History » 1143 - 1901 » Old Schoenstatt » In the Peace of God

4. In God's Peace

Patron saint - Cloister seal - Status, occupation and number of nuns - Possessions and donations.

Both the convent and church were dedicated to the Mother of God. As a result it was known as the “Cloister of our Lady” in the first centuries. Later it seems that St Barbara, the martyr, was adopted as the second patron saint, and her feast was celebrated solemnly every year. The cloister then came to be known as the Convent of St Barbara.

The beautiful Gothic seal dating from the 14th century, which is to be found in the royal state archive in Koblenz, shows the Mother of God seated on a throne with the Child Jesus on her left arm and holding a lily scepter in her right hand, the whole surrounded by a nimbus of light. The transcription shows the words “Sigillum Sancte Marie in Valindere” (Seal of St Mary in Vallendar).

The head of the community was not an Abbess; she was called “Magistra” (Mistress). She was assisted by a Prioress. Some of the nuns were choir sisters, other lay sisters. The latter saw to the housework, and worked in the garden and kitchen, as well as in the fields. The choir sisters, also called the conventual sisters, had the duty to pray the office in the choir. For centuries they were drawn exclusively from the nobility, as happened elsewhere. Besides prayer they were occupied with studies, writing books and the decoration of the church.

The nuns of the Middle Ages combined a fervent spiritual life with outstanding learning, and some names live on in secular and Church history. They understood Latin, and sometimes also Greek, and studies the Church Fathers and selected classical texts from antiquity in their original language. Every convent had sisters who were trained in the art of copying books and drawing the initial letters. Even if the pious copyist did not ask the reader for his or her prayers at the end, she would be recognized by her fine lettering and painting. This provided a rich source of income, because handwritten books cost a great deal. As today, so at that time nuns were adept in creating Church ornaments, and still today we admire their beautiful drawings and fine needlework. In the course of time libraries and cupboards filled with such treasures that became the pride of the cloisters and the Church.

What is recorded of the nuns of the nearby convent on “the holy mountain Besselich” will also be true of Schoenstatt. In fact, it is probably all the more true because this convent was richly endowed and soon reached its peak. Soon the buildings proved to be too small to take in all who sought peace and calm in the valley. Archbishop Theodorich (1212-1242) of Trier had to admonish the convent on 26 November 1226 not to admit more than 100 nuns.

Already at the time of its foundation Archbishop Albero had taken sufficient care for the foundation of the convent. However, also in the time that followed the convent was richly endowed. The annals record a long list of all sorts of acquisitions. Some of the documents are still extant and provide precise information.

For example, in 1152 Ludwig von Ehrenbreitstein gave the convent some properties in Kesselheim (Kescelenheim) on the Rhine opposite Vallendar. Archbishop Hillin (1152-1169), as feudal lord, confirmed the donation on 5 August 1167, and rounded it off by adding adjacent unused fields. He also handed over a piece of land at Ochtendung to the convent in exchange for a house and garden given to Schoenstatt by a pious layman, Wigandus, whose property was more desirable to the Archbishop because it was close to the castle of Ehrenbreitstein.

The convent retained its properties in Luennech. The knight, Bertold von Covern (Kobruna) had the right to administer the farm there. The Prior of the convent in Vallendar bought this right and a vineyard for 4 Mark (Koeln.), in order to be relieved of all further trouble. This took place in 1189 (venerabilis Friderici imperatoris tunc temporis Jehrosolimam peregrinatis).

The convent also owned a farm in Covern. It was also excessively exposed to the blackmail of Gerlach, the local nobleman. In order to put an end to the continuous deposits and demands from the convent cellar, at the request of Abbot Johannes von Lonnig and the Prier Gottfried of Schoenstatt, Archbishop Theoderic mediated an agreement on 5 January 1221, according to which Gerlach von Covern promised to give up all claims on the convent farm, and in return received a Ohm (ancient measure) of wine.

The size and extent of the Schoenstatt forests are shown in a document of 1 January 1224, according to which Duke Heinrich III of Sayn exchanged his properties in Moselwiess (Wyse) for 16 forest horses belonging to the convent.

The convent received countless donations from all sides. Archbishop Johann I of Trier (1190-1212) remembered it in his will and left the church 10 pounds for the sanctuary light.

In 1242 Wilhelm, knight of Helfenstein near Ehrenbreitstein, left the convent church money for the candles on the feast of St Martin and an annual gift of an Ohm of wine and three measures of malted spelt on the anniversary of his beloved son, Johann.

In 1313 Pope Clement V (1305-1314) granted the convent the privilege to accept and keep property that came to the sisters through inheritance.

So inwardly and outwardly the convent was wall founded and flourished until the beginning of the 14th century. The fame of the virtue and holiness of the nuns at Schoenstatt was widespread, and they were always greeted with great respect and love.

 

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