Vrejlev Priory was founded as a daughter house by canons from Børglum Abbey about 1165. It was small and built out of granite blocks. After a catastrophic fire in 1200 which destroyed the entire premises, it was decided to rebuild. 12 residential cells were built into the new north range for the Premonstratensian nuns who were to live in the rebuilt priory. Another range contained the refectory and cellars, and a third range housed lay sisters, usually unmarried young women or widows whose families paid for the privilege of living alongside the nuns. A cloister completed the four-sided complex.
After the fire in 1200, the church was expanded into a three aisled Romanesque structure built of less expensive brick. It was remodelled in 1400 to form a church with two aisles in the Gothic style by removing the outside nave, leaving the church asymmetrical in form. The existing tower was added and the bell hung, which was cast by P.H.P in 1400 and is still rung in the tower today.
The priory and nuns were led by the prioress, while the provost, or prior, who was often a layman and local nobleman, acted for them in secular matters. Some priors lived at Børglum Abbey and were monks, but served the same purpose.
Over time the priory came into possession of several farms and other income properties, though it was by no means wealthy. The rents helped sustain the priory and its works.
Vrejlev Priory fared badly in the 1520s and 1530s during the Danish Reformation. It had been necessary for Vrejlev to be taken under the protection of Bishop Stygge Krumpen in the reign of Frederick I because it could not sustain itself. The priory was occupied by rebels under Skipper Clement in his short-lived rebellion of 1534 and given to Claus IversenDyer. When Christian III's army crushed the revolt later that year, the priory fell to the crown, which appointed a bailiff to secularize it. The priory church became the parish church of Vrejlev. The nuns were permitted to remain for a time, but the cost of maintaining them there was prohibitive, and the former nuns eventually moved or married.
The estate was given to the nobleman Jens Bille in 1575. After 1609 it passed to a succession of noble families who remodelled the conventual buildings for use as a manor houseand estate buildings. The existing buildings, still called Vrejlev Kloster, incorporate two of the conventual ranges which have survived to modern times; the rest has been demolished.
The church served as the local parish church but was also the family church for the local resident nobles, and so was continuously repaired, embellished, and stocked with fine church furniture. There was a raised enclosure to separate the nobles and their guests from the rest of the congregation that was only removed in 1864, when the church became an ordinary parish church for the local community.References:
The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily, including Ragusa, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality 'Ragusa Superiore' (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city 'Ragusa Inferiore' (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927.