Community ID
Medieval Location
Modern Location
Bastheim; in the governmental district of Unterfranken; in the administrative district of Rhön-Grabfeld
Corporate Status
The Holy Trinity and S. Margaret, S. Mary (by 1150); currently S. Cosmas and Damian
Date Founded
1143 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The exact date of the foundation of this, the oldest and richest of the Frankish Cistercian convents, can not be definitely determined. According to Krausen, the convent was founded by Embricho von Leiningen, the Bishop of Würzburg with King Konrad III serving as a co-founder (Krausen, 104). Link, however, ascribes the foundation to Counts Popo and Gebhard of Henneberg, whose sister was the first abbess of the community (Link, 576). The foundation was consecrated by Bishop Emerich in 1143, and in 1144 the convent was confirmed by Pope Lucius III. The bishop served as advocate for the convent and the provost was supposed to be a member of the cathedral chapter of Würzburg. The community assumed the Benedictine rule. The nuns later assumed the strict observances of the Cistercian order. Nevertheless, the convent was never formally incorporated into the Cistercian order. The document of papal protection from Pope Eugens III of 1150 first mentions S. Mary as the patron of the convent, and an undated document from Alexander IV refers to the convent assuming Cistercian customs at the great council of Lyon (Krausen, 104).

Notable Heads

Known abbesses of the convent are: Bucheste, 1144; Mechthilde, 1155; Benedicta, 1246; Mechthilde, 1263, Jutta, 1277; Benedicta, 1278; Clementa, 1281; Cunigunda, 1391; Juta, 1320; Cunegundis, 1233; Juta, 1343; Sophie von Steten, 1353; Adelheid, 1362; Cunegunde Wolf, 1408; Agnes von Morlin, 1447; Margereta, countess of Henneberg, 1454; Anna von Lichtenstein, 1456; Margaretha von Milß, 1486; Dorothea von Stein, 1524; Gertrudis von Görß, 1539; Eva von Weyher, 1547; Margareta von Heßberg, 1555 (last abbess). Abbesss Mechtildis (documented until 1176) exchanged letters with S. Hildegard of Bingen (See Rupertsberg, Disibodenberg, Eibingen). Abbess Mechtildis asked S. Hildegard to support their community in its need through prayers and the establishment of a memorial, which Hildegard in turn promised (Link, 579).

Population Counts

In 1231 Bishop Hermann established a limit on the number of nuns who could dwell within the community. The convent was restricted to 100 nuns and could not accept novices, according to the bishop, unless the number of inhabitants fell below this number. He declared that in the future this number was not to be exceeded (Link, 578).

Dependent Communities

In 1147 eighteen nuns were sent to found a daughter house near Ichtershausen. Ten years later, nuns were sent to help settle the new abbey of S. Theodor, then Johanniszell, and in 1218 more were sent to Schmerlenbach. The great number of nuns in the community and the convent's reputation for its internal spiritual life led to this rash of daughter-foundations.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The spiritual advisor for the convent was the abbot of Bildhausen, who also provided chaplains and conversi for the convent. Provosts for the convent were predominantly canons from Würzburg.


Both King Friedrich Barbarossa and Friedrich II granted privileges to the convent. King Konrad III and other nobles granted gifts to the community. The bishops of Würzburg consistently acted as patrons of the convent.

Social Characteristics

This was a noble house.

Relative Wealth

The convent's wealth grew due to imperial privileges and donations from the nobility. The convent was plundered during the Peasant's Revolt.

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent church, consecrated in 1179, consisted of a three-nave basilica with a choir. It was substantially damaged in 1811.

Manuscript Sources

The archives for the community are located in the Hauptstaatsarchiv in München (Munich) and in the Staatsarchiv in Würzburg.

Secondary Sources

Klosterbuch der Diocese Wurzburg.
Die Klöster des Zisterzienserordens in Bayern
HUEMER, B. Verzeichnis der deutschen Cisterzienserinnenkloester. (StMBO 37, 1916).

Miscellaneous Information

The convent had disputes over its property and also declined in adherence to its original rule: individual nuns held their own property and noble relatives mixed with the nuns in the convent (Krausen, 104). Bishop Rudolf von Scherenberg attempted to reform the convent since 1480. Link also refers to the nuns' reputation for dissorderliness and disobedience to the original rule (Link, 578). According to Link, Bishop Albert had to threaten the nuns with excommunication in order to enforce their obedience to the provost! The nuns fled the convent as a result of the Peasant Uprising of 1525, only partially returning after the convent's plundering. In 1552 Margrave Albrecht Alkibiades burnt the convent. Attempts to reestablish the convnet with help from the nuns of Himmelspforten and Oberschönenfeld were unsuccessful. In 1574, after the death of the last nun Marie of Hornau, nuns from Oberschönfeld in Swabia (perhaps a reference to Oberschönenfeld ?) were called to the convent, where they established a girls' school. The nuns soon returned to their mother-house for lack of provisions. In 1592 the convent was finally dissolved by Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, the Bishop of Würzburg, with papal approval. The assets of the community formed the basis for the foundation of the parish and school.

Conversi/ae and servants

The convent received conversi from the male house of Bildeshausen.

Admin. Notes

I am uncertain whether the references to Oberschonfeld in Schwabia and Oberschonenfeld in Bavaria by Link and Krausen respectively refer to the same convent. Further research is necessary.

June Mecham
Date Started
Date Finished