Community ID
Alternate Names
Melegarden (c. 1200, 1221); Meligarde (1218); Malegarden (1216/24-1350); Malgarden (1236); Mariengarden; Hortus St. Mariae
Medieval Location
near the village of Epe; in the principality of Hannover
Modern Location
Corporate Status
S. Mary, (John the Baptist, from 1651)
Date Founded
1170 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The convent is believed to have been established on or near the location of a noble castle. The foundation stemmed from a vow made by Duke Simon of Tecklenburg when he had an ulcer on his leg. When the ulcer miraculously healed, the convent was founded in return circa 1170 (Schuler, 403). Schuler, however, believes that the convent was more likely founded in 1194 with the settlement of nuns from Essen. No foundation document exists, but the property of the new convent derived primarily from properties assumed from the foundation of Essen. The family responsible for the foundation retained the advocacy over it and regarded Malgarten partially as a proprietary convent. It is unclear whether the convent was originally founded as Benedictine. A Benedictine rule is not definite for Essen nor do the convent's first provosts appear to have had close ties to Benedictine observances. The first provost Werner later became the abbot of Liesborn, but was no Benedictine, and the second provost, Friedrich, became abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery of Klarholz (Schuler, 404). The terms used to describe the community (ecclesia and then coenobium and conventus sanctimonialium in 1223) further leave the community's exact status in doubt. The convent did not refer to itself as belonging to the Benedictine order until a document of 1323 (Schuler, 404).

First Members

The first members came from Essen.

Notable Heads

The convent was led by a prioress, first mentioned in 1237. Known prioresses are: Athelheydis, 1237; Amelrad, 1294; Amelgard, 1297; Margareta, 1306; Jutta, 1310; Greta, 1317; Gertrud von Molen, 1336, 1344; Taleke Slutersche, 1430; Fye Komes, 1449; Elseke von Smerten, 1466; Mechtild Budde, 1472-1485 (d. 1504); Katharina von Roden, 1520-1536; Kunegund von Lütten, 1537-1554; Engle (Anna) von Dorgelo, 1554-1596.

Population Counts

The rule established the number of 10 nuns and additional lay-sisters. By 1596 however the number had shrank to only 5 nuns. The convent's number of inhabitants stayed remarkably stable throughout its history. In 1402 there were 11 nuns including the prioress; 10 in 1440; 10-12 in 1554. The convent's greatest number of inhabitants was recorded in 1759 at 14 nuns and 15 lay-sisters (Schuler, 412).

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The convent's first provost Werner later became the abbot of Liesborn, and the second provost, Friedrich, became abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery of Klarholz (Schuler, 404). Bishop Konrad III from Osnabrück promoted the Bursfeld Reform (a monastic reform) in the convent. In 1472 Mette Budde, a nun from Herzebrock, was established as the new prioress of Malgarten. However, it appears the nuns were not inclined to accept the new reforms (Schuler, 405). After 14 years, she resigned and the convent appointed Katharina from Roden from the convent of Gertrudenberg as the new prioress. The choice of Katharina may indicate an attempt to return to the traditional practices of the convent (Schuler, 405). However, the nuns' attempt failed and the imposition of the Bursfeld Reform in the convent may be definitely dated to the years of Katharina's administration (1486-1518). The Bursfeld Reform resulted in the keeping of more detailed records in the convent, particularly regarding the profession of novices and economic matters. At the time of the convent's foundation, the parish of Essen was incorporated. The convent held no rights in the parish of Malgarten, however.


Duke Simon of Tecklenburg and his family acted as patrons and advocates for the convent. Simon, his mother Eilika (who founded Essen), his wife Oda, and three of his children were buried within the convent's church.

Secular Political Affiliations

The rights of protection were held by Essen as well as by the dukes of Tecklenburg and the bishop of Osnabrück. In 1257 the convent purchased the right to name its own protector for 125 Marks. In 1295 these rights were again sold to the knights of Varendorf for 18 Marks. The convent had a provost over it, who gradually assumed the duties and rights of advocate.

Social Characteristics

The nuns came from the aristocracy; only daughters of the nobility were admitted as nuns. Entrants brought a dowry with them. Circa 1500 the dowry consisted of 100 Gulden.


In 1217/1224 the Duke of Tecklenburger gave the convent three farms, followed by four more farms in 1230 and three tithes. In 1298 the convent acquired a larger possession for the price of 325 Marks. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the convent tried to sell their more distant properties. The convent's possessions near Bremen were sold to Heiligenrode. Other properties were exchanged with the lords of Pente. A third of the convent's taxed property lay around the area of Essen. The convent also held land in Epe and Bühren (Schuler, 409).


The convent received little income from tithes. The only known tithe from Essen comes from the donation of Aldburg and from Rederlage.In 1223, 1230 and 1250 Malgarten received other rights to tithe. However, tithes never composed a large portion of the convent's income (Schuler, 409). The convent also did not divide many of its lands into fiefs. Only the farm in Markendorf (c. 1240-1269) and the farm in Rederlage (in 1303) were possessed by administrators of the convent. The convent never appears to have divided its property between the prioress and the convent. After the fire of 1490 which destroyed the grain storehouse and resulted in a partial loss of the convent's cattle, the convent received contributions of money, grain and equipment from the surrounding neighborhood and other convents (Schuler, 410). In 1520 Malgarten in turned helped the monastery of Gertrudenberg after a fire there.

Other Economic Activities

The convent's economic activities included the possession of mills and the production of wool cloth (Schuler, 409). In 1522 improvements were made to the mill on the Hase river.


The convent came into conflict with the knights of Sögeln over water rights (although it is unclear whether this occurred during the medieval period) (Schuler, 410).

Early Documents

Few documentary sources for the convent remain. Only a handfull of original documents from the community are extant, including two references to payments of tithes.

Art & Artifacts

The church received murals and an organ circa 1490. Only a late gothic chalice from the convent remains. The convent's seal depicts the Madonna enthroned with the Christ child in an oval with the words "S ce Marie in Malegarde" around the edge (Schuler, 420).

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent church was built in the thirteenth century. It consisted of a two-level ribbed hall with a choir. During the late Gothic period, large windows were inserted into the church. At this time the upper level of the convent's tower was made into a chapter hall. A fire in 1490 destroyed the chapel, dormitory, infirmary, and part of the workroom and required the rebuilding of a portion of the convent's buildings. At this time the church also received murals and an organ. The successor of Prioress Katharina, Alheid von Roden, saw the building of a new mill for the convent (Schuler, 405). After the fire of 1680 the church was redecorated in the Baroque style.

State Of Medieval Structure

The church and a wing of the cloister still exist.

Manuscript Sources

A copy of the prioress's register from the fifteenth century exists. Much of the medieval material was lost in the fire of 1490. The existing documents from the convent are held in the Staatsarchiv in Osnabrück. The convent chronicle and the "Spiritual Handbook" of Prioress Scheele (1765) are held in the Diözesanarchiv in Osnabrück. Documents about the convent's rights in the area of Essen are held in the Pfarrarchiv Essen, in the Bistumsarchiv in Münster and in the Staatsarchiv Oldenburg.

Published Primary Sources

Osnabrück Urkundenbuch

Secondary Sources
Miscellaneous Information

The existing documents for the community indicate significant changes occurred from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, as indicated by the independence of the provost, the divisions between the prioress and the convent, and the dissolution of the convent's holdings into benefices. The documents further appear to indicate that office-holding nuns (such as the sacristan, cellaress, and verger) were able to generate their own documents independently of the prioress (Schuler, 404). Plundering by Duke Philipp Magnus of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1553 resulted in the destruction of the convent's chronicle and many records. During the period of the Lutheran Reformation, Elisabeth von Raden, a nun of the community, disputed with Lutheran preachers (Schuler, 405).

Manuscripts Produced

A chronicle of the community was written in 1601. There is no mention of a library in the convent's documents nor of the purchase or production of manuscripts.

Conversi/ae and servants

Lay-sisters are only apparent from the eighteenth century. At this time most came from peasant families and were unable to write (Schuler, 413).

Admin. Notes

link to Herzebrock and Gertrudenberg when in-put
Further literature: Sudendorf, H. Die Kloster Essen und malgarten. Osnabrucker Mitteilungen 1, 1848, 27-54 and 2, 1850, 20-46. Della Valle, H. Die Benediktinerinnenkloester des Bistums Osnabruck . Osnabruder Mitteilungen, 39, 1916, 143-302. Schuler, Th. Zur Grundung der Kloester in Essen (Old.) und malgarten. Osnabrucker Mitteilungen, 89, 1983.

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

Prioresses past the sixteenth century are not listed. The community was secularized in 1803 and the remaining nuns and lay-sisters given pensions. There was little opposition to the secularization.

Date Started
Date Finished