History » 1143 - 1901 » Old Schoenstatt » Dark Clouds

5. Dark Clouds

Changed times. - Abuses in Lonnig and Schoenstatt - Church interdict

[...] The times changed slowly but surely. Already at the beginning of the 14th century we can find the roots and precursors of the confusion of the 15th and 16th centuries. The zeal that brought about the Crusades slowly cooled; instead of protecting the cloisters, the nobles began to rob and suppress them. The leaders of Church and state, the secular and regular clergy, were often unsuited to the task of leadership. So it was inevitable that dark clouds gathered.

The convent in Schoenstatt was not spared. At first it seemed that the head of the convent, and above all the Abbots of Lunnech, no longer possessed the wisdom and prudence with which to lead the convent community. Their own abbey at this time had deteriorated to such an extent that it was too poor and burdened with debts to support itself. Archbishop Balduin (1307-1354) was forced to decree the transfer of the convent to Mayen on 1 December 1326.

Also in Schoenstatt the initial zeal had increasingly been lost. Prayer, the enclosure and domestic work were neglected and the Rule was poorly observed. It was inevitable that also the administration left much to be desired until it became impossible to withstand the depredations of the nobles with energy. If in the past the nuns had been loved and respected everywhere, now their lax discipline led to their being despised, and they were constantly persecuted by the people of Vallendar and the Dukes of Sayn.

The convent buildings became dilapidated, the forests and fields were badly cared for, and the numbers of livestock declined year by year. The convent was forced to pawn not only immovable property, but also church vessels, far beneath their value, with no chance of redeeming them later. For example, in 1437 the convent "pawned a Paternoster and two silver chasers with a Jew for 14 Gulden. [...]"

Not only their active capital was used up, the convent amassed debts of ca. 10.000 Gulden. If a Prior wanted to set to work with greater energy and thrift, it often led to conflict, as in 1321 when the Mistress and convent opposed the Prior Johannes.

To crown it all, the convent came under ecclesiastical interdict in 1434. After the death of Archbishop Otto von Ziegenhayn (1418-1430) there was a rift between the electors of his successor. The majority elected Canon Jakobus von Girk, of Trier, the minority, but more powerful group, Dean Ulrich von Menderscheid of Cologne. Since they could not come to an agreement, Pope Martin V (1417-1431) appointed the elderly Bishop of Speier, Raban von Helmstadt (1430-1439) the Archbishop of Trier. The Schoenstatt nuns had chosen Ulrich von Menderscheid and were not prepared to change their minds, which led to their being censured. It was only in 1436 that Bishop Friedric von Woms received the power to lift the interdict. The absolution was given in Koblenz on 28 December that year.

By then the dilapidated buildings were almost empty and few wanted to join the broken community. So, after 300 years, the Schoenstatt convent was close to extinction.

 

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