Lüne Abbey was originally built for Benedictine nuns and today is home to a chapter of Lutheran conventuals. It is one of several former monasteries administered by the Hanoverian monastic chamber.
Lüne Abbey was founded in 1172 by Hildeswidis von Markboldestorp. In the founding document by Hugo, Bishop of Verden, there is no mention of the observances to be followed, so that it is assumed that it was a chapter of canonesses. Not until 1272 was the nunnery described in a document as an abbey for Benedictine nuns and only from the mid-14th century is a full adoption of Benedictine observances recorded.
The abbey was overseen by an abbess. Its administration and pastoral care was placed in the charge of a provost elected by the nuns. One of these provosts, Henry of Langlingen (d. 1381), was elected Prince-Bishop of Verden by the Verden cathedral chapter in 1367. Lüne nunnery belonged to the Bursfelde Congregation.
Following the introduction of the Reformation in the Principality of Lüneburg the first service in the German language was celebrated on 26 April 1528 at the instigation of Duke Ernest the Confessor, despite the opposition of the nuns. In 1529 the provostship's property was placed under ducal administration and a new provost, selected by the local lords, was installed who was to ensure the implementation of Lutheran doctrine.
However, due to considerably resistance by the orthodox nuns it took until 1562 before the new doctrine was fully adopted throughout the convent. On the basis of a rule in the Lüneburg Monastic Regulations the monastery retained its independence however. In 1711, at the behest of Duke George-Louis (later George I of Great Britain) the monastery was turned into a Lutheran convent, whose primary task was to take care of unmarried daughters of Lüneburg's country gentry.
In 1380 the monastery was rebuilt in the Brick Gothic style after a major fire. The cloisters, the single-nave church of 1412 and the Nonnenchor are well preserved, the same is true of the former Dormitorium (dormitory).
Lüne is famous for its knitting and embroidery (wool on linen). Valuable pieces (white embroidery (Weißstickerei) altar cloths, fasting cloths (Fastentücher) and carpets, the oldest dating to around 1250, are displayed in the textile museum in the grounds of the monastery opened in 1995. In the church on the altar in the Nonnenchor is a painting from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder. The high altar's triptych (carved altar) was made in the early 16th century. Also worthy of mention are the wall paintings from around 1500 in the refectory of the monastery.
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.