Community ID
Alternate Names
Novum opus, Mariengarten, Ecclesia ad honorem sancte dei genetricis (1186); Hortus sancte Marie Goslarie (1208, 1210); Conventus sancte dei genetricis Marie in Goslaria (1214); Novum opus in Goslaria (1251); Nyenwerke (1338); Nienwerke (1521); S. Maria
Medieval Location
In the imperial city of Goslar; in the bishopric of Hildeshem.
Corporate Status
S. Maria (S. Mary), the holy cross, S. John and S. Bartholomew
Date Founded
Date Terminated
1570; 1969
Religious Order
Benedictine/Cistercian (see foundation field)
Foundation Information

Founded in 1186, Neuwerk or S. Maria, was the first foundation for women in Goslar. The community was founded by the imperial governor, Volkmar von Wildenstein, and his wife Helena in the last years of the reign of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. From 1173 to 1191 Volkmar served as the advocate for the city of Goslar (Römer-Johannsen, 250). The foundation began as an "oratorium" and Römer-Johannsen credits Helena with the principal role in the creation of this community (Römer-Johannsen, 251). On October 16, 1186 the first altar to the Virgin was consecrated by the bishop of Hildesheim, Adelog. On August 28, 1188 Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa confirmed the foundation of the "oratorium" and placed it under his protection, mentioning the convent for the first time as well (Römer-Johannsen, 252). Until the middle of the fourteenth century the convent vacillated between Benedictine and Cistercian observances (Römer-Johannsen, 252). Documents of Pope Innocent III, Pope Celestine V, and the eight foreign Bishops from 1339 refer to the community as Benedictine. On the other hand, documents from Pope Honorius III, the papal legate Konrad von Porto, Bishop Konrad II of Hildesheim and pope Alexander IV and Bonface VIII refer to the convent as Cistercian (Römer-Johannsen, 252). It appears that the papal legate Konrad von Porto influenced the adoption of Cistercian observances, but the convent did not belong directly to the Cistercian order. The convent's artwork emphasizes a Benedictine influence (see Art/Architecture). After Volkmar's death in 1191, his heirs made claims on Neuwerk and Abbess Antonia had to alienate a large portion of land in Winnigstedt to the Cistercian convent of Walkenried in order to satisfy the heirs (Römer-Johannsen, 252-3).

First Members

The first members and the first abbess of the community came from the earliest female Cistercian foundation in northern Germany, Ichtershausen. At the time of the foundation, Provost Wolfram of Ichtershausen oversaw Neuwerk as well.

Notable Heads

Known abbesses were: Antonia (from Ichterhausen) 1187, 1199; E (Eufemia) 1233; Offemia (same?) 1251; Gertrud, 1256, 1258; Offemia, 1263-4; Elisabeth, 1275, 1286; Jutta 1293; Adelheid, 1296, 1316; Sophia von Wallmoden, 1317; Margaretha, 1323; Adelheid 1324, 1342; Ghese (Gisela), 1351; Mechthild, 1356; Jutta, 1363; Mechtild, 1368, 1372; Grete (Margarethe) 1373; Pertrad (Gertrud?), 1375; Mechtild Vadeschildt 1383, 1388; Bele (Pele, Beile) 1393, 1401; Margarethe, 1423; Katharina, 1429; Adelheid, 1452; Kunigunde von der Schulenburg 1487-1516; Gertrud, 1521; Margarethe Berner 1521-1558.

Population Counts

The foundation was established with twelve nuns and the Abbess Anotonia from the convent of Ichtershausen. It is likely that the number of nuns in the community increased as the house became more wealthy. In 1377 the plague caused the death of many nuns; records refer to nine deaths in one day (Römer-Johannsen, 268).

Priveleges & Papal Exemptions

On October 20, 1199 Pope Innocent III confirmed the foundation and took the convent into his protection. This document confirmed not only the land-holdings mentioned in 1188 but also upheld the convent's privilege from having to contribute tithes from its garden, fishery, animals and clearings. it also declared that the nuns should live according to the Benedictine rule (Römer-Johannsen, 253). On November 20, 1294 Pope Celestine V granted the convent the privilege to continue to pray the canonical hours and celbrate the Mass with the pope's own chaplains during periods of general interdict or excommunication. Pope Boniface VIII renewed this permission on July 1, 1295 (Römer-Johannsen, 255). Pope Alexander IV confirmed the sister's ability to inherit property and leave bequests on July 6, 1260. According to a papal privilege from Pope Innocent III of 1190, the convent could take in any free, single woman. The diocesan bishop would conduct the consecration of novices and after a nun's profession she could not leave the convent, except to move to a stricter order with the premission of the abbess (Römer-Johannsen, 268).

Dependency Of

Ichtershausen, (the first Cistercian convent in northern Germany). When the nuns established their new community in Goslar, they gave relics of S. Godhard to their mother-house of Ichtershausen (Römer-Johannsen, 251). However, a later connection between the two houses is not apparent.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

In 1334 the parish church of S. Jacoi and in 1356 the parish in Klein Flöthe were incorporated into the convent. On March 20, 1355 the Cistercian abbot Eggeling of Riddagshausen freed the convent from excommunication, which it had incurred in favoring the bishop of Hildesheim opposed by the pope (Römer-Johannsen, 256). The Augustinian canons of S. Georgenberg celebrated masses in the convent's church until 1399 when the ties between the two communities were dissolved. Neuwerk held the patronage of the parish church S. Jacobus in Goslar; the bishop of Hildesheim transferred it to the convent in 1334. The church in Ziesel (Theseln) belonged to the convent since 1266, when Dukes Albrecht and Johann of Saxony-Wittenberg gave it to the community as a gift (Römer-Johannsen, 271). In 1302 the convent acquired half of the right of patronage in Groß Mahner but traded this with the bishop of Hildesheim for rights of patronage in the church in Groß Flöthe.


In 1475 the convent received a visitation from Bishop Henning of Hildesheim and the abbesses of the Auguustinian house of Dernburg and the Cistercian convent of Wöltingerode. In the visitation report the convent was criticized for its linen clothing, private property kept in trunks, the lax observance of confession, for not observing the rules of silence in the church, dormitory, refectory, and chapter-hall. In addition, the nuns were accused of having taken part in the festivities in the city, of having danced and sung and worn red shoes! (Römer-Johannsen, 257). Although nuns from Wöltingerode were to be sent to the community to help reform it, this never happened. Instead, Bishop Henning revised the community's organization and established an 'advisory board,' which would support the abbess in administrating the community (Römer-Johannsen, 257).


When Emperor Barbarossa confirmed the foundation, he absolved it from the official taxes and duties as well as from the secular jurisdiction. He also confirmed the convent's right to the free election of its provosts (Römer-Johannsen, 252).

Secular Political Affiliations

The convent was caught in the contest between the Staufers and the Welfs over the possession of the city of Goslar and also came into conflict with the city itself, which attempted to influence the convent through its economics. On January 16, 1200 the convent received a document of protection from the Staufer King Phillip von Schwaben. However, in 1205 the Welfish army took over the city. In 1290 the last count of Wohldenberg transfered the right to protectorship over the convent to the city council of Goslar (Römer-Johannsen, 255). Throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the city of Goslar exerted more control over the convent. It took over two of its mills and placed male overseers in the convent, visible from 1304 on. The convent had little say in their appointment. The city council had influence over the economic state of the convent as well as the internal conventual life, such as the distribution of money to the nuns and the celebration of Masses and anniversaries. By the mid-fourteenth century, the convent stood under the total control of the city council of Goslar (Römer-Johannsen, 255). (See also Contributors' Notes)

Social Characteristics

The convent celebrated many memorials for the bourgeousie of Goslar. In 1296 the priest Heinrich von Kalden established a memorial for himself; Bishop Siegfrid of Hildesheim did the same in 1304 and Duke Heinrich Mirabilis von Braunscehweig-Lüneburg-Grübenhagen as well in 1312 (Römer-Johannsen, 256). It appears that the convent was composed of women from the nobility; in 1521 the first member from the bourgeousie is mentioned (Römer-Johannsen, 268). The names of the abbesses come from the nobles in the areas surrounding Goslar. Between 1319 and 1360 forty-four family names can be established for the nuns: 6 are noble, but not necessarily with a connection to the city of Goslar; 24 come from ministerial families; 10 come from the old bourgeouis families, and 4 names can not be closely identified (Römer-Johannsen, 268). It appears then that women from the bourgeousie could enter the convent. All novices required a dowry.

Relative Wealth

Provost Johannes (1217-1251) and Bishop Konrad II of Hildesheim (1221-1246) developed the convent's economy the most. By the end of the twelfth century, the convent was so rich that it was able to build the Romanesque church still visible today. The fourteenth century was the richest period in the convent's history. (See also Contributors' Notes)


The foundation for the community was the "Oratorium," which had an altar dedicated to Mary in conjunction with a chapel and garden. The chapel received income from two houses and a hospital in Goslar (Römer-Johannsen, 262). The convent also possessed the house and farm of Provost Volkmar, four hides in Jerstedt (north-west of Goslar) and approximately eight hides of woodland in Ohlhof and half of the forest of Scherde. In 1186 a second altar was endowed with thirty stalls in the market of Goslar, which were rented out for 7 Marks yearly, in addition to eight hides (a hide =120 acres) in Ohlendorf and five and a half hides in Watenstedt (Römer-Johannsen, 262). The letter of protection from Emperor Friedrich II on August 28, 1188 also mentions houses in a portion of Goslar known as Römerdorf, a house in the market, seven hides in Stöckhim (near Wolfenbüttel), four hides in Meimerdingerode (near Ohlendorf), in addition to property in Goslar with income from field and forest. The document also mentions a half of a mine in the silverworks in Rammelsberg (Römer-Johannsen, 263). A document of Pope Innocent III from October 20, 1199 confirming the holdings of the convent mentions three portions of the forest in Axenberg with the neighboring smelting works, half of the forest in Camberg, and three mines in Rammelsberg. It also mentions three shares in the cobblers' shops and a house above the workshops. In addition, the convent owned seven hides in Alvesheim. In the thirteenth century, the convent expanded its land-holding, particularly through important acquisitions from 1208 to 1214 from the Benedictine monestary of S. Godehard in Hildesheim, in Alvese, Langelsheim and Bodenstein (Römer-Johannsen, 253). In 1293 the convent was forced to hand over two of its mills to the city. The convent held property around Goslar (i.e. in Ohlhof, Jerstedt and Alvesheim) since its foundation in 1186/1199, but its holdings between Liebenburg and Vienenburg developed more slowly. During the twelfth century, the convent slowly acquired acres in these areas. By 1355 the convent held 12 hides in Ohlhof, seven hides in Jerstedt, five and a half in Langelsheim, 16 hides in Alvesheim, and seven hides in Weddingen. It also acquired holdings in Dörnten (approximately 20 hides) and in Immenrode (20 hides by 1390) (Römer-Johannsen, 264). The convent's holdings in Innerstetal were continually developed in the thirteenth century, above all through the transfer of the rights of the dukes of Wohldenberg over their vassals (Römer-Johannsen, 265). In Klein Sehlde the convent held 2 hides in 1256/58 and three in 1290; it had three hides in Sörde in 1259; in Baddeckenstedt it had three hides, three hides in Gronstede bei Steinlah and five hides in Groß Heer in 1302 (Römer-Johannsen, 265). By 1355 the convent held 14 hides in Groß Sehlde, 14 hides in Klein Sehlde, 5 in Sörde, 9 in Baddekenstedt, and 4 hides each in Klein Elbe and Groß Heere. The convent also had substantial hodlings in the dukedom of Brunschweig; eight hides in Ohlendorf, seven in Flachstöckheim, five and a half in Watenstedt and four in Meimerdingerode (Römer-Johannsen, 265). In the fourteenth century the convent acquired more holdings in this area: 6 hides in Groß Mahner by 1302, 10 hides in Groß Flötheby 1309, and four hides in Lobmachtersen by 1317. To the east, the convent held six hides in Gielde, seven in Werlaburgdorf. The convent also held two hides in Achim in 1355 and nine hides in Ziesel in 1266. In the fourteenth century, the convnet preserved and expanded its holdings through purchase and exchange; it seldom sold property. In 1355 the convent held in total 235 hides of land (roughly 28,200 acres). In the fifteenth century the convent's economic growth halted and in the sixteenth century it experienced economic reverses (Römer-Johannsen, 263). During these centuries, the convent's land acquisition halted completely. In the sixteenth century particularly the convent suffered from making forced loans to the duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel.


In 1493 the convent had a yearly income of 25-30 Marks silver, besides gifts. In addition to its landholding, Neuwerk acquired 18 tithes between 1210 and 1375, 17 in the diocese of Hildesheim and one in the diocese of Halberstadt (Römer-Johannsen, 266). Three of these tithes were only held for a short term. At the time of dissolution, the convent held eight tithes: in Jerze since 1238, in Baddeckenstedt since 1241, in Gronstede since 1245, in Immenrode since 1246, a half of a tithe ion Burgdorf since 1268/69, another half in Achim since 1271, in Dörnten since 1278, and in Klein Sehlde since 1299 or 1353 (Römer-Johannsen, 266). Most of the convent's tithes were acquired between 1236 and 1246. In 1214 the convent acquired the tithe in Ambergau from the Benedictine convent of S. Godehard in Hildesheim. The convent acquired a tithe in Meimerdingerode in 1225 from Bishop Konrad II; in 1236 it acquired another in Gielde from the counts of Schladen and the nobles of Biewende, in 1237 it purchased a tithe in Klein Schladen from the vassals of Lengede and in 1256 it purchased another from the convent on the S. Johannes-Spital in Goslar (Römer-Johannsen, 267). In 1268/69 the convent received portions of tithes in Werlaburgdorf from the lord of Burgdorf and his vassals.


In 1493 there is mention of the nuns raising and educating girls.

Other Economic Activities

In 1245 Bishop Konrad II of Hildesheim decreed that those who helped the convent build a water-system (plumbing) would share in the 'good works' of the convent. In 1274 and 1275 the city of Goslar was granted the right to tax the church's property. In 1304 the convent made a contribution for the support of the Holy Land. In 1366 it contributed 10 Marks silver to the diocese of Hildesheim. At this time the convent was still well-off, due to the numerous bequests for Masses and memorials from the local bourgeousie.

Early Documents

From 1186-1263 there are 33 documents concerning the convent's property-holdings.

Art & Artifacts

The High Altar was consecrated to S. Benedict and his sister Scholastica, and the nuns' choir was painted with Benedictine saints in the thirteenth century. This would appear to indicated an identification with the Benedictine order (Römer-Johannsen, 252). On the south side of the church in its interior is a stone slab with a carved angel, holding in its hand the words "Miri facta vide Laudando viri lapicide" (Behold in praise the [artwork] made by the remarkable stonecutter), while the name "Wilhelmi" is carved on the corbel. The work likley refers to the stonecutter, William, perhaps the same Wilhelm mentioned in a document from 1255 (Römer-Johannsen, 273). The church still retains artwork from the Middle Ages, including a pieta of wood from the mid-fifteenth century, and a statue of Mary lamenting, which once held relics. The painting in the main choir, which depicts the Virgin Mother on the throne of wisdom from circa 1230/40 is unique in Lower Saxony. The mural reflects Byzantine influences (Römer-Johannsen, 273). Other liturgical items from the convent were sold or alienated in the sixteenth century. Church items and tower clocks were later purchased and restored in 1841. The abbesses seal used from 1373-1575 depicts a praying Christ beneath a rainbow, with a book in his left hand. The abbess is also depicted kneeling in prayer (Römer-Johannsen, 279). The convent's seal depicted a throned Madonna with the Christ child in her left arm and a scepter of lillies in her right hand (Römer-Johannsen, 280). The provost's seal was similar to the convent's seal.

Architecture & Archaeology

On January 1, 1186 Bishop Adelog consecrated an altar to Mary in the Oratorium erected by the founding couple. In August of the same year he consecrated a second to Mary, the holy cross and S. John as well as others, whose relics resided there. At this time the church had been begun and was continuing to be expanded. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, the main apse and west side was completed. In 1220-30 the church was painted and in 1362 the ceiling was painted (Römer-Johannsen, 272). The west facade of the church has two towers, and the second-story halls correspond to the style of Cistercian buildings. Like all the churches in Goslar, Neuwerk follows the model of the imperial cathedral of S. Simon and S. Juda. The main portal on the north side of the church contains a tympanum with the Madonna seated on a throne with child, surrounded on her left and right by praying saints; this was presumably carved circa 1240 (Römer-Johannsen, 272). On the south wall of the choir is an important relief of the farewell between Jesus and Maria on Maundy Thursday. The church contains certain elements in its architecture which are unique to this structure, particularly in its pillars. The two western pillars have the faces of demons at their top. Graves were also located in the church through archaeological digs. The founders tombs resided in the church. The conventual buildings from the Middle Ages no longer exist, but are apparent through archaeological surveys. A garden between the church and the baroque cloister buildings reveal traces of an older building from before 1100. In 1355 an inventory mentions a mill, bakehouse, washhouse, pigsty, provost's lodgings, a kitchen, and wagon outbuilding, as well as the church (Römer-Johannsen, 274).

State Of Medieval Structure

The Romanesque church built towards the end of the twelfth century still stands today. The church of Neuwerk is one of the few Romanesque churches in northern Germany that remains unchanged since its erection (from before 1200-the mid-thirteenth century). the convent church remains almost completely in tact with its important wall-paintings. The conventual buildings from the Middle Ages no longer exist, but are apparent through archaeological surveys. A garden between the church and the Baroque cloister buildings reveal traces of an older building from before 1100.


During the restoration of the younger pieta (mid-fifteenth century), restorers found a bundle of relics including a finger-bone and a bunch of hair from S. Andreas. A strip of pergament indicated that the relics came from S. Andreas and gave the year 1476 (Römer-Johannsen, 273). Another crucifix revealed relics from S. Nicholas and Stephen.

Manuscript Sources

Most of the documents from the convent of Neuwerk reside in the Stadtarchiv Goslar. Archives related to the convent may also be found in the Bistumsarchiv Hildesheim.

Published Primary Sources

Goslar Urkundenbuch 1-5; Hildesheim Urkundenbuch, 1-6.

Secondary Sources

Goslar, NeuwerkVerzeichnis der Stifter und Klöster Niedersachsens vor der Reformation STEINBRUECK, K> Die Grundung des Klosters Neuwerk in Goslar und seine Entwicklung bis 1225. Halle, 1910. BROECKELSCHEIN, E. and C. BORCHERS, 750 Jahre Kloster Neuwerk. Goslar, 1936. APPUHN, Horst. Meisterwerke Niedersachsischen Kunst des Mittelalters. Bad Honnef, 1963.

Miscellaneous Information

In 1212 the provost of Neuwerk, Heinrich Minnike, a Premonstratensian monk, was accussed of heresy. He was accused together with the nuns of having thrown out the Benedictine rule, allowed the eating of meat and the wearing of linen dresses, and of having led the abbess to heresy. On March 12, 1223 the convent was reprimanded for its connection to the provost. Provost Minnike was excommunicated in October of 1224 and transferred to the secular courts, after having been tried in the ecclesiastical courts. During this turmoil, the city of Goslar tried to obtain the position of provost over Neuwerk for itself (Römer-Johannsen, 254). Bishop Konrad II of Hildesheim supported the convent versus this. The convent opposed the Protestant reformation and came into conflict with the city once again over its possessions. On April 24, 1529 Duke Heinrich the Younger established an imperial mandate forbidding destruction of the church and its artworks, which protected the convent church in comparison to the destruction of the parish church (Römer-Johannsen, 258).

Manuscripts Produced

The library of the convent remains unknown, although Römer-Johannsen states that it certainly had a scriptorium (Römer-Johannsen, 271). It is likely that the Goslar "Evangeliar" (circa 1340, 127 pages of pergament with minatures in a Byzantine style) belonged to the convent!

Conversi/ae and servants

The convent had conversi, most likely lay-brothers, who ran its farms. In 1210 two were mentioned by name.

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

In the thirteenth century, in addition to the abbess, the offices of prioress, celleeraria, custodian, cameraria, and magistra infirmarum are mentioned. As in many other convents, the provost was responsible for secular and religious duties for the convent. Neuwerk also had chaplians. Beginning in 1188, the convent had the right to freely elect its provosts. However, the bishop and later the city of Goslar had an influence on the election (Römer-Johannsen, 270). Above all the provost was responsible for the economic and legal concerns of the convent: acquisitions and alienations, loans and exchanges, and legal matters. The provost, however, was required to obtain the convent's agreement to all such actions (Römer-Johannsen, 270). References are also made to a "farm-manager," most likely a lay person responsible for the running of the farms. In 1570, the duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel, Julius, ordered the nuns of Neuwerk to accept the Lutheran faith. The convent opposed this and retained the Cistercian habit until 1575. Julius, in turn, increasingly penalized the convent economically. He took away almost all of the convent's property outside of the city of Goslar, and the nuns had to support themselves through sewing and knitting (Römer-Johannsen, 259). Around the turn of the sixteenth/seventeenth century certain nuns accepted Protestantism, and the convent split into two when the dissenting nuns established a new evangelical convent of Neuwerk under Dominae Lucia Lamprecht and Margarete Schmiedes. In 1631 the Swedes conquered the city of Goslar and dissolved the convent (Römer-Johannsen, 259). In the course of the nineteenth century the convent lost its monastic character. In 1964 it became an evangelical church and in 1969 the convent was dissolved (Römer-Johannsen, 262).

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