Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lutheran Monastery Virtual Tour Stop #4 - Isenhagen Abbey

While I was thinking about resuming our little virtual tour of Lutheran monasteries, it occurred to me that all of the places we have visited so far have had monks, not nuns.  So, with that mind, our next stop is Isenhagen Abbey, a convent for Lutheran women. 

Located in the Lower Saxony region of Germany, the convent dates back to the year 1243, when it was founded as a friary for Cistercian monks.  The friary burned down only 16 years later, and when it was rebuilt in 1262, it changed to a convent.  The convent moved to its current location in Hankensbuttel in 1329. At the time of the Reformation in Germany, the convent became a home for Lutheran nuns.

The Gothic buildings of the Abbey are the home of a collection of medieval furniture and works of art.  The interior contains carved and painted altars, sculptures, as well as paintings for private devotions. A slideshow of the beautiful interior of the Abbey can be found at this link on their website:

Women who enter the Abbey are typically in their 60s, and have retired from their previous occupations.  When an interested woman desires to enter the convent, she must first go to the Abbess.  If  the aspirant fits into the community, she lives in the monastery for trial periods of time, such as weekends and weeklong stretches.  Eventually, the aspirant has a final meeting with the Abbess, and it is decided whether or not she will be included in the community

In case of positive decision, she will then move to one of the simple rooms in the Abbey for a probationary period.  In the event of a successful completion of the probationary period, the nun is welcomed via a solemn introduction into the community. The Church's blessing is given by the parish priest and the Abbess, in the presence of guests from her family, as well as the public.

From their website, it was unclear to me whether they follow a specific monastic rule, such as the Rule of St. Benedict, but the site does mention that the nuns come together each day for prayer and devotions.  The primary duties of the nuns revolve around taking care of the grounds, and offering guided tours of the Abbey to visitors. 

For more information and pictures of the Abbey, their website (which is in German - hopefully Google's translator did not lead me too far astray) is located here:



  1. Fascinating tour. I knew vaguely that we Lutherans hadn't dispensed completely with monasticism but that was about it. Thank you so much.

  2. Thanks for your comment! It motivated me to finally finish the virtual tour, so check out my new post where I stop at four different monasteries.

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  4. Interesting website, but the following sentence is inaccurate: "At the time of the Reformation in Germany, the convent became a home for Lutheran nuns."

    At the time of the Reformation, monastic communities in those parts of Germany that became Protestant were generally allowed to exist until the last monk or nun died. Many of them chose to become laicized. Martin Luther published "De votis monasticis", which said that the monastic life had no scriptural basis, was pointless, and was also actively immoral and not compatible with the true spirit of Christianity. Luther also declared that monastic vows were meaningless and that no one should feel bound by them.

    Religious orders were not reintroduced into the Lutheran Church until the early 20th century, in conjunction with the advent of "high church" Lutheranism, which was itself inspired by high church Anglicanism. Therefor, this convent could not have been used by (non-existent) Lutheran nuns at the time of the Reformation.

  5. Thanks for comment, Hans. According to their website, Lutheran women have indeed been living at Isenhagen since the 1500s. They may not have been "nuns" in the Catholic sense with all of the vows involved in Catholic religious life, but they have been women who come together to live in communion. Luther himself said that this kind of community was acceptable - you missed the part where Luther said it was fine for people to come together to live in a quasi-monastic community, and he even praised St. Anthony, the father of monasticism. It was the medieval form of monasticism he criticized. See my earlier article here: