Community ID
Alternate Names
heilgenrodhe (1189); Heiligenrothe (1201); Helegenrothe (1203); Helgen Rade (1218); Hilegheroth (1276); Hilghen roede (1407)
near Delmenhorst
Bremen; presently Osnabrück
Medieval Location
The convent was located in the medieval dukedom of Saxony in the town of Neubruch, south of Mackenstedt.
Modern Location
The convent lies approximately 10 km south-east of Delmenhorst.
Corporate Status
S. Maria (Mary)
Date Founded
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The convent was founded by Friedrich von Mackenstedt, the archepiscopal minister, in the neighborhood of his possessions. The convent at this time was founded for Benedictine monks. The foundation was confirmed by archbishop Siegfried of Bremen. The land on which the community was founded consisted of reclaimed land, which once belonged to Holland. In 1189 when the church and convent were consecrated by Archbishop Hartwig II of Bremen, the convent was referred to as a double house. The charter of confirmation is the only documentary mention of the community as a double house and the first use of the name "heilgenrodhe." After approximately ten years, the house became exclusively female (Jankowski, 281-2; Hoogeweg, 56). The convent possessed a lower-level jurisdiction and was freed from all taxes and duties; it also held a position in the parliament of the county of Hoya, where it was represented by its provost.

First Members

After the reform of the community (circa 1496) lay-sisters are mentioned in the documents.

Notable Heads

The first known prioress is Margarethe (1288); she was followed by Schwanthilde (1306, 1309); Gertrud (1328); Mechthilde (1343); Gertrud (1367); Mechtihilde (1369, 1370), Mechthilde Boges (1372); Mathilde (Mette) Duckels (1390, 1397); Elisabeth (1407); Walburge Stempel (1415, 1429); Gese (1440); Gese Rodewald (1457); Mechthilde Hilgen (1487, 1494). After its internal reform circa 1496, the convent was headed by abbesses, and later 'Vicedominae'.

Population Counts

The size of the medieval convent is not known. In 1603 there were nine nuns and 13 conversi.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

Jankowski thinks it likely that the convent had connections to the double house of Osterholz and S. Paul vor Bremen (Jankowski, 282). At the time of its foundation, the parish church of S. Martin in Mackenstedt was under the patronage of the convent. It was totally incorporated in Heiligenrode in 1238 but by 1496 the parish church was once again independent (Jankowski, 290).


Count Gerbert von Versvlete bestowed gifts on the convent. Members of the surrounding nobility acted as patrons of the convent. Notable patrons were the families from: Weyhe, Klencke, Hodenhagen and Linen (Jankowski, 282). The counts of Hoya, Bruchhausen and Oldenburg were also patrons. The archbishops of Bremen, notably Hartwig II, Gerhard II, and Giselbert acted as patrons of the community. In 1290 Archbishop Giselbert confirmed all the gifts made by himself, his predecessors, and the secular lords to the convent, and on February 1, 1292 he excommunicated all the religious in his city and diocese, who placed burdens on the convent (Jankowski, 283). The founder and his sons acted as protectors/advocates of the convent until the family died out and presumably the surrounding nobility assumed this role (Jankowski, 290).

Social Characteristics

The nuns came from the nobility and later the patrician families of Bremen.

Relative Wealth

The convent's wealth grew primarily through the dowries of its nuns and bequests for memorials. The convent's economic position suffered in the first half of the thirteenth century through the "Stedinger War." By the end of the thirteenth century, the convent was impoverished and the nuns were forced to beg for alms (Jankowski, 283). In the fourteenth century the convent flourished; the gothic church visible today was built during this period. The convent, which had achieved significant prosperity in the fourteenth century, suffered economic losses, as well as a decline in conventual discipline, under the direction of its last provost, Eggert Segelking (1457-1477) (Jankowski, 283-4). During the sixteenth century, the convent experienced its final heydey, but during the course of this century the community became increasingly impoverished. By 1620 the community was in debt to Duke Friedrich Ulrich of Braunschweig-Lüneburg.


At the time of its foundation, the convent's holdings consisted of a hide (approx. 120 acres) in Weyhe, another in Mackenstedt with the tithes from another hide, a fourth of a hide and a house from a "Conrad" and a mill (Jankowski, 288). By 1189 the convent had acquired further holdings: a fourth of a hide in Stuhrbrok, a house in Friesoythe, property in Klein-Bramstedt, tithes and a house in Groß-Bramstedt, half of the tithes in Beckeln, a hide in Bannenhusen, and another hide in Steimke, among other smaller holdings. In 1237 Archbishop Gerhard II granted the convent tithes in Hoyenhausen and Pestinghausen in return fo the salvation of himself and his brother (Jankowski, 283). In 1288 Count Otto von Oldenburg granted the convent the income from a second mill with a house in Welpe. In general the convent held property in the district around Diepholz, in the district of the city of Bremen, in the districts of Cloppenburg, Cuxhaven, Nienburg, Oldenburg, Vechta, Verden, and Wesermarsch, and in the district of the city of Delmenhorst (Jankowski, 289). In the fourteenth century the convent increased its holdings through acquisitions in the neighboring areas and extended its holdings through purchase of goods in more distant areas, particularly Delmenhorst, Dötlingen and Bremen (Jankowski, 283). The convent also acquired possessions from neighboring convents, from Malgarten it received possessions in Grolland in 1301. From Bassum it acquired a hide of land in Mackenstedt for 24 Marks in 1365.


After the convent's reform, circa 1496, the convent took in dwellers, mostly older people who gave the convent their property in return for the nuns' care of them up until their death (Jankowski, 284).

Art & Artifacts

In 1370 a tabernacle and eternal lamp were mentioned. Renovation of the church in 1963 revealed traces of wall murals in the choir from the fifteenth century. They depicted Christ as the judge of the world with Mary and John the Baptist and an Annunciation scene (Jankowski, 292). There is also a restored mural of the crowning of Mary. A chalice from the fifteenth century still exists. The seal of the convent depicted the Virgin enthroned with the child Jesus. It read "SIGILLUM S. MARIE. IN HELGEROTHE." The prioress's seal had a similar image of the Virgin and child (Jankowski, 297).

Architecture & Archaeology

The first convent church for the double cloister of Heiligenrode was presumably built from 1181-1189. The present gothic-style church was built circa 1300. It was created in the northern 'brick-gothic' style and has windows with pointed arches (Jankowski, 291). The oldest portion of the church is the choir. The nuns' choir resides on the west-side of the church. In 1853 four burial chambers were discovered in the church. The church has a tower with three clocks, the oldest of which dates to the fourteenth century. The largest clock was created in 1350. In 1290 documents mention a dormitory. Another document from 1429 mentions a stone house. Documents from the sixteenth century refer to the church, chapter house, dormitory, kitchen, guest house, work houses, a brew house and bake house, and a mill (Jankowski, 293). During the Thirty Years War, the church and conventual buildings were partially destroyed. The convent was surrounded by water on all its sides. To the north and east the convent was surrounded by a copse, still extant today. In its medieval period the convent held three mills (Jankowski, 294).

State Of Medieval Structure

The gothic church still serves as a parish church. In 1963-4 an extensive renovation of the church was undertaken.

Manuscript Sources

The documents for Heiligenrode reside primarily in the state archives of Hannover and Bremen. Documents are also found the the archives of Stade and Oldenburg.

Published Primary Sources

Primary sources for the community may be found in the Urkundenbuch for Bremen (see Jankowski, 295).

Secondary Sources
Miscellaneous Information

Prioress Mechthilde (1487, 1494) attemped a reform of the convent "in its head and members (in capite et membris)" with the support of Heinrich von Muenster, according to the statutes of the Bursfeld Union. With the confirmation of the convent's reform, according to the principles of the Bursfeld Union, an abbess was elected for the convent on October 10, 1496. The new abbess was Mechthilde Hilgen (Jankowski, 284). The abbey of S. Paul in Bremen played an active role in the reform of the convent. The abbot of S. Paul had as visitor the right of overseeing the religious and worldly matters of the convent, and monks from S. Paul served as priests and father-confessors of the community (Jankowski, 284). The convent became formally incorporated into the Bursfeld Union in 1514.

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

The convent withstood financial and social pressure to convert to Lutheranism. The convent did not accept the Protestant Reformation until 1570. At this time the convent was not dissolved but was transformed into a protestant women's chapter. The convent essentially dissolved in 1816. The evangelical women's chapter, however, did not ultimately end until the death of the last member in 1965 (although the communal nature of the chapter had long since disappeared)(Jankowski, 287-8).

Date Started
Date Finished