Lüne Convent is one of the inhabited abbeys in North Germany that began as a Benedictine nunnery and later became the Lutheran
The earliest known history of this site dates back to around 1150/60, when it was a a modest hermitage. There is documentary evidence from 1157 of the consecration of a stone chapel. In 1172, the Bishop of Verden granted the request by a group of pious Lüneburg women to set up a religious community, assigning them the area around this chapel. The convent records indicate that from 1272 the nuns of the Convent lived according to the rule of St Benedict and that their numbers had increased considerably in the meantime.
Destruction and reconstruction
In 1372, a large fire resulted in the almost complete destruction of all the abbey buildings. However, reconstruction on the old foundations commenced immediately. As early as 1420, the cloisters and the abbey church were completed; both retain their medieval appearance to this day. Over subsequent decades, the abbey succeeded in considerably increasing its assets. For example, it was the second-largest owner, after St Michael’s Monastery, of the Lüneburg salt works.
Catholic-episcopal reform and expansion
The Benedictine monastic reform movement, named after Bursfelde Abbey on the river Weser, reached Lüne in 1481 with the appointment of a new abbess, resulting in expansion, prosperity and numerous changes. The enlargement of the convent necessitated extensions to the church and the abbey buildings. Spiritual life was shaped by new forms of liturgy. Commensurate with the guiding principle of ora et labora – pray and work -, needlework was regarded as spiritual labour, thus giving rise to a second pivotal era in the art of monastic embroidery. A large section of the textile artefacts displayed in the Abbey’s Museum of Sacral Textile Art date back to this period.
Lutheran Reformation and its aftermath
Duke Ernest “the Confessor” (1497 – 1546) of Brunswick-Lüneburg declared his support for Martin Luther’s reformation and from 1525 strove to spread the new teachings in his lands.
At his instigation, the first service with a Reformation sermon and psalms sung in German was held in the Abbey Church on Sunday 26 April 1528.
The Duke, burdened by debts inherited from his father, was not only interested in forcing the nuns to follow the new teachings, but he also wanted to take possession of the abbey’s lands.
Thanks to fierce resistance by the nuns, it took more than 50 years before the convent accepted the Lutheran Reformation, though retaining a number of Catholic traditions for many years to come.
It was only in the mid-17th century that Pietism brought with it a revival of piety in the Lutheran Church. The abbey continued as a place of religious community with involvement in church and social matters; at the same time and continuing into the 20th century, it became an institution for the unmarried daughters of the local gentry befitting their social status.
These days, Lüne Convent is home to single ladies who enjoy bringing their life and professional experience to the convent in order to preserve the Lutheran monastic tradition, maintain the valuable artefacts of the past and though them to live the Christian message in our times.
In the understanding of the Reformation, the convents’ remit included involvement in church, social, educational and cultural activities, which the ladies of Lüne Convent continue to this day.