Community ID
Medieval Location
Modern Location
Saint Servatius (church)
Date Founded
800-899 (9th century)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The community of Quedlinburg began as a foundation of the Margrave Gero for canons. Mathilda, the second wife and widow of King Heinrich, who acquired the site of Quedlinburg as part of her widow's property, established the community of female canonesses on this site. At the foundation of Quedlinburg, the rights and duties of the Liudolfing family were reduced in comparison to those of the king (Heineken, 62). The community was a free imperial house of canonesses, and Mathilda herself served in the community for thirty years. Her son, King Otto I, provided the congregation with a rich endowment of properties, granted the community immunities, and placed the congregation under imperial protection (Rienacker, 2). In 966, Otto I's own daughter, Mathilda was established as the first abbess. In 997 Mathilde also undertook governmental duties as guardian for her nephew Otto III.

Notable Heads

Saint Mathilda (d. 968) Mathilda, born in 895, the second wife of the German king Henry I and his widow founded several monasteries, including Quedlinburg. Two vitae of Mathilda portray her as a model of royal holiness. In 966, Otto I's own daughter, Mathilda (to whom Widukind of Corvey's 'Res Gestae Saxonicae' was dedicated) was established as the first abbess (see [Letter to Matilda, abbess of Quedlinburg, undated], [Letter to Matilda, abbess of Quedlinburg, undated (2)], [Letter to Matilda, abbess of Quedlinburg, undated (3)]). In 997 Mathilda also undertook governmental duties as guardian for her nephew Otto III. The convent is famous for her strong leadership; she held a reforming synod for the German church at Dornberg and held an imperial diet at Quedlinburg in 984 (McNamara, 197). Abbess Adelheid I (999-1045) was the sister of Emperor Otto III. In 1212 Abbess Sophie allied with Otto of Brunswick versus her advocate, who supported Frederick II, and endured a siege of the convent (McNamara, 269). In 1220 the pope sent an order to the dependencies of Quedlinburg to obey the abbess (McNamara, 269). In 1223 Abbess Sophie was deposed by the Reichstag in Nordhausen and the advocate installed the prioress as the new abbess (McNamara, 269). Abbess Anna von Stolberg governed a sizable territory and was instrumental in converting the community to Protestantism in the 1540s.

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

The community of Quedlinburg was closely connected to the Ottonian kings and the Holy Roman Emperors in general. Between 922 and 1207, Quedlinburg received 69 visits of German kings and emperors. Quedlinburg also served as a meeting place for numerous Reichstage and synods. The marriage of Otto I with Edith of England took place in Quedlinburg (Reinacker, 4). Both king Henry and queen Mathilda are buried in the church of Saint Servatius in Quedlinburg. Mathilda was honored as a saint of the community.

Dependent Communities

Quedlinburg became the center of a small monastic empire with several dependent houses. The abbess of Quedlinburg was appointed by Henry I as abbess of Gernrode and its dependency at Frose (McNamara, 198). Other dependent communities were Wendhausen, Walbeck, and the Marienkloster of Munzenberg. In 1220 the pope sent an order to the dependencies of Quedlinburg to obey the abbess (McNamara, 269). By the 1540s the abbess of Quedlinburg governed a sizable territory, including nine churches and two male monasteries (Wiesner-Hanks, 17).

Secular Political Affiliations

The advocacy and protectorate of the convent was held by the nobles of Arnstein. The community was closely linked with the Liudolfing family (Heineken, 113). Later the city council of the city of Quedlinburg acquired from the bishop of Halberstadt the protectorate over the community (Heineken, 127).

Social Characteristics

Quedlinburg served the high nobility as a place to send their daughters for education and care.

Other Economic Activities

In 1218 during the conflict between Otto of Brunswick and Frederick II, Frederick destroyed the defenses of Quedlinburg. He later compensated the abbess with money for the remedy of his soul. Abbess Gertrude divided the income of the advocate and his functions into fragments which she then loaned, mortgaged, or sold to subadvocates. By the late thirteenth century, Quedlinburg had several advocates (McNamara, 269).

Art & Artifacts

The northern wall of the entrance to the crypt has faint traces of paint, which indicate that it was previously painted with Biblical scenes. The capitals of the pillars of the church are carved with flowers, vines, human faces, and animals. Eagles, doves, lambs, and fish appear frequently in the iconography of the capitals. The crypt itself also retains traces of a painting depicting the judgement of Solomon and Susanna; these paintings date circa 1200 and were presumably commissioned by Abbess Agnes II (Reinacker, 14). The burial slabs for Abbesses Adelheid I (999-1045), Beatrix I (1045-1062), and Adelheid II (1062-1095) still exists and provide excellent examples of Romanesque sculpture. The life-size reliefs of the abbesses portray individuality in their portraits. A portion of the community's remarkable treasure is still extant. In the eleventh century, an inventory already recorded ninety-six objects in the community's treasury, most of which came as gifts from the imperial family (Reinacker, 18). During the course of the sixteenth century, financial difficulties caused many of the church treasures to be sold. The remaining treasury was transfered to Kassel in 1812 by King Jerome of Westfalia. Other treasures were lost during the Second World War, including two Evangeliars, a relic chest, 6 crystal jars, and a small reliquary cross. The treasures had been stolen by the american lieutenant Joe Tom Meador and sent back home to Whitewright, Texas. Ten of the missing objects were finally returned to Quedlinburg in 1992 (Reinacker, 19). Of the currently preserved treasury, the most important artifacts are three reliquaries of Saint Servatius, Saint Katharine, and Heinrich. All three consist of rectangular boxes covered in gold with filigre work and reliefs worked along the sides. The Servatius reliquary is decorated with a large amethyst as well. All three reliquaries date from circa 1200-1230, placing them within the abbacy of Agnes. The reliquary of Saint Servatius was in fact commissioned by Abbess Agnes and two reliefs along its side depic the abbess and provost Oderade. Other treasures include an ivory comb carved and decorated with precious stones, dating from the eigth century, a bishop's staff, and a large alabaster jar from the first century AD, reputedly used at the wedding at Canna. The jar was presented to the community as a gift from emperor Otto I at Easter in 973 (Reinacker, 26). A crystal reliquary from Egypt or Syria dates to the tenth century, donated by emperor Otto III. Perhaps the most famous treasure of the community is the tapestry depicting the marriage of Mercury and Philology, created circa 1200. The tapestry was presumably created in a neighboring workshop either in Halberstadt or Quedlinburg itself. Abbess Agnes II von Meissen was the patron of the work.

Architecture & Archaeology

The church of Saint Servatius underwent four building phases over the course of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Already by 936 there existed a small chapel constructed of three aisles (structure I). This was expanded by Queen Mathilde. The chapel was extended to the west; the eastern portion of the building lay a bit higher and served as the sanctuary and choir for the canonesses. This building (structure II) was completed circa 968. Another building phase took place under Abbess Mathilde (966-999). The church consisted of a three-aisled nave, which was consecrated in 1021 (structure III). Abbess Adelheid (999-1045) continued construction of this church, adding a crypt. Under this abbess the two western vaults were completed, along with the pillars which support them. She also was responsible for erecting the upper-level choir for the canonesses and the area of the main altar, where the sarcophgus for king Heinrich presumably was located. The buildings, however, succumbed to a fire in 1070. The church was rebuilt in the eleventh century and completed circa 1129 (structure IV). It is this fourth phase of building which still exists today; little of the previous structures are evident. Quedlinburg, S. ServatiusQuedlinburg, S. Servatius The eastern part of the choir was rebuilt in the Gothic style under Abbess Jutta von Kranichfeld circa 1320. The church has two towers on the West; of all the structures of Saint Servatius, it is these two towers which have been altered the most over the centuries. (Reinacker, 4-6). Twenty-two of the thirty-nine abbesses of the community were buried in the eastern portion of the church. In 1179 a church treasury was built into the northern arm of the church trancept.

State Of Medieval Structure

Only the church of Saint Servatius is still extant.

Manuscript Sources

Among the community's treasures are the ninth-century "Samuel"-Evangeliar and a tenth century fragment of a Bible, known as the "Quedlinburger Itala." The Samuel Evangeliar is covered by a front cover of gold filigre and precious gems fashioned between 1225-1230 in Quedlinburg. Another Evangeliar, the Otto-Adelheid Evangeliar dates from the second half of the tenth century.

Miscellaneous Information

When Abbess Anna von Stolberg converted the community to the Lutheran reform, she required all the priests swear to Luther's Augsburg Confession. She also turned her Franciscan(?) monastery into an elementary school for both boys and girls. She continued to receive both imperial and papal privileges (Wiesner-Hanks, 17). The community had thirty-nine abbesses from its time of foundation to its dissolution in 1803.

Admin. Notes

link to Frose, Wendhausen, Walbeck, and the Marienkloster of Munzenberg.
Scan in primary documents

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

The convent of Quedlinburg was a powerful community.

Date Started
Date Finished