Vreta Abbey was the first nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian, and one of the oldest in Scandinavia. The exact year of the foundation is not known. The abbey was founded by King Inge the Elder of Sweden and Queen Helena on the orders of Pope Paschal II, which gives a date range for the foundation: Paschal became pope in 1099; the date of Inge's death is disputed, but probably occurred around 1105 or a little later. In the following decade King Inge the Younger and Queen Ulvhild made large donations to it.
Vreta Abbey was a house of Benedictine nuns until 1162, when it was turned into a Cistercian nunnery. The first Cistercian abbess was Ingegerd, sister of Charles VII. A second sister, Helena of Sweden, widow of Canute V of Denmark, entered Vreta as a nun after being widowed in 1157, and other members of the Swedish and Danish royal families were also here. In the 13th century, Princess Helena Sverkersdotter of Sweden were among its abbesses. Vreta Abbey has entered folklore as the scene during the 13th century of a number of prominent abductions of girls for marriages disapproved of by their families. It was a prestigious establishment, and the church is the burial place of kings Inge the Elder and the Younger, Philip of Sweden, Magnus II and princes Ragnvald (son of Inge the Elder) and Sune, plus according to an older source the latter's young nephews, Alf and Boleslaw Johansson. It served as a school for daughters of Sweden's ruling families and nobility.
The buildings burned down in the early 13th century, but were rebuilt, and a new church was dedicated in the presence of King Magnus Ladulås and Queen Hedwig in 1289. After 1527, as a result of the Reformation the abbey was forbidden to accept any new novices, but was otherwise treated very leniently. It continued in use as a school for daughters of the nobility and a retirement place for old noblewomen, and in 1529, the King allowed the last abbess, Sigrid Botholfsdotter (d. 1538), to buy it, and its activities continued undisturbed. In 1536 the King Gustav Vasa gave the abbey and its assets to his Roman Catholic mother-in-law Ebba Eriksdotter Vasa, the mother of the Queen consort Margareta Leijonhufvud, also a Roman Catholic; Ebba Eriksdotter spent her last years here and died in 1549. There were still nuns here in 1562, and the last two of whom, Brita Gisledotter and Kirstin Månsdotter, died in 1582.
The church continued in use as a Lutheran parish church and still stands today, distinguished by its possession of a medieval hagioscope. The remaining buildings were mostly allowed to fall into ruin. Between 1916 and 1926 the ruins were excavated, and large portions to the north of the church, which was itself restored between 1914 and 1917, remain visible. The finds, including an unusual wooden water pipe, are on display in the adjoining museum.
Apart from the church, the only monastic building completely preserved is the barn, although some walls were reconstructed in the 20th century. The stones from the former refectory were used to build the tower of Linköping Cathedral.References:
Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle.
In 1728, the Bavarian court architect François de Cuvilliés took over and made the palace into one of the most glorious residences of its time. Until its completion in 1768, numerous outstanding artists of European renown contributed to its beauty. A prime example of the calibre of artists employed here is Balthasar Neumann, who created the design for the magnificent staircase, an enchanting creation full of dynamism and elegance. The magical interplay of architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design made the Brühl Palaces a masterpiece of German Rococo.
UNESCO honoured history and present of the Rococo Palaces by inscribing Augustusburg Palace – together with Falkenlust Palace and their extensive gardens – on the World Heritage List in 1984. From 1949 onwards, Augustusburg Palace was used for representative purposes by the German Federal President and the Federal Government for many decades.
In 1728, Dominique Girard designed the palace gardens according to French models. Owing to constant renovation and care, it is today one of the most authentic examples of 18th century garden design in Europe. Next to the Baroque gardens, Peter Joseph Lenné redesigned the forested areas based on English landscaping models. Today it is a wonderful place to have a walk.