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:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.