Eldena Abbey Ruins

Greifswald, Germany

Eldena Abbey, originally Hilda Abbey, is a former Cistercian monastery. Only ruins survive, which are well known as a frequent subject of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings.

In the 12th century the Baltic coast south of the island of Rügen belonged to the Rani principality of Rügen, which in its turn was subject to the Danes. The Danish Cistercian monastery, Esrum Abbey, was thus able to found a daughter house in the area, Dargun Abbey, at Dargun, west of Demmin, in 1172. When in 1198 this monastery was destroyed in fighting between Denmark and Brandenburg, Jaromar I, Prince of the Rani, whose wife was of the Danish royal house, offered to re-settle the monks at a new site at the mouth of the River Ryck, close to the boundary between the territory of the Princes of Rügen, and the County of Gützkow, since the early 1120s subordinate to the Duchy of Pomerania.

The offer of the site, which included profitable salt-pans, was accepted, and in 1199 Hilda Abbey was founded and confirmed by Pope Innocent III in 1204. The monastery became wealthy from the salt trade and was very influential in the Christianisation of Western Pomerania. It also brought about the foundation at the beginning of the 13th century of the town of Greifswald, which started out as the monastery's trading settlement opposite the salt-pans, near the point where the via regia, an important trade route, crossed the river. After the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227 the Danes withdrew from this part of their former territories, and despite some competition from the princes of Rügen, the Duke of Pomerania, Wartislaw III, was able in 1248/49 to pressurise the abbey into subinfeudating Greifswald to him. Wartislaw was later buried in Eldena Abbey, as were later members of the ducal family, the House of Pomerania.

Throughout the 13th century, Eldena Abbey organized the cultivation and settlement of its growing estates in the Ostsiedlung process, allocating and founding Wendish, Danish and German villages. In the growing town of Greifswald however, the Cistercians of Eldena lost much of their influence the foundation in the town in the mid-13th century of friaries of the Franciscans (Greyfriars) and the Dominicans (Blackfriars).

The east end of the abbey church was built in about 1200, while the conventual buildings date from the mid-13th and 14th centuries, all in Brick Gothic. The final stages of construction were the west front and the nave of the church, which were completed in the 15th century.

The abbey was dissolved in 1535, when the Reformation was introduced into Pomerania by Duke Philip I, who took over its estates. The buildings were severely damaged during the Thirty Years' War. In 1634 the site was given to the University of Greifswald. The buildings fell into dereliction during the Swedish occupation of Western Pomerania (1648–1815) and the bricks were quarried for the building of fortifications.

By the beginning of the 19th century, when the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich knew the abbey, it was a ruin, which he made the subject of several paintings. Renewed public interest led to the beginning of restoration work in 1828, and on the basis of designs by the Prussian landscape gardener Peter Joseph Lenné a park was laid out on the abbey precinct.

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Details

Founded: 1199-1204
Category: Ruins in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rajesh Gandhirajan (3 years ago)
Nice place to hangout with friends
Gianluca Moro (3 years ago)
A piece of local history!
Quentin Watt (4 years ago)
Some pretty interesting history involved in these ruins. If you can get a local to tell you the story, or visit the Landesmuseum in Greifswald to get a bit more background information on this. The landesmuseum also has a model of what this "kloster" looked like before it become ruins.
Tamás Szabolics (4 years ago)
Beautiful place. Nice and peaceful
Jacob N (4 years ago)
Very interesting to see the history here dating back all the way to 1199. I think it's the oldest architecture still standing that I've seen
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