at forty years old, promoted the rennovation and new creations in the convent church and nuns' choir.

Population Counts

In 1350 there were twenty-three nuns. In 1506 there were thirty nuns and an abbess. In 1532 after the departure of ten nuns, fourteen nuns remained with the abbess. In 1545 there were six nuns and fourteen novices. According to Römer-Johannsen, the convent held betwen thirty and forty nuns prior to the Reformation along with ten lay sisters (87).

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The convent appears to have had ties to the Cistercian nunnery of Abbenrode (founded 1252), because in 1254 the provost, abbess and convent of Abbenrode paid twenty Marks silver through the convent of Heiligen Kreuz in order to no longer be burdened with the assumption of nuns (receptione dominarum) (Römer-Johnnsen, 69). The convent also had a close tie with the Benedictine monastery of S. Aegidien.


In 1503 Cardinal Raimund Peraudi, bishop of Gurk, celebrated a Mass in the convent and mentioned the nuns as remaining true to the Cistercian rules.


Duke Otto "the Mild" (1318-1344); Magnus I (1344-1369); Duke Magnus II (1369-1373);

Secular Political Affiliations

The convent had close relations with the city and council of Braunschweig. The convent had good relations with the duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, but suffered frequently from damages and plundering of the ducal armies in the many conflicts between the city and the duke (Römer-Johannsen, 70). In 1417 the convent loaned the city 130 florins(?) to support the city in its conflict with the canons of S. Blasii before the council in Constance (Römer-Johannsen, 73). In 1492 the convent came into a conflict between the city and Duke Heinrich, and the nuns had to flee to the city-farm of Riddagshausen (Römer-Johannsen, 73). In the course of the dispute the duke destroyed the convent possessions in Lehndorf and Raffturm and damaged the convent villages of Lamme and Wedtlenstedt (Römer-Johannsen, 73).

Social Characteristics

The nuns stemmed from the local bourgeousie and patrician families, especially those connected to the city council and with the ducal ministry. The names of several families appear frequently. These are: Bleckenstede, Breier, Broistede, Broitzem, Damme, Doring, Elers, Heyde, Holle, Holtnicker, Hondelage, Kerkhove, Less, Luckenem, Lutherdesvon Barberge, Pawel, Salge, Scheppenstede, de Septem, Turrem, Twedorp, Ursleve, Vechelde, Velstede (Römer-Johannsen, 86).


The convent acquired landholdings through gifts and purchases. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the convent's aquisition of land halted. The convent primarily held property in and around the city of Braunschweig. In 1245/49 the convent held 22 hides, a farm, and a parish in the west half of the city. In 1256 the ministry official Bertram "the elder" von Veltheim gave the convent four hides in Gevensleben free from advocacy on the occassion of the profession of his two daughters (Römer-Johannsen, 70). In the fourteenth century the convent acquired three mills, and a portion in the Lueneburger saltworks, as well as a fish-farm(?) (Römer-Johannsen, 71). In 1370 Duke Magnus II declared that in the future no knight or princely advocate could take food or feed from the convent or its farms (Römer-Johannsen, 71). The convent also held possessions in the areas of Lamme and in Lehndorf (in the city of Braunschweig) on the Heerstrasse toward Hannover; it had important possessions in Wedtlenstedt (in 1270-1284: 19 hides, 8 farms) and Zweidorf (Römer-Johannsen, 82). In Welkeleghe the convent had two hides in 1271 which were sold in 1319. In 1329 it had rights over the forest in Dutzem; in 1355 it had four hides in this location (Römer-Johannsen, 82-3). The convent also had possessions in Bortfeld ( in 1312 five and a half hides and farms), in Voelkenrode, and Wendeburg. In 1269 the convent held three hides in Denstorf. In Lamme in 1315 the convent held two farms, four hides and their dependents, and in 1322 it received rents from three hides. In 1343 the convent records six hides in Vallstedt; in Sonnenberg from 1379-1756 it held five hides and a farm. In the area of the city of Salzgitter, the convent held two hides in 1254 in Lobmachtersen, and in 1309 income from two hides. In 1283 it held a hide in Watenstedt, and from 1448-1753 the convent received tithes from two farms in Heerte. In the area of Wolfenbüttel the convent also held property. In Weferlingen it held four hides in 1268, two farms and seven hides in 1331. In Evessen the convent held from 1395-1423 a portion of the income of the knightly farms (nine hides) for the Mary-Magdalene altar (Römer-Johannsen, 83). In Watzum south of Schoeppenstedt it held three hides in 1262 and four and a half hides, two farms, and fields in 1312. In Bisdorf on the Flur Barnstorf the convent held a hide in 1285 and two hides and two 'areas' in 1314. In Achim the convent had two hides in 1297 which it sold in 1355 to the convent of Neuwerk in Goslar. From 1359-1361 the convent had ten hides in Klein Biewende, and from 1365-1373 it had a farm with one and a half hides in Berklingen. In Wetzleben the convent held three hides from 1387-1389. In Gevensleben am Heeseberg the convent possessed twenty and a half hides from 1256-1343. In 1282 it acquired seven and a half hides here. In 1358 it recieved taxes from a farm with a half a hide. In Volkmardorf between Neubrueck and Didderse the convent held two hides bestowed by Duke Albrecht. In Rethem an the Aller west of Celle the convent held five hides, a farm, and a forest complex in 1301 (Römer-Johannsen, 84). In the fifteenth century the convent suffered under the alienation of some of its property. In 1432 certain possessions were ordered to be returned to the canons of S. Cyriacus by Pope Eugen IV (Römer-Johannsen, 72). Nevertheless, the convent was able to retain much of its landed possessions up to the present day (Römer-Johannsen, 81). The convent had mills in Weferlingen in 1270 and 1331, in Schöppenstedt in 1309, a windmill in Braunschweig in 1310, and a water mill in Wahle from 1335-1584 (Römer-Johannsen, 84-5). The convent also received fees from the mills in Braunschweig, Eitzum, Lobmachtersen, and Erkerode. The convent possessed half of the fishing area in the Oker from the 'door of Peter' in Braunschweig to the "Pfahldorf" Oelper. In 1365 the convent acquired a portion in the Lüneburg saltworks from the Benedictine monastery of S. Michaelis in Lüneburg.


The oldest document concerning economic matters dates from 1241 and records a lease with the provost of the Braunschweig canon's college foundation of S. Blasii of fields and fifteen gardens for three pounds of silver yearly and an interest of twenty-four Marks (Römer-Johannsen, 81). In 1284 the convent acquired patronage over the church and the Augustinian canons of Katlenburg (Römer-Johannsen, 82). The convent recieved tithes in Zweidorf (in 1252 half a tithe, sold in 1319) In Wedtlenstedt (the whole tithe from 1314-1771) and in Abbenrode (from 1403-1775 the whole tithe). In Immenrode in recieved half of the tithe from 1265-1770. The convent recieved tithes from Weferlingen (1270-1767), Bistorf (1285-1315), Neindorf am Oesel (after 1314-1765), Kraut Neindorf on the Flur Groß Biewende (1374-1770), and Hedeper (in 1474 three fourths of the tithe) (Römer-Johannsen, 84). In 1245/49 the convent received patronage over the church of the Holy Cross in Lehndorf from the ministry official, Johann von Wahle (Römer-Johannsen, 85). The convent also acquired patronage in the church of Wedtlenstedt from the Augustinian canons of Katlenburg in 1284. The convent required a dowry from each women admitted to the convent (Römer-Johannsen, 87).


In 1266 the nunnery came into conflict with the Augustinian canons of Oelsburg by Peine and the archdeacon of Denstorf over the convent's attempt to expand to the west. In 1270 Heiligen Kreuz became involved in a seventeen year conflict with the Augustinian canons of Katlenburg over a gift in Wedtlenstedt. In 1287 the conflict was settled in favor of the convent (Römer-Johannsen, 70). From 1272 to 1279 the nunnery became involved in a conflict with Bishop Otto I of Hildesheim about a contribution to the diocese. In 1256 Pope Alexander IV had exempted all churches, convents, and chapels from such contributions. (The city was divided between the bishopric of Halberstadt and Hildesheim). When the convent refused to pay, the bishop excommunicated it.

Art & Artifacts

Abbess Mechtild (Mathilde) von Vechelde, elected abbess at forty years old, promoted the rennovation and new creations in the convent church and nuns' choir. In 1494 she gave eight Marks for a new tabernacle for the statue of Mary; in 1495 a new reliquary-shrine was commissioned for thirty-five (florins?). In 1505 the nuns' choir received new carved choir stools and in 1414 an organ is mentioned (Römer-Johannsen, 92). From the medieval possessions of the convent only a crucifix; a wooden, painted shrine; a silver and gold chalice, and a box for the Host remain. Portions of six wool tapestries also survive from the first half of the fourteenth century. The themes of the tapestries include the story of Parzifal, the story of Solomon and the queen of Sheba, Moses, the Prophets, and a tapestry with a pelican motif and another with a lion motif (Römer-Johannsen, 93).

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent church was presumably completed in the thirteenth century. It was probably dedicated in 1230, 1250 at the latest; in 1271 a Nicholas-altar is mentioned. Documents mention the cloister, a garden, a kitchen, and outbuildings (Römer-Johannsen, 91). Besides the main altar, six other altars are mentioned in the church. The altars were dedicated to Mary, the Holy Blood, Mary Magdalene, the angels, the apostles, and to S. Nicholas. These altars were erected by patrons of the community (Römer-Johannsen, 91). In 1359 a chapel dedicated to the holy apostle Jacob was dedicated by the parents of Conrad von Weferlingen; a second chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross was erected through the testament of the patrician, Juergen Holtnicker. A family chapel was erected according to the testament of Henning von Adenstedt. The convent was burned in the fall of 1545. In 1567 the city-council decided to rebuild the convent in a Renaissance style; this building was burned in December 1605 (Römer-Johannsen, 91).

State Of Medieval Structure

The convent was burned in the fall of 1545; only the walls of the convent church remain. The convent was rebuilt in 1567 and burned again in 1605. It was finally destroyed on October 14-15, 1944 by fire bombs. Only a few buildings remain from the sixteenth-century structure.


In 1284 Bishop Peter von Magdeburg gave the convent an arm-reliquary of S. Barbara (Römer-Johannsen, 71). The convent also recieved a reliquary of the Holy Blood from the monastery of Cismar in 1283.

Manuscript Sources

The only surviving manuscript is the "Chronica et Memorabilia monasterii S. Crucis extra muros civitatis Brunsvicensium," which records the histroy of the convent from 1485-1506. It is located in the Herzog August library in Wolfenbüttel, #1159. One literary work from the convent remains: a Liber ordinar. for the Cistercian order, dating to the fifteenth century, located in the University library in Göttingen, #Theol. 206. The documents for the convent reside in the Staatarchiv Wolfenbüttel, Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, and in the Archiv der Evangelischen Landeskirche Braunschweig.

Published Primary Sources

[1]Urkunden und Regesten zur Geschichte des Geschlechtes Wolfenbüttel-Assesburg und seiner Besitzungen 1-3, ed. J. Graf von Bocholtz-Asseurg. Hannover: 1876-1905.
[2]Braunschweig Urkundenbuch.

Secondary Sources

Braunschweig, Hl. KreuzHandschriftenerbe des Deutschen Mittelalters, vol. 1, p. 108-109.Verzeichnis der Stifter und Klöster Niedersachsens vor der Reformation
ESCHENBURG. Nachricht von dem vor Braunschweig gelegenen Kloster St. Crucis. Braunschweig: Magazin 1831. TUNICA, W. Zur Geschichte des Klosters S. Crucis zu Braunschweig.

Miscellaneous Information

The convent flourished both economically and artistically in the fourteenth century. The convent appears not to have experienced any special deprivations or suffering during the plague. In 1340 the convent suffered, like all others within the bishopric of Hildesheim, under the papal bann during the conflict between Heinrich and Erich over the bishopric of Hildesheim (Römer-Johannsen, 72). The internal reform of 1469/70 which affected many of the Lüneburger convents appears not to have affected Heiligen Kreuz. It is uncler whether the refomer Nikolaus von Kues, who spent several days in 1451 in Braunschweig, actually made a visitation at the convent. The provost Dietrich belonged to those clerics imprisoned by Kues (Römer-Johannsen, 72). The convent appears not to have been affected by the difficult plague years of 1460, 1463-4, 1473 and 1496. In 1528 the convent accepted the Lutheran Reformation. The convent was burned in 1545 and the remaining nuns were placed in the Benedictine monastery of S. Aegidien (Römer-Johannsen, 76).

Manuscripts Produced

The convent must have had a library and a scriptorium according to Römer-Johannsen. The only surviving manuscript is the "Chronica et Memorabilia monasterii S. Crucis extra muros civitatis Brunsvicensium," which records the histroy of the convent from 1485-1506. A liber ordinarium from the Cistercian convent also remains.

Conversi/ae and servants

The convent was placed under the supervision of a provost. In 1318 there were three chaplains (a chaplain, vicar, and scholar), in 1410 four and in 1490 three again. The first chaplain was the father confessor for the nuns. The convent also records a sacristan, a doorman, and a teacher (school-man) underneath the provost (Römer-Johannsen, 89). A manager (Provisor) oversaw the provost and controlled his management of the convent's property. The convent also had a farm-manager. Free servants and maids worked the convent farms (Römer-Johannsen, 90).

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

The convents' documents record an abbess, prioress, celleraria, sacrista, cameraria, cantrix, subcantrix, infirmaria, and a scholastica. The regulations for the election of an abbess required that the candidate be thirty years old, descended from a legitimate marriage, and have spent five years in the convent after her profession (Römer-Johannsen, 86). The induction of the abbess was the task of the bishop of Hildesheim, but he generally delegated it to the abbot of the Benedictine convent of S. Aegidien (Römer-Johannsen, 86).

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