Gudhem Abbey, (Gudhems kloster), in operation from 1152 to 1529, was a nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian. It is considered to have been one of the oldest convents in Sweden, after Vreta Abbey (1100) and Alvastra Abbey (1143).
Gudhem, a name signifying "Home of the Gods", was according to tradition a holy place of worship already before Christianity. According to the saga, one hundred images of the thunder god Thor was placed in Gudhem. According to a popular legend, Gudhem Abbey was founded in 1052 by Gunnhildr Sveinsdóttir, Queen Dowager of Sweden and Denmark, who returned to a life of penitence in her estate in Västergötland in Sweden, after her marriage with king Svein II of Denmark was annulled by the Church. In reality, however, the Abbey was founded exactly one hundred years later, in 1152. Charles VII of Sweden donated the royal estate of Gudhem Manor to the Abbey during his reign (1161-1167), and the nunnery was by then described as newly established.
Gudhem Abbey was a prestigious during the 13th century, when it was responsible for providing the Pilgrims of Nidaros with hospitality. The Swedish Queen Dowager Catherine of Ymseborg entered the abbey in the mid 13th century and donated her wast estates to it. During the reformation in 1527, the abbey was confiscated by the crown, and the year after, it was granted to the knight Nils Olofsson. The former nuns, however, were granted an allowance from the properties formerly belonging to the abbey and the right to live in the building for life. In 1529, the abbey caught fire and burned down. The last abbess asked the King to rebuilt the abbey, but her request was not granted, and the nuns was housed by the surrounding peasantry. They continued to be supported by the allowance granted them in 1527. There were still former nuns benefiting from the allowance living in the surroundings of the former abbey in 1540. The abbey was never rebuilt again, and the ruins were used as a quarry.
In the late 17th century, the walls of the church was still in original height. The ruins was excavated in 1928-1969. Gudhem Abbey is the inspiration of the nunnery in The Knight Templar (Crusades trilogy), were the character Cecelia is imprisoned.References:
The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.
In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.
The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.
The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.
The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).
Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.
Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.
The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.