Freiburg Charterhouse

Freiburg, Germany

Freiburg Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery founded in 1345 or 1346 by Johannes Schnewlin, knight, Bürgermeister of Freiburg. It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, in honour of the Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble. In the early 16th century, the premises were extended by the addition of the refectory and the church, which was constructed in the Late Gothic style with ribbed vaulting and flying buttresses. It featured magnificent stained glass windows to designs by the Swabian painter Hans Baldung Grien.

At its height the charterhouse maintained close contact with the University of Freiburg. From 1502 to 1525 the prior was Gregor Reisch, a significant representative of late Scholasticism and a professor at the university. The monastery supported impoverished students and in its turn received donations and novices from the circles round the university.

The monastery gradually built up a significant library, particularly through its contact with the university, mainly through the gifts of new entrants to the monastery, and also through legacies from university staff and local clergy. For example, in 1537 the monastery inherited the library (consisting of c. 390 books) and the estate of Otmar Nachtgall.

The Thirty Years' War and the ravages of the Swedish army caused a huge disruption. Like many other Carthusians the monks of Freiburg took refuge in Ittingen Charterhouse in Switzerland. Between 1753 and 1756 the buildings were enlarged by the addition, in front of the medieval cell range, of a grand Baroque courtyard of three wings for the accommodation of prelates, plus a guest wing. The prior's attempt to attain the rank of prelate caused an internal revolt, which was put aside in 1781, after the monastery had suffered a serious fire the previous year.

Emperor Joseph II commanded the dissolution of all Carthusian monasteries, including Freiburg, within five months of the decree dated 13 February 1782. Its buildings and lands became the property of the state and were sold to the Baron von Baden in 1783. The library was dispersed; only a few incunabula can now be traced, in the library of Freiburg University.

After the dissolution the buildings were converted for a country house of the nobility, with the prior's lodging as the main residence. The cloisters with the monks' cells were demolished to make way for a park, but the church was kept. The precious stained glass windows were sold off to various villages.

The charitable foundation of Freiburg acquired the property in 1894 and converted it into a nursing home. From fall 2014 onwards, the facilities will accommodate a college of the UWC which will be called Robert Bosch College.

References:
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Founded: 1345
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

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