Medingen Abbey is a former Cistercian nunnery. A founding legend ascribes the convent's origins to a lay brother called Johannes; the convent's history from its founding to the election of abbess Margaretha Puffen was formerly depicted in a cycle of 15 painted wooden boards, that were destroyed in the fire of 1781. The legend has it that Johannes claimed divine guidance in his quest to build the new convent. The community was founded 1228 in Restorf am Höhbeck by Johannes and four nuns who joined him in Magdeburg, but the group did not stay there. For unknown reasons, they moved on to Plate near Lüchow and later Bohndorf, before they eventually settled in Altenmedingen, where the first buildings were consecrated on 24 August 1241.
The military road passing through the convent yard presented an ever-present danger of attacks or arson, so the convent decided to move one last time, to the village of Zellensen, today's Medingen. The new church was consecrated on 24 August 1336.
1479 saw the advent of the convent reforms under the influence of the devotio moderna. Many convents at that time did not follow the Cistercian rule very strictly; nuns were allowed to keep their belongings and keep in touch with their relatives once they joined the convent. The Cistercian order was re-established and the prioress Margarete Puffen was made an abbess in 1494. After the reforms, a scriptorium became one of the focal points of the convent and to this day a large number of manuscripts found worldwide can be attributed to the sixteenth-century nuns of Medingen.
The Reformation attempted to be introduced in Medingen in 1524, was met with resistance from the nuns. They hid their confessor in the attic, publicly burned the Lutheran bible and almost faced the dissolution of the convent. In 1541, the Uelzen Landtag decided to ensure the economic security of Medingen and the five other convents nearby. This was in the nobility's interests, because their unmarried daughters could benefit from the livelihood and education befitting their status. In 1542, all of the convent's goods and earnings were confiscated and contact between the nuns and their family was prohibited. The abbess, Margareta von Stöterogge, did not give in to the demands of bringing all remaining property to Celle, but rather went to Hildesheim for two years, taking the convent's archive and valuables with her. It took her brother, Nikolaus von Stöterogge, to convince her finally to accept the communion under both forms. Eventually, in 1554, the convent became Protestant and from then on, the Klosterordnung (convent order) was defined by the Landesherr or territorial lord.
After the Reformation had been introduced, life changed drastically: The incumbents were now allowed to marry, but had to leave the convent when they did so. In 1605, they replaced the traditional Cistercian habit with an attire in accordance with the convent order introduced by Duke William in 1574. The Thirty Years' War left its mark on the convent and its surrounding area. A new convent order was introduced by Kurfürst (elector) George Louis in 1706.
Most of the convent buildings were destroyed in a fire in January 1781, although valuable possessions like the archives and the abbesses' crosier from 1494 were able to be salvaged. The ruins were demolished in 1782 and the convent re-built in the early neoclassic style. Completed in 1788, the new buildings were consecrated on 24 August.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.