Buxtehude, Altkloster
Community ID
Alternate Names
Altbuxtehude; claustrum in Buxtehude, monasterium in Buxtehuden, ecclesia sancti Laurentii, Closters Olden Buxtehude, Olden Kloster; Coenobium vetus
Verden; Hildesheim (since 1824)
Medieval Location
The convent was located in Buxtehude in the county of Stade (until 1144); this territory was disputed between the dukes of Saxony and the archbishop of Bremen, circa 1236 it fell to Bremen.
Modern Location
Buxtehude, in the administrative district of Stade
Corporate Status
S. Mary and S. Laurentius
Date Founded
1197 (circa)
Date Terminated
1651 (circa)
Religious Order
Although the convent underwent an internal reform in 1479, it was not formally incorporated into the Bursfeld congregation.
Foundation Information

At the diocean synod in 1197, the noble half-brotheres Gerlach and Heinrich, heinrich's wife Floria, and a monk named Sigeband came before Bishop Rudolf of Verden and declared their desire to found a monastery with the help of the bishop (Kappelhoff, 135). The archbishop of Hollenstedt accompanied the group to show his support for the foundation as well. The rights of patronage and advocacy in Buxtehude were handed over to the church in Verden. The convent was founded from a portion of the brothers' allodial property. Bishop Rudolf confirmed that no bishop or provost would be able to hold the advocacy over Buxtehude as a fief (Kappelhoff, 135). Advocates could only be used when needed and were afterwards to be set aside. Floria, the wife of Heinrich, contributed portions of her personal property to the community. At a general synod in the bishopric of Modestorf, all the rights and the formal foundation of Buxtehude were confirmed. The bishop established the Benedictine Rule for the nuns of the community and the monk Sigeband was established as the first provost (Kappelhoff, 135). Future provosts were to be elected by the convent in conjunction with the bishop. The bishop held the right of investiture.

First Members

It is not known from where the first nuns for the community came. It is possible that the first nuns came from the neighboring convent of Lüne. The provost of Lüne was present at the synod in Modestorff. The provost from Ebstorf was also present, although at this time the community was composed of Premonstratensian canons, so that settlement from this community is highly unlikely (Kappelhoff, 137).

Notable Heads

Known prioresses are: Floria (1197); Bertradis (1302); Gertrud von Heimbruch (1334-1356); Berte (1375); Mechtild (1380-1383); Elisabeth (1384); Hildegunde (1391-1405);Adelheid (1407-1417); Gertrud (1420-1425); Mabilia (1425); Ermengard (1434); Margarethe (1463); Ida von Hagen (1465-1470); Gheseke marckels (1475); Gertrud Rammes (1478-1487); and Margarethe Snitkers (1487-1530).

Population Counts

In 1389 there were approximately 60 nuns in the community. In 1499 there were 67 persons in the convent, including novices and lay sisters. In 1515 there were 81 people in the convent, including 58 nuns, 18 novices, 13 lay-sisters, and a widow.

Priveleges & Papal Exemptions

In 1210 Pope Innocent III took the convent into his protection and confirmed its possessions and rights.

Incorporated Communities

The convent incorporated the parish of modern Estebrügge in 1388. This was confirmed in 1389 by Pope Urban VI.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The provost of Altkloster in Buxtehude also acted as the rector for all the churches and chapels within the city. In 1304 a curacy and altar to S. Laurentius was established within the Peter's church in Buxtehude, of which the provost of Altkloster was the founder. The provost founded these and provided them with income, primarily for the support of priest (Kappelhoff, 139). The S. Peter's church, although never formally incorporated, came under the influence of the convent; the convent also exercised control over the chapels in Buxtehude, including the Beloved Mother (Liebfrau) chapel, the S. Anne chapel, and the chapel of the Holy Spirit at the hospital (Kappelhoff, 151). With the Reformation, the convent lost its control over these. Ebstorf continued to exert influence over the convent until 1530.

Secular Political Affiliations

It is unclear who held the right of protectorship over the convent. In the foundation documents, the nobles of Buxtehude possessed the rights of patronage and protectorship over the goods and lands of the Buxtehude parish church. The document, however, also prohibits the provost and bishop from passing on the rights of protectorship as an inheritance (Kappelhoff, 150).

Social Characteristics

The community was composed of noble women; the family of the Schultes played a prominent role in the convent. It also included the patrician daughters from Lüneburg and Hamburg. Kappelhoff believes the convent remained open to anyone who could afford the dowry requirement (Kappelhoff, 150).

Relative Wealth

Initially, the convent seems to have been well-endowed (see assets/property below). The convent faced economic difficulties because of the foundation of the new city of Buxtehude by Archbishop Giselbert of Bremen circa 1285. The archbishop took portions of the convent property and placed the convent under his power of excommunication (Kappelhoff, 137). The convent suffered damages in a conflict between the dukes of Lüneburg and Duke Albrecht of Saxony; a document of March 1, 1287 records the damages done to the convent, primarily due to the nearness of the city and the loss of income from tithes, taxes and tolls. The use of the moors and fields were returned to the convent (Kappelhoff, 138). The convent also recieved a portion of its land back. Damages were repaid by 250 Mark of Stade pennies. The proximity of the new town infringed upon the ability of the convent to develop economically. Despite the proximity of the town, the convent prospered during the fourteenth century. In fact, the convent appears to have been able to rebuild itself after damage incurred during the 1420s without recourse to any loans (Kappelhoff, 149). However, under Provost Johannes Glasewerth the convent again suffered economic difficulties that led to the provost's resignation and the election of Hienrich Brunow. By his death in 1476, the convent was again in better economic circumstances.


The economic foundation of the convent lay in three portions: the hereditary property and the rights of the nobles of Buxtehude, the hereditary property of Floria, and the income from the parish church of Buxtehude, which was incorporated into the convent at the time of foundation. At the time of foundation, the charter records that the nobles,Gerlach and Heinrich, bestowed on the convent the property from the farms and land from the church of S. Peter to the old buildings of S. Mary. It is unclear whether these two churches became part of the cloister-complex; Kappelhoff contends that the church of S. Peter definitely did not become a church for the convent, as no records of altars or chapels dedicated to the saint exist in the conventual records (Kappelhoff, 136). He also believe that the buildings of S. Mary refer to buildings which were no longer used as a church. The nobles also conveyed to water-mills into the possession of the convent (Kappelhoff, 148). The convent also recieved all the cultivated and uncultivated land on the east bank of the Este river from Buxtehude to the north "up to the people of Holland" (Kappelhoff, 148). The nobles also gave the community possessions in Zesterbach in modern Borstel and three hides of land on the Este River. The convent received tithes from these areas as well. From the property of Floria the convent recieved four hides and a quarter-hide on the Este. The property of the parish church in Buxtehude encompassed 49 and a half hides in Eilendorf, Immenbeck, Ardesdorf, Villenhusen, Pippensen, Hollenstedt, Eversen, Grauen, Sproetze, Hosterem, Walesdorpe, Tostedt, Ottensen, Rahmsdorf, Wulmsdorf, Drestedt, Ludelmesdorpe, Trintlo, Eckhorst, Oersdorf, Stelle, Adelmesdorpe, Oldendorf and Goldbeck (Kappelhoff, 148). It also included tithes from eight farms in Villenhusen and Immenbeck. During the fourteenth century the convent expanded its possessions (both in tithes and land) in a methodical way.


In the first years of the convent's foundation, it received a number of tithes and land through gifts, mostly possessions in the Welf Geest-area along the Este River. In 1196 the convent also acquired two water-mills. The convent acquired further possessions in this area through purchase, predominantly of tithes (Kappelhoff, 148). The foundation of the city of Buxtehude in the thirteenth century brought a significant decline in the convent's economy; it lost tithes, tolls, and taxes. In 1287 the convent received a portion of its possessions and rights back along with 250 Marks for damages done to the convent. The money was used to purches further possessions (Kappelhoff, 149). The convent (perhaps at this time) acquired four salt-pans.

Other Economic Activities

The convent also engaged in the provision of rents to farmers from deposits of credit (loaning activities?).

Literary Works

Little is known about the convent's library.

Early Documents

The foundation charter from December 25-31, 1196 still exists.

Art & Artifacts

An inventory of 1669 lists several art objects, statues, pictures, riches, and liturgical items. However, it is unclear whether some or all of these were used during the Middle Ages. The inventory also lists "robes/clothes" for the statues, which were presumably fashioned by the nuns. Again, these can not be dated to the medieval period with certainty.

Architecture & Archaeology

Kappelhoff believes that the church of S. Mary and Laurentius recorded in the foundation document of 1196 was already old, otherwise it would not have been so richly equipped as it appears in the earliest documents (Kappelhoff, 137). Sometime during the 1420s the community's buildings were burnt with the seige of Buxtehude by the Dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. On December 1, 1499 the nuns were told to evacuate the convent, because of the threat of the army ammassed during the conflict between the dukes of Sachsen-Lauenburg and the Archbishop of Bremen. Once the nuns had been evacuated, the convent buildings were plundered by the citizens. The army then seized the buildings and held them until December 19, 1499. Once the army evacuated, the citizens again stormed the buildings and set them on fire (Kappelhoff, 142). The convent was then rebuilt, despite attempts to disperse the nuns among the four other convents in the Lueneburg heath. On July 15, 1500 the nuns again assumed possession of the convent (Kappelhoff, 142). Based on archaeological research, the convent church appears to have had two trancepts with dimensions of 30 meters by 10 meters. It was presumably built in a style of Brick-Gothic with an East Gable (perhaps similar to Wienhausen). The convent had a clock tower. The convent itself was a two-storied half-timbered building. The south-wing of the convent presumably held the refectory and kitchen. There were also several other buildings with specialized functions (Kappelhoff, 153).


At the time of foundation, the convent further recieved rights and property in the shrines to S. Mary and S. Laurentius, which Sigeband brought back to and established in the convent at Buxtehude. The two saints became the patrons of the convent.

Manuscript Sources

Most of the archives for this community are found in the Niederdeutsches Staatarchiv Stade. The medieval holdings encompass roughly 630 documents on Pergament, from 1197-1674. The King's(?) Library in Copenhagen also possesses a document from the community, #Thott. 8o8 (25a).

Published Primary Sources

[1]HODEENBERG, W. v., ed. Bremer Geschichtsquellen 2, Das Voerder Register. (Celle, 1856).
[2]Lüneburger Urkundenbuch.
[3]KAUSCHE, D., ed. Regesten zur Geschichte des Harburger Raumes 1059-1527. (Hamburg, 1976).
[4]BROSIUS, D., ed. Urkundenbuch des Klosters Scharnebeck. Hildesheim, 1979.
[5]BOHMBACH, J., ed. Regesten und Urkunden zur Geschichte des Klosters St. Georg in Stade. Hildesheim, 1982.

Secondary Sources

Buxtehude, AltklosterHandschriftenerbe des Deutschen Mittelalters, vol. 1, p. 143.
MUSHARDT, M. Von der Erbauung des alten und neuen Klosters bey Buxtehude (1760).
ROTEREMUND, H. W. Vom alten und neuen Kloster bei Buxtehude. Neues Vaterliches Archiv 9, (1826), 333-354 and 11 (1827), 378-392.
KARPA, O. et al. Die Kunstdenkmale des Landkreises Stade. Muenchen, 1965.
SCHINDLER, M. Zur Geschichte des Benediktiner-Klosters von Buxtehude-Altkloster. Die Klosterwelt von Harsefeld und Buxtehude. Informationsschrift zur Sonderausstellung im Schwedenspeichermuseum Stade. (Stade, 1982), 15-20.
ZIERMANN, D. Das Benediktiner-Nonnenkloster von Buxtehude-Altkloster. Bericht ueber die Ausgrabungen 1981 und 1982. Stader Jahrbuch 73 (1983).

Miscellaneous Information

Kappelhoff believes that devotion to S. Laurentius arrived in the late tenth century in Buxtehude and reached its highpoint in the twelfth century. In 1479 the provost Johannes Murmester along with Magister Gerhard Halepaghen, father-confessor to the nuns, undertook an internal reform of the convent. The reform focused on stricter claustration. The reform was aided by the prioress of Ebstorf, which had alreadly undertaken the refrom of te Neukloster in 1477. The previous prioress was replaced by a new prioress, Gertrud Rammes, previously subprioress of Ebstorf (Kappelhoff, 140). On December 1, 1499 the nuns were told to evacuate the convent, because of the threat of the army ammassed during the conflict between the dukes of Sachsen-Lauenburg and the Archbishop of Bremen. Once the nuns had been evacuated, the convent buildings were plundered by the citizens. The army then seized the buildings and held them until December 19, 1499. Once the army evacuated, the citizens again stormed the buildings and set them on fire (Kappelhoff, 142). The influence of the Protestant Reformation made itself felt in the town of Buxtehude beginning in 1535. Heinrich Soth became the first Protestant provost of the community. The nuns, however, continued to adhere to the Catholic faith. This conflict ultimately led to a disputation between the two faiths within the convent of Altkloster. In 1618 the archbishop along with the mayors of Buxtehude secured the retention of the catholic worship in the convent and promised that no new songs would be introduced (Kappelhoff, 144). Circa 1635-1636 the convent again recieved dispensation to exercise the catholic religion freely and have catholic priests (Kappelhoff, 146).

June Mecham
Contributors Notes

Besides S. Mary and S. Laurentius, the convent mentions S. Nicolaus (1290), S. Stephan (1337), S. Katherine (1344), and S. Bartholomew (1393) as saintly patrons (Kappelhoff, 154). A seal from the convent, from the year 1356, depicts S. Laurentius with a book before his chest with stars behind him.

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