Lehnin Abbey was founded by the Ascanian margrave Otto I of Brandenburg in 1180, 23 years after his father, late Albert the Bear had finally defeated the Slavic prince Jaxa of Köpenick and established the Brandenburg margraviate in 1157. According to legend, Otto, while hunting at the site, had fallen asleep beneath a giant oak, when a white deer appeared to him in a dream, whose furious attacks he could only ward off by appealing to the Saviour.
To consolidate their rule, the Ascanians called for Christian settlers, especially from Flanders to settle among the 'pagan' Slavs. Beside, they established Cistercian monasteries to develop the lands and to generate an income. Lehnin on the Zauche plateau south of the Havelland region, a daughter house (filial) of Morimond Abbey, was the first abbey to be founded as an Ascanian family monastery and place of burial. It soon became an important contributor to the land development of the Margraviate. Otto I was buried here in 1184. In its turn Lehnin founded the daughter houses of Paradies Abbey (1236, present-day Klasztor Paradyż in Gościkowo, Poland), Mariensee Abbey (1258, relocated to Chorin in 1273), and Himmelpfort Abbey near Fürstenberg/Havel (1299).
The abbey was dissolved in 1542 during the Reformation and turned into an electoral demesne and hunting lodge under the Hohenzollern elector Joachim II of Brandenburg. Devastated during the Thirty Years' War, it was rebuilt under the 'Great Elector' Frederick William from about 1650 and became a summer residence of his first consort Louise Henriette of Nassau. After her death in 1667, Frederick William encouraged the settlement of Huguenot refugees at Lehnin according to his 1685 Edict of Potsdam, which added largely to the recovery of the local economy. Lehnin received access to the Havel river via an artificial waterway and became the site of a large brickyard, while the historic monastery premises again decayed and were used as a stone quarry.
In the 19th century, when Lehnin Abbey came into the focus of German Romanticism and national sentiment, the decay was halted at the initiative of King Frederick William IV of Prussia and his nephew, Crown Prince Frederick. From 1871 to 1877, the ruins were remarkably well restored.
In 1911 the premises were purchased by the Prussian Union of churches to house the Protestant community known as the Luise-Henrietten-Stift. The deaconesses adopted the Cistercian tradition; they were suppressed under Nazi rule, when the authorities seized large parts of the monastery complex for Wehrmacht and SS purposes. From 1949 onwards, Lehnin Abbey was turned into a hospital, today it serves as a geriatric rehabilitation clinic and nursing home.
Lehnin Abbey is significant for its Brick Gothic architecture, and is one of the finest German Brick Gothic period buildings in the country.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.