History » 1143 - 1901 » Old Schoenstatt » The End

7. The End

Saga of Luther and Katharina von Bora - decline of discipline - Anecdote - Request for help by the nuns - Their transfer to the Convent of St George in Koblenz - Schoenstatt becomes the property of the Trier court treasury.

When the Sisters moved from Muehlenheim to Schoenstatt in 1489 Luther had already been born (10 November 1483). He later became a monk at Wittenberg, a member of the Augustinian Order.

In 1500, Archbishop Johann of Trier gave the vacant Augustinian Convent at Muehlenhim to Augustinian hermits, and endowed it with property in Niederbrechen. It is said that Luther lived there for a time. So it is probable that he visited the Schoenstatt Convent. We cannot be certain about this. An unfounded saga relates that Katharina von Bora was one of the nuns at Schoenstatt.

Around the middle of the 16th Century the whole of the nobility in the Westerwald had taken up the attractive prospects of the new faith and become Lutherans.

If in the previous century the meaning and zeal of religious life had been lost, now real hatred developed for priests and religious. Every attempt was made to harm them, to take away their property and make their lives impossible. The Catholic nobles were not strong enough to prevent this, in fact they often did the same.

The nuns of Schoenstatt fared no better than all the other convents in Germany. After a brief improvement, the situation in the convent became worse than before.

Deprived of outward protection, the nuns soon last all inner security. Living together with the older, undisciplined Sisters must have had a considerable influence on the zeal of the new nuns from Muehlenheim. No amount of episcopal visitations, admonitions and punishments could change things. It seems that a number of nuns left the convent to follow the new religion. No new members arrived, so that the numbers in 1567 had dropped to five choir and seven lay sisters.

An interesting anecdote has come down to us from that time. What seemed like a very respectable person came to the convent and asked to receive the religious habit. When she introduced herself she managed to make such a good impression that the nuns considered themselves fortunate to have such a perfect soul in their community. She received the habit. In the meantime the sisters noticed that inwardly she was very different from what she had appeared, and all sorts of rumours of her reprehensible lifestyle in the world reached the convent. Since there seemed to be no hope of improvement, she was dismissed according to the Statutes with a consoling admonition. This person, seeing that she had been betrayed, was enkindled with so much hatred for the community that she said: "Well, since I can't live here, no one shall live here." She then poured poison she had brought with her into the convent well, and some of the nuns fell ill and died.

Another version relates that she was only dismissed because she did not come from a noble family, which was only discovered later by chance. The nuns all came from noble families, at least if they were choir sisters.

Of one thing we can be certain, that for some reason the Schoenstatt Convent had become detrimental to the health of the nuns, and many died while young. Most recent studies of different sources have confirmed this finding.

As a result of these manifold threats, the superior of that time, Anna Merlen, and the remaining nuns turned to the Elector Archbishop Jakob II of Elz (1567-1623) with the request that they should be transferred to a place where they would find more security for body and soul.

At that time there was a small cloister with adjoining church in Koblenz, in the “Vogelsang”, today the Karmeliterstrasse (Carmelite Street). It was known as the Convent of St George and was occupied by nurses who were Franciscan tertiaries. When the Sisters moved to a new convent at the Goergenpforte (Gate of St George), their old convent became vacant.

This Archbishop therefore decided in 1567 to move the Schoenstatt nuns there. However, since he feared that the neighbouring Duke Wilhlem von Sayn-Wittgenstein would object to the move, it was undertaken quietly. In 1567 the Archbiship sent commissioners to temporarily transfer the valuables from the sacristy, the convent, and its library and archive, to Koblenz. On 10 October, the Feast of St Gereon, a second commission was sent consisting of Auxiliary Bishop Wilhelm Gregor Birnenburg, two brothers von der Leyen, four doctors and three notaries, and an armed escort of 100 soldiers and 30 knights. The commission took possession of the convent, fixed the Elector's coat-of-arms to the building, and removed the pictures and bells to Koblenz, with the exception of a bell, which the Elector gave to the parish church of Vallendar, where this so-called citizen's bell because of its beautiful tone, was greatly honoured. The bell had been cast in 1503 for the convent and bore the inscription in Gothic lettering:

Maria heissen ich
In Gottes Eir wach ich
Does Weder verdriben ich
Peter von Echternach gaus mich. D. MDIII. (1503)

(My name is Mary
I keep watch to God's honour
Peter von Echternach cast me 1503)

On the same day the nuns were accompanied from the Convent of St Barbara in Schoenstatt to the Convent of St George in Koblenz, and Schoenstatt ceased after 424 years to be a convent. In the autumn of 1143 the nuns had taken possession of it with great joy; as the leaves began to fall in 1567 they left with great sorrow. [...]


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