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      History & Architecture of the Former Monastery

 

View into the cloister with the Tonsure building. Photo: Hans-Wulf Kunze

 

Around the year 1017/18 Archbishop Gero of Magdeburg (1012/1023) founded a collegiate seminary, "Unser Lieben Frauen", consecrated to St. Mary. Our Lady, north of the Magdeburg cathedral and furnished it richly. In 1063/64 new stone constructions started under archbishop Werner. The flat-roofed, cross-shaped pillar basilica has had eight bays and one pair of pillars in the middle and one pair in the west. Together with the crypt in the choir, these pillars still form the core of the church. The group of towers in the west had apparently also been designed by that time but was not erected before the 12th century.


In 1129 Norbert of Xanten (1080/85-1134), Archbishop of Magdeburg since 1126, consigned the church to the order of the Premonstratensians, a reform order he himself had founded in 1121. After that, the western end of the church was finished. When Norbert of Xanten died in 1134, he was buried in front of the altar, consecrated to the cross.

 

The enclosure was also largely finished in the 12th century. With the introduction of the Reformation at the end of the 16th century, the Premonstratensian Age came to an end.

The exterior of the former collegiate church St. Mary's serves as an example for religious architecture around the year 1100. Clearly separated from each other are the square choir with a wider apse, a massive transept (with a small side apse in the southern arm), a stretched nave with roughly medium-high aisles and a massive west front, consisting of a square clock tower with the same width as the nave, as well as two slender, round stair towers, leaned against the aisles. These slated stair towers overtop everything.


 

Inside the former convent church St. Mary's with Sienese painting by artist Hartwig Ebersbach.


The center of the former Premonstratensian monastery is formed by the two-storied cloister. Its western parts were erected between 1129 and 1200. Thanks to the restoration of the interior of the west front destroyed during the war, it has a very closed design.

 

The refectory has a length of 45 meters (148 feet) and a width of almost 8 meters (26 feet). It was erected under the influence of Northern France and Burgundy. Today it serves as an exhibition place of contemporary art, taken from the own collection and comprises mainly samples collected after 1990.

 

The middle barrel vault below the refectory is almost as large as the refectory itself. However, its proportions are significantly sturdier and the front fifth has a groin vault.

The middle barrel vault leads into the third, the lower barrel vault. It is significantly shorter and was erected in the late Middle Ages.

 

The upper cloister with the large, modern gallery in the west wing, the small, vaulted upper floor of the penitentiary, the upper tonsure as well as a number of modern cabinets in the east wing, is used for temporary exhibitions. The focus of these exhibitions is on national and international art, after 1945. 


The crypt, the oldest part of the former monastery, with its typically Romanesque columns.