The Clarissa (Poor Clares) order nunnery in Ribnitz was one of the last nunnerys or monasteries to be founded in the dutchy of Mecklenburg. In 1323, Duke Heinrich II von Mecklenburg bequeathed to the Franciscans his court stronghold in the southeast of the town of Ribnitz. The first four nuns arrived from the Clarissa nunnery in the Westphalian town of Weißenfels. In 1330, the nunnery is consecrated, while today's church facility was begun in 1361, and was consecrated in 1393.

The church is a broad, vaulted Brick Gothic hall composed of six narrow right angled bays supported by inwards-facing support pillars lacking a fixed ambulatory. The church is flanked at its east and west gables by a small tower. In the east of the nave, a wooden gallery for the nuns remains today, having preserved much of its original form, most notably nuns' stalls installed ca. 1400.

The nunnery church is the last remaining building of the late medieval nunnery site still remaining largely intact in tis original form. Its interior was rebuilt in 1840 in a neo-Gothic style.

During the Reformation Ribnitz Abbey was turned into an aristocratic convent. The transfer of the contents of the convent to the Duke and the devestating consequences of the 30 Years' War led to the collapse of the convent.

In 2006, restoration work on the former forewoman's house was completed. Today, the Ribnitz-Damgarten German Museum of Amber is housed in this and adjoining buildings. During restoration work the remains of the north wall of the dormitory where discovered, which have now been excavated and can be seen by visitors. The convent houses are today in demand apartments; the presence of the Museum, the town library, the Nunnery Gallery and the town archive have converted the nunnery site into a cultural centre of the town.

The nunnery still houses a number of outstanding wooden icons, the so-called 'Ribnitz Madonnas'. The figures were originally part of the nunnery church's altars, and were made over several centuries, from the start of the 14th century through to the first half of the 16th. They are of outstanding quality, having largely preserved their authentic original colour scheme.

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Founded: 1330
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

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