Community ID
Alternate Names
Cenobium ad sanctum sepulchrum in Thegow, monasterium sanctimonialium in Thegow, cenobium tu den heiligen grabe
between Wittstock and Pritzwalk
Prignitz region in north-eastern Brandenburg
Medieval Location
near the town of Wittstock
Modern Location
between Wittstock and Pritzwalk
holy sepulcher
Date Founded
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The convent was founded as a Cistercian female house in 1287 by Margrave Otto V. According to the foundation legend, a trader from Freiburg stole liturgical objects and a consecrated host from the church in Techow. Overcome by a remorseful conscience, the trader buried these objects near the village of Galgenberg (gallow hill). While he buried the objects, the host began to bleed. The residents of Techow overtook the trader in Pritzwalk, ran him down and took him to the gallows. The consecrated host remained in Priztwalk. Sometime later, the bishop of Havelberg became very ill. On the verge of death, he asked that the host be brought to his aid. Once the bishop recovered, he returned the host to the Galgenberg. Pilgrims soon followed, including Margrave Otto V. As he sat at the table here, he witnessed the food turn into blood. That night a voice directed him to erect a female convent on that location, which he did. The convent was erected (according to the legend then) as a result of this miraculous bleeding host. More mundane motivations for the foundation of this house may have been the stabilization of Otto V's power in this region, the securing of its borders, and perhaps provision for daughters of the nobility.

Notable Heads

Under the leadership of Abbess Anna von Quitzow and prioress Elisabeth von Alvensleben the convent withstood the introduction of the Lutheran reform.

Population Counts

The convent may have held as many as 70 nuns.

Dependency Of

the female Cistercian convent of Neuendorf in der Altmark


The landed nobility of the region of Prignitz donated generously to the support of this community.

Social Characteristics

The convent admitted daughters of the landed nobility in particular to its community. The abbesses and prioresses of the convent came from the noble families from the cities of Osterburg, Rohr, Wartenberg, Kunow, Luderitz, Quitzow, Klitzing, Alvensleben, Rochow, Königsmark, and Cracow. Noble daughters from the families von Bismarck, von Jagow, von Blumenthal, von Platen, von Schulenburg and von Oppen also appear as members of this house.


The convent held possessions in 17 villages (Blesendorf, Boddin, Bölzke, Breitenfeld, Damelack, Halenbeck, Kemnitz, Kolrep, Old and New Krüssow, Langnow, Rapshagen, Sadenbeck, Sarnow, Schönebeck, Techow, Wilmersdor, and Klein-Woltersdorf). Provosts were responsible for the economic mangagement of the convent. Among the farm buildings were a corn house (used for storage of grain), a bakery with a bread cellar, a brewery with malt house, a brick oven, and a water mill. Among those dependent on the convent numbered millers, cooks, malters, fishers, cattleherds, blacksmiths, laborers, maids, and scribes. They also employed an apothecary and had their own brick oven for manufacturing bricks.


The convent ran a school, completed textile work, and cared for the poor and ill.

Literary Works

The only extant literary works from this house are two breviaries dating from the fifteenth century.

Art & Artifacts

A white-on-white embroidered linen altar cloth for Lent, portraying the wise and foolish virgins, was produced by the women of this community. Other handiwork reveals the daily work of the nuns.

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent church is located in the south wing of the cloister complex. The church is a single nave structure with an upper-level nuns' choir, built towards the end of the thirteenth century. The nuns'choir was original located in an upper level structure in the south side of the church and spanned the five western-most trancepts. A late Gothic chapel to the holy sepulcher, also a single nave construction, is located west of the convent church outside of the convent enclosure. The chapel was built in the brick step-Gothic style and remains extant. Work undertaken in the chapel in 1986 revealed an earlier building phase of the chapel from the early thirteenth century. The convent buildings were located north of the church and presumably enclosed the original cemetary in the middle. In contrast to many male houses, the organization of the convent buildings were determined by the location of the nuns' choir in the western end of the church; thus the most important rooms were located in the west wing. In the west wing were found the chapter house and the dormitory. The kitchen and refectory were also presumably located in the west wing. The east wing held the work rooms. The provost's house was located north-west of the cloister complex, while the area to the south of the complex was used for the agricultural buildings. Outside the convent wall were located several ponds, each with a mill beside it. Between the ponds and the provost's house was the main entrance to the convent complex. In the eastern wall there was a gate to the garden, which lay beyond the wall. The garden was later encorporated within the convent walls through the construction of a new wall. The convent had a guest house and house for the care of the poor as well as farm buildings and a cattle barn. Among the farm buildings were a corn house (used for storage of grain), a bakery with a bread cellar, a brewery with malt house, a brick oven, and a water mill.

State Of Medieval Structure

The convent of Heiligengrabe is the only female house in Brandenburg, whose original buildings, surrounded by a stone wall, remain in tact. However, continuous use of the buildings has resulted in many alterations to the original structures.

Manuscript Sources

Two breviaries that belonged to this convent are located in the Zentralbibliothek (Central library) in Zurich, #Rh. 178 and 179. Both date to the fifteenth century. Economic books from the year 1513 provide insight into the economic life of the convent.

Secondary Sources
Miscellaneous Information

Under the leadership of Abbess Anna von Quitzow and prioress Elisabeth von Alvensleben the convent withstood the introduction of the Lutheran reform. In 1543 the convent adopted the Protestant teachings but fought the alienation of its properties that had occurred already by 1542/43 with the support of the landed nobility in the region. After years of disputes, the properties of the convent were returned to the community and were not allowed to become a part of the lords' domain. In 1549 Heiligengrabe was transformed into an evangelical women's chapter and remains as such to the present day.


The community supported approximately 180 people, including nuns, servants, the poor and ill.

June Mecham