Community ID
Alternate Names
Huginhusen; Hvinhusen; Winhusen; Wingehusen; Wynhussen
Wienhausen, near Celle
Medieval Location
The convent was originally founded in Nienhagen, ten km south of Celle. It later moved to the location of Wienhausen.
Modern Location
In the governmental district of Lüneburg ; in the administrative district of Celle.
Corporate Status
S. Mary, S. Laurentius, S. Alexander
Date Founded
Date Terminated
still extant
Religious Order
Cistercian (see foundation field)
Foundation Information

No foundation charter exists for this community, but its foundation can be reconstructed from the convent chronicle and other documents. The convent was founded between 1221 and 1228 by Duchess Agnes of Landsberg-Meissen, the widow of Henry (Heinrich), duke of Saxony and count-palantine of the Rhine, and son of Henry the Lion (Heinrich des Löwen). (She also founded the convent of Isenhagen). Although the actual date of foundation differs, it is likely that Agnes founded the convent as a means of salvation for her sins and those of her deceased husband (Leerhoff, 757). Both are portrayed in the paintings that decorate the nuns' choir. Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of the convent's founders The first nuns for the community came from the convent of Wöltingerode in the bishopric of Hildesheim (Riggert). The foundation of the convent recieved much support from bishop Conrad of Hildesheim, who provided for the community both economically and spiritually. The convent was first established in Nienhagen; it moved eight or ten years later (circa 1231) due to mosquitoes, "poisonous worms," and bad air. It settled in Wienhausen. In 1233 the convent was officially transferred to the church in Wienhausen by Bishop Conrad. A document dated April 24, 1233 confirmed the institution of the convent in Wienhausen. In 1244 Duke Otto requested the convent's incorporation into the Cistercian Order. Much debate revolves around whether Wienhausen was actually encorporated into the order. The request survives but not the answer. The continuing active role of the bishops of Hildesheim indicates a lack of formal incorporation, although the chapter supposedly placed Wienhausen under the supervision of the male Cistercian house of Riddagshausen and gave the abbots of Locum an Michaelstein the task of visistation. In light of evidence on both sides, most scholars agree that Wienhausen followed Cistercian customs but was likely not formally incorporated into the order.

First Members

The first ten nuns came from the convent of Wöltingerode under the Abbess Eveza, according to the chronicle.

Notable Heads

Abbesses of Weinhausen (Source: Chronik und Totenbuch des Klosters Wienhausen):
1. Eveza, 1230-1241
2. Benigna, 1241-1243
3. Margaretha I., 1243-1245
4. Elisabeth I. von Wenden, 1245-1270
5. Elisabeth II., 1270-1286
6. Gerburg, 1286-1295
7. Germod, 1295-1301
8. Margaretha II. von Schöningen, 1301-1318
9. Margaretha III. Bock, 1318-1319
10. Luthgard I., 1319-1325
11. Margaretha IV., 1325-1328
12. Luthgard II. von Braunschweig, 1328-1338
13. Jutta von Braunschweig, 1338-1343
14. Luthgard III. von Delmenhorst, 1343-1359
15. Elisabeth III. von Braunschweig, 1359-1386
16. Mechthild von Sachsen, 1386-1405
17. Olgard von Marenholz, 1405-1422
18. Katharina von Hoya, 1422-1469
Abbess Katharina von Hoya, connected to the Welf family through her mother, added to the cultural richness of life at the convent. (See Wienhausen, Effigy of Christ)
19. Susanna Poltstock, 1470-1501
20. Katharina II. von Remstede, 1501-1549
21. Dorothea Spörken, 1549-1565
22. Anna von Langeln, 1565-1587
23. Katharina von Langeln, 1587-1609
24. Christina Havekost, 1609-1644
25. Anna von Hohnhorst, 1644-1670
26. Margaretha Walters, 1670-1679
27. Anna Katharina von Wehlse, 1679-1685
28. Anna Engel Maria von Garmsen, 1685-1723
29. Anna Maria von Honhorst, 1723-1755
30. Maria Anna Christiana von der Wense, 1756-1767
31. Sophia Charlotte von Hohnhorst, 1767-1788
32. Margarete Dorothee von Taube, 1788-1793
33. Marie Veronica von Pufendorf, 1793-1816
34. Margarete Dorothee Luise von Vogt, 1816-1820
35. Justine Frederike Werner, 1821-1825
36. Luise Sophie Juliane Eleonore Ritmeier, 1825-1865
37. Wilhelmine Fischer, 1865-1881
38. Jenny Kern, 1881-1920
39. Marie Deneke, 1920-1926
40. Maria Brandis, 1927-1934
41. Bertha Mühry, 1934-1950
42. Luise Fredrichs, 1951-1978
43. Ruth Eckhardt, 1978-1982
44. Hedwig Thierfelder, 1982-1989
45. Mechtild von Döhren, 1990-1998
46. Renate von Randow, seit 1998-

Population Counts

The nuns' choir, built circa 1330, had eighty-nine seats, but the population was probably lower than this during most periods. A document from 1431 indicates thirty nuns and their attendants. In the sixteenth century, the number of nuns sank to twenty-six and remained constant until the twentieth century (Leerhoff, 771).

Priveleges & Papal Exemptions

In 1245 and again in 1251 Pope Innocent IV took the convent into his protection and confirmed its possessions (Leerhoff, 758). In 1460 the papl legate, Cardinal Bessarion allowed the convent to continue to hold religious services, despite an interdict which had been placed on the area (Leerhoff, 762).

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The convent came into continual conflict with its provosts over the management and alienation of convent property. Circa 1410 the Provost Heinrich Hellewede von Verden resigned due to conflict with the abbess; twelve nuns removed his successor, Johannes Holthusen. A similar fate befell the Provost Dietrich Titze in 1478. The convent established several prayer-confraternities with other convents. In 1316 Abbess Margareta von Schöningen formed a prayer confraternity with Abbot Hildebrand of the male Benedictine convent of S. Godehard in Hildesheim. In 1323 the convent joined a prayer confraternity with the female convent of Derneburg, and in 1324 they formed another with the Moritz-chapter in Hildesheim. Further bonds were created with the nunneries of Egeln in 1355 and Diestorf in 1522. In 1469 the convent undertook an internal reform with the help of the reformed convent of Derneburg. After undergoing reform, Wienhausen participated in the reform of the neighboring convent of Medingen. The convent's ties to both Derneburg and Medingen continued for hundreds of years (Leerhoff, 764).


In 1469 the abbot of S. Michael and S. Godehard in Hildesheim made a visitation to the convent for the purpose of reform; Abbess Sophia von Schulenburg from the reformed convent of Derneburg accompanied the bishop. The vistors' report stated that the nuns upheld their vows of chastity, but many owned private possessions. The nuns mounted substantial resistance, under Abbess Katharina von Hoya, to the reformers' attempts to re-impose the vita communis. The reformers' also ordered the nuns to abandon their secular singing and follow the Cistercian customs in all aspects of monastic life.


The Welf family were continual patrons of the community. The community was also supported by the neighboring nobles and patrician families of Lüneburg and Braunschweig. The bishops of Hildesheim were active patrons of the community, surpassing even the gifts of the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg . In 1368 Duke Magnus "the younger" confirmed all of the convent's possessions within the protectorate of Celle would be free from the protectorate, services, petitions, and appraisals. In 1371 he decreed that neither he nor his successors could make monetary demands on the convent.

Secular Political Affiliations

The community was closely tied to the Welf family. The dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg had close ties to Wienhausen; female members of their families were educated and raised here, entered as nuns, or returned as widows. The dukes also served as protectors (Schutzherren) for the convent. Wienhausen has even been called the female house of the Welfs. In 1252 King Wilhelm of Holland, the step-son of Otto "the child" took Wienhausen into his protection. In 1267 the son of Otto "the child" was named as guardian of the convent (Leerhoff, 759).

Social Characteristics

The community was composed of women from the local nobility and urban patriciate. During the abbacy of Susanna Potstock (1470-1501) twenty-one of the forty-eight deceased nuns recorded in the convent Necrology stemmed from noble families. In 1547 seventy nuns came from the nobility. Six abbesses had direct connections to the ruling family of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Both Agnes and Mathilde retired to Wienhausen as widows. Duke Ludwig is buried in Wienhausen as is the heart of Duchess Magdalena, wife of Duke Friedrich the pious. The abbesses of the community stemmed predominantly from the nobility.

Relative Wealth

The convent appears to have been relatively wealthy.


At the time of its foundation, Bishop Conrad gave the community the church in Wienhausen and all its possessions. In 1233 he bestowed fifteen fields free of tithes in Wienhausen as well as tithes in several other towns to the convent. He also granted the community a hide in Oppershausen as well as the church in Westercelle with its income. Wienhausen held tithes in the villages of Bockelskamp, Flackenhorst, Bennebostel, Bostel and Lachtehausen. Duchess Agnes acquired from the noble Hermann von Meinersen half of the right of patronage in the church at Groß Hehlen, four farms, and six cottages. She also acquired a farm in Klein Hehlen, three farms and a mill in Boye and half of all payments and tolls in Hambühren as well as farms in Wittbeck and Belson, and two farms in Garssen. Duke Otto granted the convent a saltpan in the Lüneburg saltworks, four houses in Gockenholz and the income of Ottenhause, which lay west of the convent. He also gave the convent authority in the village of Nienhagen. Duchess Mathilde, the widow of Otto, continued his patronage by granting the convent toll and tax exemptions on all the goods sold in Lüneburg. She also gave the convent four and a half lots of salt from the Lüneburg saltworks. By 1368 the entire villages of Nienhagen, Wiedenrode and Sandlingen were incorporated in the convent's possessions. It also acquired possession in sixteen villages to the south of Wienhausen as well as seven hides in Haenigsen, Dollbergen and Ölerse. The convent acquired tithes in the villages northwest of Burgdorf as well as held tithes and landholdings in large numbers in Sievershausen and around Hohenhameln.


The convent derived income from land holding, rents, tithes, patronage rights, and rights and possessions in the Lüneburg saltworks. The only surviving register of the convent's tithes, dating from 1340, records income from tithes in forty-five locations as well as income from landed possessions in fifty-seven places. Income in the Lüneburg saltworks comprised an important part of the convent's finances. In comparison to the other convents in the area, Wienhausen's salt possessions are average. Ebstorf possessed five times as many holdings, while the convents of Medingen and Walsrode held three times as many. Isenhagen had a fourth less rights in the saltworks than Wienhausen. The convent also held partronage rights in the churches in Westercelle, Nienhagen, and Berkum as well as half of the patronage in the church in Groß Hehlen. In 1378 it acquired the right of partonage in the parish church of Broeckel, which was later incorporated into Wienhausen. The abbesses of Wienhausen also held patronage rights over the various chapels within the convent. In total Wienhausen had patronage rights in six churches, besides those within the confines of the convent itself (Leerhoff, 775). The parish churches of Westercelle, Berkum and Bröckel were incorporated.


The convent may have educated the daughters of the local nobility, for in 1253 Duchess Mathilde decreed that the convent should discontinue the practice of accepting girls to be raised and educated within the convent.

Other Economic Activities

The nuns may have contributed to the income of the convent by producing and selling tapestries and embroidery work. Throughout the medieval period the convents in the region of Lüneburg were renown for their silk, linen, and wool embroidery. The renovations of the S. Anne's Chapel in 1510 were paid for by the sale of handwork.


In 1476 the bishop of Hildesheim ended a conflict between the provost and the abbess and nuns in which the provost had hindered the levying of monetary contributions in the chruches of Wienhausen and Bröckel. The bishop ruled in favor of the convent (Leerhoff, 770).

Literary Works

Little information exists about the literature available to the nuns in Wienhausen. The life of Duchess Agnes was written under the Abbess Margareta von Schöningen (1302-1317). Abbess Katharina von Hoya provided three missals for the chapel of St. Anne circa 1433 and oversaw the compilation of the Wienhausen songbook. After the convent's reform in 1469 more references to literary works appear. The convent of Marienrode granted Wienhausen it Collectarium, a collection of the regulations of the Cistercian Order, so that the nuns could make their own copy.

Art & Artifacts

The most famous artwork at Wienhausen are the paintings in the nuns' choir. Wienhausen, Nuns' choir These paintings, completed circa 1335, depict scenes from the Old and New Testament, sucha as Wienhausen, Nuns' choir sacrifice of Jacob by Isaac and Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of the Egyptians drowning in the red sea, images of the saints, such as Wienhausen, nuns' choir, detail of S. Christopher, and symbols of the months and pictures of daily life. On the ceiling are portrayed scenes from the life and Passion of Christ, such as Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of Christ bearing the crossWienhausen, Nun's choir (details of Christ's crucifixion)Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of the three Marys at Christ's tombWienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of Arisen ChristWienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of Christ prepared for burialWienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of a youthful Christ with MaryWienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of doubting ThomasWienhausen, nuns' choir, detail of Christ in the garden. The founders of Wienhausen are also portrayed in the paintings on the ceiling of the nuns' choir, Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of the convent's founders. Some of the images, such as the depiction of Christ as a heavenly bridegroom, may have reflected mystical trends. Wienhausen, Nuns' choir detail of Christ as the heavenly bridegroom In 1488 the paintings were restored by three nuns under the direction of the Abbess Susanna Potstock. Artistically Wienhausen experienced three highpoints: from 1292-1349/50; 1422-1474; and 1500-1528. The convent preserves stained glass windows from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries; the most famous of these depicts the crucifixion of Christ by the virtues. Wienhausen, Christ crucified surrounded by the virtues Others portray Christ's entry into Jerusalem Wienhausen, Christ's entry to Jerusalem, the last supper, the Resurrection Wienhausen, Arisen Christ (stained glass), and the noli me tangere scene of Christ and Mary in the garden. One of particular interest portrays Christ prepared for burial with a nun in a white habit praying below the tomb in the traditional position of the patron's portrait. Wienhausen, Christ's burial (stained glass) The earliest portion of the convent, the chapel dedicated to All Saints built in the thirteenth century, also preserves the oldest stained glass windows in the convent. Two windows of four panels depict Christ's crucifixion and resurrection with images of Saint Michael and the annunciation below. Wienhausen, All Saints Chapel (stained glass)Wienhausen, Crucifixion (stained glass) detail The convent is also famous for its statues, including the thirteenth-century figures of the convent's founder, Agnes, Wienhausen, Agnes of Landsberg; an effigy of Christ, or Grabchristus Wienhausen, Effigy of Christ; the Arisen Christ Wienhausen, Arisen Christ (statue); and the enthroned madonna (circa 1290) Wienhausen, Madonna with Christ child. The convent preserves several medieval embroideries. Two of the three Tristan embroideries stem from circa 1300-1330; the earliest, known as Tristan I was created circa 1300 Wienhausen, Tristan embroidery. An embroidery of the Prophets was also completed circa 1300 Wienhausen, prophet embroidery. Under the abbecy of Katharina von Hoya embroideries of the lives of S. Anne and S. Elizabeth were completed. Wienhausen, S. Elizabeth embroideryWienhausen, S. Elizabeth embroidery (continuation)Wienhausen, S. Elizabeth embroidery (detail) A hunting embroidery dates to circa 1430 and another depicting the legend of Thomas dates to circa 1410. Wienhausen, S. Thomas embroidery The convent also preserves a large embroidery depicting the "speculum humanae salvationis," or mirror of mankind's salvation. Wienhausen, Mirror of Mankind's Salvation embroideryWienhausen, Mirror of Mankind's Salvation embroidery (detail) The nuns of this community also produced embroidered altar cloths, such as Wienhausen, altar cloth, antependium like the Wienhausen, Christmas Antependium and a lectern cover, dating from the fourteenth century. Wienhausen, Lectern cover of crucifixion and Arisen Christ The convent preserves smaller textile works with applications of pearls, silver and gold, such as aurifrisia Wienhausen, aurifrisiumWienhausen, aurifrisium detail. The nuns also produced diminuative robes for the statues of Mary and the other saints belonging to their convent. Thirteen such robes are preserved at Wienhausen. Wienhausen, robe for statueWienhausen, robe for statue The sarcophagus for Christ's effigy, produced under Abbess Katharina von Hoya, depicts scenes from the life of Christ. It was painted circa 1420. During renovation of the nuns' choir in the 1950s several small devotional pictures, or Andachtsbilder, were discovered as well as small hand-held looms, thimbles, pilgrimage amulets, and even a pair of eyeglasses! Among the most richly illuminated devotional images discovered was an image depicting the community's statue of the Arisen Christ, Wienhausen, Arisen Christ (devotional image). The devotional image portrays the statue of the figure of the Arisen Christ, surrounded by prayers and hymns. Another devotional image portrays a youthful Christ enthroned in a mandorla. Wienhausen, Christ enthroned in mandorla A third recalls the wooden effigy of Christ owned by the community. Wienhausen, Christ prepared for burial (devotional image) A colored drawing on paper, dating to circa 1470, depicted a Cistercian nun, wearing the habit typical of the Cistercian convents in this region, kneeling in prayer before Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim. Wienhausen, Cistercian nun with Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim An thirteenth-century image depicted a youthful Christ led by Mary Wienhausen, Devotional image depicting a youthful Christ with Mary Several paper-mâche images produced by the nuns of Wienhausen were also preserved, such as the image of the Man of Sorrows, Wienhausen, Man of Sorrows. Several images of the Veronica, the visage of Christ miraculously impressed on a cloth, were also discovered under the floorboards of the nuns' choir. An example of one such image is Wienhausen, Veronica. The eyeglasses found at Wienhausen are some of the oldest ever discovered (early 14th century) and show that the earliest frames were made from wood. Small leather pouches, in which the glasses could be carried on a belt, were also discovered. According to Appuhn, all of the finds beneath the nuns' choir represent a conscious placement of items in a sacred spot. In the case of damaged eyeglasses, he surmises that they were deposited in the nuns' choir with the hope of preventing further damage to either the individual's eyes and/or soul (Die Brillen von Kloster Wienhausen und die Kunstgeschichte., 1079). In 1590 Provost Wilbrand of Oberg gave the convent its current main altar-piece, which depicts the life of Mary and Christ. The beams of the chapter house are also painted with depictions of vines and vegetation. The illuminated Responsorial from the convent depicts several scenes from the Easter story Wienhausen, Wienhausen Responsorial, particularly the image of the Arisen Christ and sleeping watchmen, which appears in other media in the convent as well. See Wienhausen, Responsorial, detail of the Arisen ChristWienhausen, Wienhausen Responsorial, detail of the Arisen Christ Among the images in this processional is one which depicts Ecclesia with female martyrs and another portraying Christ as a heavenly bridegroom surrounded by crowned virgins Wienhausen Responsorial, detail Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom (Uhde-Stahl, 47). Another small illumination portrays the coronation of the Virgin Wienhausen, Responsorial detail, coronation of Mary. The manuscripts' similarity to the imagery of the nuns' choir and the depiction of nuns in Cistercian habits indicates that this manuscript was produced in the convent (Uhde-Stahl, 48-49). According to Uhde-Stahl, the late date of the manuscript (after 1476) but the iconographically earlier images indicates that the manuscript may have been produced by older nuns who adhered to older artistic styles (Uhde-Stahl, 50). In addition, the seals of the abbess, provost, and convent are often preserved quite clearly on the convent's charters. See Wienhausen, seal of the abbessWienhausen, seal of the provostWienhausen, seal of the convent

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent was repeatedly damaged by fires. However, the standing buildings stem largely from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Wienhausen provides a perfect example of the northern Gothic Brick style. The convent church is built in the Gothic style with a nuns' choir built on the second level of the western side of the church. Wienhausen, exterior view of nuns' choir In the period of the plague the convent built a chapel to Saints Sebastian and Fabian. Under the abbess Margareta von Schöningen (circa 1302-1317) and the Provost Dietrich von Prome the west wing, which housed the winter refectory was built. Wienhausen, western range (south facade)Wienhausen, western range An existing mural in the convent records their extension of the convent. Wienhausen, Dedication mural Under the abbecy of Katharina von Hoya the summer refectory and new dormitory were erected in the north wing of the cloister, the sarcophagus for the Grabchristus was produced, and a chapel to St. Anne was erected and outfitted between 1422-1433. In the Middle Ages the convent had at least seven different chapels within its confines. The various chapels were dedicated to Simon and Judas, Benedict, the Holy Cross, S. Anne, S. Fabian and Sebastian, an infirmary chapel, and the All-Saints' chapel. Only the All-Saints' chapel remains intact. (See state of Medieval Buildings) The eastern wing of the monastic complex was torn down by the Duke Ernst of Braunschweig-Lüneburg circa 1530, but was later rebuilt. Wienhausen, eastern range

State Of Medieval Structure

Most of the medieval convent survives at Wienhausen. The oldest portion of the convent is the All-Saints' chapel, built circa 1280. This chapel served as the burial place for abbesses and important patrons. The nuns' choir, built circa 1325, provides a unique glimpse into the religious life of medieval nuns. It remains in tact with its paintings and many other liturgical items from the Middle Ages. The convent also preserves several of the nuns' dowry chests from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. See Wienhausen, cloister complex


The convent has a relic of a drop of Christ's holy blood, which Duchess Agnes brought back from Rome. Other relics from unknown saints were discovered under the floorboards of the nun's choir in the 1950s.

Manuscript Sources

The archives for the convent are located in the Lüneburg Klösterarchive at Wienhausen, including the illustrated processional. The archives in Berlin, Hannover, Nürnberg, and Wolfenbüttel preserve isolated documents from the community. See Handschriftenerbe des Deutschen Mittelalters The Preussischer Staatsbibliothek in Berlin contains Ms germ. oct. 265, which has marginal illustrations.

Miscellaneous Information

In 1349-50 the convent suffered economic difficulties due to the plague, a conflict between rival bishops of Hildesheim and the Lüneburg succession war. At this time the convent built a chapel to the saints Sebastian and Fabian, who were closely associated with the plague and its cure. The nuns appealed to family and friends for support and sold emroidery and other handiwork to supplement the community's income. To ameliorate the convent's condition, in 1352 the provost granted the convent rents from three houses in his possession. In 1469 the convent undertook an internal reform at the request of Duke Otto II. The nuns mounted substantial resistance, under Abbess Katharina von Hoya, to the reformers' attempts to re-impose the vita communis. In the course of the reform Katharina was removed from the abbecy and sent to the convent of Dernebach. The reform resulted in the dispersion of several objects from Wienhausen, primarily personal possessions. In 1529 the duke attempted to impose the Lutheran Reformation against the subustantial resistance of the nuns. In the course of the conflict, the duke even knocked down a portion of the convent, (the eastern wing). This eastern wing was rebuilt in the sixteenth century. See Wienhausen, eastern range The first Lutheran pastor was sent to the convent in 1529, and the Duke of Brunswick later took away much of the convent's land and all its prayer books. In 1549 the convent finally accepted the Lutheran reform. In 1587 the last catholic abbess died, and in 1651 the first woman willingly left the convent to marry (Wiesner-Hanks, 18).

Manuscripts Produced

The Wienhausen Songbook was compiled under the abbecy of Katharina von Hoya. One illustrated processional, presumably made within the convent itself, is still extant and held at the convent (WNH). Of all the extant manuscripts, this one is the largest and most richly decorated.

Conversi/ae and servants

References to lay sisters emerge in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries lay brothers are mentioned. The convent had prebends to oversee the manual labor done on the convent's lands.

Admin. Notes

LUENTZEL, Geschichte der Dioezese und der Stadt Hildesheim I, 536.

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

The statue of the arisen Christ that stood on the altar of the nuns' choir was credited with performing miracles. According to the chronicle, a woman who had been granted refuge within the convent insulted the statue and was crippled on the spot. Only the nuns' prayers healed her. The convent continues as a noble women's chapter. The convent maintains a website at

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