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 Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.