Himmelthal
Community ID
 
2396
 
Alternate Names
 
Himmeltal; Vallis coeli (1233)
 
Town
 
Elsenfeld
 
Diocese
 
Mainz; today, Würzburg
 
Medieval Location
 
Wolperg
 
Modern Location
 
Elsenfeld; in the govenmental district of Unterfranken; in the administrative district of Miltenberg.
 
Corporate Status
 
Abbey
 
Dedication
 
Blessed Virgin Mary
 
Date Founded
 
1232
 
Date Terminated
 
1568 (Link says 1619)
 
Religious Order
 
Cistercian
 
Rule
 
Benedictine
 
Foundation Information
 

This Cistercian convent was founded by Count Ludwig II of Rieneck and his wife, Adelheid of Henneberg. On November 17, 1232 Ludwig and Adelheid transferred their property in Wolperg (Wolperch) (including a mill) to the head of the cathedral chapter of Würzburg, Salomon, for the purpose of founding a female Cistercian house. According to tradition, it was the founders that bestowed the name of Himmelthal upon the house (Link, 590). The founders aslo bestowed the village of Eichelsbach, with its rich income, upon the convent as well as three and a half farms in Schippach (Link, 591). The founders retained the rights of protection and advocacy over the new foundation. In 1234 King Heinrich VII and Pope Gregory IX took the convent into their protection. In 1236 Archbishop Siegfried III of Mainz granted the parish of Erlenbach with all its patronage rights to the convent (Krausen, 57). It appears that the convent was never formally incorporated into the Cistercian order (see other ecclesiastical relationships), but only associated with the order.

 
First Members
 

Gutda, widow of the lord of Michelsbach, who was a nun within the convent and died in 1249.

 
Notable Heads
 

Known abbesses of the convent are: Adelheid of Bickenbach; Agnes, 1291; Jutta, 1299 (she appears in the sale of a vineyard to the cloister of Schmerlenbach); Christian of Leiningen, 1497; Regina Truchfeß (d. 1550); Barbara von Hirschheit, 1552; Anna von Eisenberg, 1559; Anna von Geubel from Schölltrippen; Anna von Geislingen, 1569; and Anna Geubel, 1601 (the last abbess, according to Link). (*Link disagrees wildly with Krausen over the dissolution of this female house).

 
Dependent Communities
 

Lichtenstern was a daughter foundation of Himmelthal, established by Luitgart von Weinsberg, a sister of the Abbess Burgsindis (Needs further Verification).

 
Other Ecclesiastical Relations
 

Himmelthal came under the supervision and jurisdicition of the General Vicar of Mainz, whose commissioner was generally a deacon of the house of S. Peter and Alexander in Aschaffenburg. There is no mention of a Cistercian abbot as a spiritual advisor to the nuns (Krausen, 57). Decisions of the General Chapter also fail to mention the convent of Himmelthal.

 
Visitations
 

There was a visitation in 1516 by the abbot of Seligenstadt and the spiritual commissioner Konrad Rucker as well as by Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. The archbishop found several cases in which the nuns were breaking the monastic rule, and he recalled them to the strict adherence of the rules of the order. According to legend(?), when the archbishop came for his visitation, he found the nuns out boating on their lake! The nuns were also accused of wearing secular clothes (Link, 591).

 
Social Characteristics
 

The nuns were probably drawn from the families of the local nobility (Link, 596) (needs further verification).

 
Assets/Property
 

The convent was founded upon property in Wolperg, which included a mill. The founders also bestowed the village of Eichelsbach, with its rich income, upon the convent as well as three and a half farms in Schippach (Link, 591). In 1236 the archbishop Siegfried of Mainz granted the convent the parish of Erlenbach with all its income and the rights of possession. Within a few years the convent received almost all the tithes from Kloßenhausen and Mechenhard and held lower jurisdictional rights in the villages of Hedebach and Großheubach (Link, 591).

 
Income
 

The convent experience economic difficulties in the fifteenth century.

 
Architecture & Archaeology
 

In the convent church there were 12 gravestones of nuns who had died within the convent. One was of Gutda, widow of the lord of Michelsbach, who was a nun within the convent and died in 1249. She may have belonged among the first members of the community (Link, 592). Other gravestones bore the name of the founders, Count Ludwig and Countess Adelheid (d. 1232), and another of Konrad von Bickenbach (d. 1324). There was also a gravestone for Otto von Bickenbach.

 
State Of Medieval Structure
 

The medieval church only exists in remains in the present church, which dates to the eighteenth century.

 
Manuscript Sources
 

The archives of the community are housed in the Hauptstaatsarchiv in München (Munich) and in the Stadtsarchiv in Würzburg. The Stiftsbibliothek (chapter library) in Aschaffenburg preserves a miscellaneous theological work that belonged to this house, dating from the 11-13th century, #Perg. 25.

 
Miscellaneous Information
 

Link also mentions S. Anne as a patron saint of the convent. The saints Sebastian and Fabian were patron saints of the church (Link, 594). In the years 1525, 1547, and 1552 the convent was plagued by occupations and plundering by the peasants and troops. The buildings of the cloister were seriously damaged in these years. When the last count of Rieneck died, the convent came into the possession of the counts of Erbach, who were Protestant. In 1569 the archbishop of Mainz established the prioress Anna Geupel (a Benedictine)as the abbess of Himmelthal. This led to a long dispute between the bishop and the counts of Erbach. The abbess was for a decade the only inhabitant of the convent as the assumption of new members had been forbidden. She died in 1601. In 1568 the episcopate of Mainz dissolved the convent as it had already died out by this time (Krausen, 58). The income of the convent was later transferred to the Jesuits (Link, 592).

 
Admin. Notes
 

more research necessary Hist. Staetten, 279.
[4]LINK. Klosterbuch der Dioezese Wuerzburg II, 590-98.

 
Contributors
 
June Mecham
 
Date Started
 
1232
 
Date Finished
 
1568
 
Length
 
4514