Weesen Abbey, established in 1256, is the oldest Dominican monastery of nuns in Switzerland. The buildings and the library (about 8,400 works) respectively archives are listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance.
In 1259 Count Rudolf IV von Rapperswil, Countess Elisabeth's father, donated certain duties and lands for the construction of their monastery. Initially, the community was supported by Predigerkloster Zürich, because its close relationship to the House of Rapperswil. Heinrich III, Bishop of Konstanz, in 1272 issued the authorization to build a chapel, and called a Dominican priest for the fair, the sacraments and the pastoral care of the nunnery.
After the defeat of the House of Habsburg at Näfels on 9 April 1388, the city of Weesen was burned down. At the beginning of the 15th century, the town was rebuilt, again as a confederate of the Habsburg family, being then an open settlement at its present location at the Dominican convent. As one of the few monasteries in Switzerland, Weesen widely was spared from the repercussions of the 1520s Swiss Reformation, probably not least because the monastery still eked out a poor existence, so there was no reason for looting. Nevertheless, the iconoclasm lay lamed the monastic life briefly, and the sisters fled to a two-year exile. On their return, the nuns found their monastery desecrated and devastated.
Only in the second half of the 17th century, the convent completely recovered. But also some pastors of the town of Weesen repeatedly tried to undermine the preferential rights of the monastery. Thanks to the episcopal safeguards, the monastic life, however, remained untouched. The life of the monastic community ever has been ruled by simplicity and poverty, and its history is closely connected to the small town of Weesen. To date there is a good relationship between the people of Weesen and the nunnery.
Probably the original monastery church was built in the area of the present guest house in the southernly wing of the present building complex. Between 1688 and 1690 the nunnery was rebuilt and its church was richly decorated. The basic shape of the church was also given to the monastery as it exists today. Until recently, the community severed repeatedly, in particular, in the 18th century the monastery was three times heavily affected by the river's water, and the foundations even partially washed-away.
The church and monastery guest house are open to the public, but the other sections of the nunnery are part of the private area (Klausur) of the monastic community.
From 1688 to 1690 a new building was erected, which was no longer open, but designed as a closed, compact square, in contrast to the previous three-winged church. In the baroque new building some components of the original construction phase were integrated, as well as the church interior. With its onion dome, the church forms the west wing of the square-shaped building complex. In 1822 the new organ in the choir of the monastery church was completed for the amount of 323 Gulden. The organ was moved to the gallery in 1884, and in 1958 replaced by a new instrument. The oldest still visible components are the 200-year-old ceiling beams.
The library includes works of asceticism, mysticism and liturgy. The reference library is located in the enclosure area, and is therefore usually not open to the public, but intake by agreement with the librarian. The library occupies two rooms in the northeastern part of the monastery.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.