History of the Monastery

Steinfeld Monastery has a 1,000 year history.

Learn more about it in the indicated sections.

Historical Overview

Steinfeld Monastery rises with its three distinctive towers on a ridge of the North Eifel. The historical origins date back to the time of Henry I (919-936), but lost in historical obscurity. In 1070 there was a first monastic settlement.

1121 Clerics Regular of Springiersbach (county Wittlich district) came to Steinfeld. In 1130,they took over the constitution of the Norbertines order, which was only founded recently by St. Norbert of Xanten in 1120, who later became Bishop of Magdeburg. Steinfeld was one of the most important monasteries in the German Empire. Subsidiary monasteries were established in Ireland, Holland, Germany (eg Hamborn Abbey), but especially in the East; of particular importance is the convent in Strahov (1140) near Prague. Steinfeld was raised to the status of an abbey in 1184. In consecutive order, 44 abbots reigned until the Secularisation (1802).

After the Secularisation of 1802, the monastery served various secular purposes, until it was taken over and given new life in 1923 by the Society of the Salvatorians.

The Salvatorians took over the former Abbey Church and present Basilica, and the parish ministry as well. The founded a grammar School and a boarding school for boys. Today they run a Monastery Shop and a café. They keep the “Akademie Kloster Steinfeld” and a Guest House.

Steinfeld is in its overall system is considered as one of the best preserved monastic monuments of the Rhineland, a place of living and now thousand-year-long culture and tradition.

The Order of the Norbertines

 

Wappen des Ordens der Prämonstratenser Chorherren
 

The Augustinian canons who were living in Steinfeld adopted the rule of the Order of the Premonstratensian canons (Norbertines) around 1138. The Order was founded in Prémontré, France by St. Norbert of Xanten, the later Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1121. The new order spread throughout Europe and later also throughout America, Africa, India and Australia soon after the foundation

The focus of the Norbertines is on community and pastoral work, especially parish ministry. This the Canons of Steinfeld carried out through the centuries especially in the vast region around Steinfeld.

The Order had more than 600 independent monasteries during its heyday. After the almost complete destruction through the Reformation, secularisation and communism, the Order could increase again in recent times.

The Norbertines were continuously in Steinfeld until the closing down of the monastery during the secularisation of 1802. The last abbot Gilbert Surges then became the first parish priest of Steinfeld.

Abt mit Chorherren
 
further information:
 

Premonstratensian monasteries in Germany past and present:
www.praemonstratenser.de

Subsidiary of Steinfeld Monastery in Duisburg-Hamborn:
www.abtei-hamborn.de

Premonstratensian Order in Germany and Austria:
www.opraem.de

The international order:
www.premontre.org

Herman Josef of Steinfeld

Statue Hl. Hermann-Josef

Hermann was born into an impoverished family in Cologne in 1150. At the age of 12 he entered the monastery of Steinfeld of the Premonstratensian Canons. He probably completed his studies in Mariengaarde at Hallum in Friesland. After his return to Steinfeld, he was ordained priest and was at first assigned the service in the refectory (dining hall). The abbot afterwards entrusted him with the office of sacristan at the Abbey Church. He also cared for nun’s convents, especially in the region.

He was particularly known for his "mystical marriage with the Mother of God", which goes back to his deep devotion to Mary and to which he owes his byname Joseph. Even as a child he is reported to had intimately turned to Mary.According to the legend, he presented the Marian statue in the Cologne church “Maria im Kapitol” an apple. Therefore he is also called "Apfelheilger". As at the Madonna in Cologne as fresh apples also are laid on his sarcophagus in the basilica of Steinfeld monastery still today.

Anthony van Dyck created a painting of the mystical marriage of Hermann Joseph with Mary by order of the Brotherhood of unmarried in 1630, which is located in the “Kunsthistorisches Museum” in Vienna today. Following this example, the altarpiece of the Hermann-Josef-altar in the Basilica Steinfeld was created in 1698. Other famous plastic figures are his marble grave sculpture from 1732 on the sarcophagus and the wooden sculpture from the early 16th Century at a rear right pillar in the Basilica Steinfeld.

Hermann Josef died in the Cistercian convent at Hoven Zülpich during a supply work on the Thursday of the Easter week around 1241. He immediately was buried there at a place designated by him shortly before his death.

Only after calling in the Archbishop of Cologne, the Steinfeld confreres succeeded in exhuming Hermann Josef and transferring him to his home monastery in a triumphal procession on Whit Tuesday.

A never interrupted veneration of Hermann Josef began immediately after his death. Pope Benedict XIII consecrated an altar in honor of the Blessed Hermann Joseph in the Roman College of the Norbertines in 1728, and allowed to celebrate Mass at this altar. For the contemporaries, this action was comparable to a formal beatification. Only in 1958, the official cult was confirmed in a decree of the Congregation of Rites that Hermann Josef can be venerated as a saint. This "canonization" was celebrated in a great festive octave at Steinfeld in 1960. The feast of this Saint is the 21st May. The great Hermann-Josef feast is celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost with the participation of the entire region.

 

History of the Monastery

Overview on the timeline

Events in Steinfeld

Jahr

Events in the world

Construction of a church in historical obscurity around 920

900

Otto the Great (* 912)

 

950

Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (962-973)

 

1000

Leif Eriksson (975-1020) discovered North America in 1000 as the first 

First monastery founded in Steinfeld around 1070

1050

 

Canons Regular come to Steinfeld in 1121

Around 1130 they take over the Rule of the Norbertines

1142 laying of the foundation stone of the basilica in Steinfeld

1100

 

1184 Steinfeld is raised to a status of an abbey

1150

From 1095 to 1291 the Crusades take place - the goal is the liberation of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the "nonbelievers"

King Richard (the Lionheart) ruled England from 1157 to 1199

St. Hermann Josef died in 1240

1200

 

 

1250

 

 

1300

The plague shocks Europe in the 14th century

Under the rule of Abbot Gottfried Bongenberg (1381-1388), the monastery is attacked by the Bretons, the abbot is murdered cruelly.

1350

 

End of the 15th Century: re-erection of the cloister in Gothic style

1400

 

 

1450

Gutenberg printed the first Bible 1450-1456

Reformation in Germany: Martin Luther, theologian and reformer (1483-1546)

After many difficult years (including plague) from about 1500: Start of a new heyday for Steinfeld.

1522 to 1557 glazing the cloister with artful stained glass

1500

1534 Copernicus discovered the heliocentric view

 

1550

 

 

1600

Very difficult times for Europe: the Thirty Years' War (1618-1848)

 

1650

 

 

1700

 

Abbot Evermodus Claessen from Gangelt (1767-1784) gives the monastery its current shape, including the surrounding monastery wall with the large entrance gate.

1750

The French Revolution (1789-1799)

Napoleon Bonaparte (1799-1815)

 

1802: Abolition of the abbey by Napoleon, Monastery Church becomes Parish Church, St. Andrew's Church is demolished, monastery buildings are sold and art objects are squandered.

In 1844 the monastery comes in the possession of the Prussian state and becomes a reformatory

1800

 

 

1850

 

1923 Take-over of the monastery by the Salvatorians, foundation of a school and a boarding school.

1900

1914-1918 World War I
 
1939-1945 World War II

Hermann Josef is allowed to be venerated as a saint (1958).

1960 The Church of Steinfeld becomes a Papal basilica (basilica minor)

850 years of Basilica Steinfeld (1992)

1950

1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon for America

1990, Germany is reunited

 

2000

 

read more

920 - 1184

Around the year 920 the name “Steinfeld” is mentioned for the first time. Count Sibodo of Hochstaden lets transfer the bones of St. Potentinus the Confessor and his two sons Felicius and Simplicius from Carden Moselle to Steinfeld. For this he got permission of the Archbishop Rutger of Trier. There the Count is said to have had a hunting lodge, which he converted into a Benedictine monastery. Wigfried, Archbishop of Cologne (925-953) consecrated this House of God.

Since the religious discipline of the nuns became lax, Archbishop Frederick of Cologne (1100-1131) bought the monastery and called Augustinian canons from the convent Springiersbach County Wittlich to Steinfeld in 1097. An already built chapel to St. Andreas received the rights of a parish church. The foundation charter of Archbishop Friedrich, which regulated the rights and obligations of the monastery, is the oldest preserved document of Steinfeld.

St. Norbert of Xanten founded the Norbertine Order in 1121, which reflects the rule of the Augustinian Canons. A short time later, under the first provost Evervin of Helfenstein (1121-1151), who personally knew the Saints Norbert and Bernard of Clairvaux, the Convent associates itself to the Norbertines (Premonstratensians) around 1138.

This provost was of outstanding importance for Steinfeld Monastery. In 1142 he laid the foundation stone of a new monastery church. In a building time of eight years, the today’s basilica was built as a three-aisled, Romanesque vaulted church. Under Evervin a development of Steinfeld began that brought it to one of the most important monasteries in Germany. It was also him who sent out Confreres from Steinfeld to found new monasterys. Daughter monasteries were in the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany (e.g. Duisburg-Hamborn), but especially in the east. Of particular importance is the foundation of the monastery of Strahov above Prague (1140).

The second provost Ulrich (1152-1170) was guided by the movement of renewal of the Church that came from France and was connected with the places Citeaux, Clairvaux and Prémontré. In 1163 the Blessed Frederick of Mariengarten committed his foundation in Friesland to the monastery Steinfeld. Provost Ulrich also admitted the young Hermann of Cologne, later St. Hermann Joseph, in the Convent. Later on Hermann completed his studies at the Convent Mariengarten.

After the death of the fifth Steinfeld provost in 1184, Steinfeld was promoted to an abbey. Until the abolition during the secularisation in 1802, 44 abbots presided over the monastic community in consecutive order. 

 

1184 - 1802

Following the promotion to an abbey in 1184, Steinfeld Monastery had time to develop and to get on a sound economic footing for many peaceful decades. According to the mission of the Founder, the Steinfeld Canons took over pastoral work throughout the region. Steinfeld soon became archdeaconry with the places Steinfeld, Kall, Krekel, Reifferscheid Ripsdorf and Sistig, probably also Harperscheid, Hellenthal, Schleiden and Wildenburg. In addition, the Steinfeld Norbertines exercised pastoral works in many parishes of an area that extends from St. Dionysius in Krefeld to Wehr near Laach, and to the Nahe River in the south.

The later St. Hermann Josef is accepted to the convent by provost Ulrich and studied in Mariengarten. Until his death he is Canon in Steinfeld. His devoteness and his mystical charisma are so overwhelming for his contemporaries that immediately after his death (about 1241), a seemingly endless worship began. Sure a life has contributed, which a friar composed from own knowledge shortly after his death.

The abbey was well established, but war and unrest followed in the 14th Century. Also inside the monastery, it was not like you could want. Crop failures and famine became a plague in this region. The Steinfeld canons were forced to sell some property to survive. Furthermore there were the terrible effects of the plague, which did not stop at the gates of the monastery. Six abbots resided within 47 years.

The Steinfeld Canons also entered into the conflict between the legitimate Pope Urban VI. and the anti-pope Clement VII. Steinfeld was entirely on the side of the rightful pope. Thus, the Bretons attacked the monastery, put the church on fire, and tore down the walls. Abbot Gottfried Bongenberg (1381-1388) was kidnapped and assassinated.

After these terrible events, the following abbots together with the community built up Steinfeld Monastery again and made it to a particular religious and spiritual center of the northern Eifel again. But even some of the confreres thought the reforms too strict. So the abbot Jacob I. (1412-1416) is said to have been murdered at the hands of two of his own brothers. However, his successors continued the work of reform and so Steinfeld became in its period of boom to one of the most important monasteries in Germany.

Also, the conflicts during the Reformation and the Thirty Years War did not leave Steinfeld uneffected. Nevertheless Steinfeld was a place of theology for centuries. Abbot Christopher Pilkmann from Bonn (1606-1630) founded the Collegium Norbertinum for monasteries of the Rhenish-Westphalian circary in Cologne. Abbots of Steinfeld became Rector of the University of Cologne for several times.

Also in Steinfeld, the importance can be seen. Especially in the years of the abbot Evermodus Claessen from Gangelt (1767-1784) Steinfeld was restored, architecturally renovated and expanded. Under this abbot the monastery complex got its present form with the 1.6 km long wall and the main gate that receives visitors, hikers, and pilgrims with wide open gates.

But as soon as everything was completed, a Napoleonic decree stopped all monastic life in a violent way in 1802. The canons were expelled, the last Abbot Gilbert Surges (1790-1802) became the first parish preast of Steinfeld. The monastery church became and St. Andrew’s, the older (Parish) Church was demolished. The precious shrine of St. Potentine was brought to Paris (now in the Louvre), the library is wasted or burned, and the estate was parceled and also wasted. The abbey itself was being auctioned and came into the possession of the Prussian state later.

1802 till today

After the abolition of Steinfeld Abbey in 1802 through a political rape, a difficult time began for the monastery. The property was sold and squandered by French commissioners, and the Canons were expelled. The abbey church remains as parish church for the local community, but who should take care of the large monastery complex.

More than 120 years the abbey remained secular property and served various purposes. After much back and forth, the Prussian state took over the estate in 1844 and established in the monastery Steinfeld a "Royal Prussian reformatory". This utilization did not meet the expectations for use of a monastery, but at least the total decay was prevented.

1873 there was a terrible fire of the roof truss and the crossing tower. This eventually resulted in a mandate for the renewal of the west facade to the Cologne architect and diocesan master builder Heinrich Wiethase (1833 bis 1893).

In this renewal (1884), the West facade got its distinctive shape with the two high round towers. At the last restoration (2010), it was plastered and whitewashed. Now it shines - like the whole basilica - in bright white.

Until 1923, the reformatory remained in Steinfeld as the Salvatorians took over the monastery. The first years were very difficult for the religious, because they had to whip into shape the run-down buildings. The Salvatorians took over the pastoral care, and right from the start they founded a grammar school with a boarding mainly for religious vocations in 1924. Through the World War II and the nearness to the Siegfried Line, the monastery and the surrounding area got a terrible time again.

After the war, the school closed by the Nazis was reopened in 1958 and was expanded to a complete grammar school (new school building in 1959 with several extensions until 1985). The Salvatorians established in Steinfeld monastery several apostolic works: Publishing House (today the Monastery Shop), guest and formation house and the Academy Kloster Steinfeld. Again, Steinfeld has become a center of formation and spirituality, art and culture far beyond the region.

And so the quotation about Steinfeld published in a Festschrift from 1747 is valid still today: "The House on the Rock, in which the light dwells, in which there was no room for darkness, nor is, nor ever will be."

The Order of the Salvatorians

The Salvatorians are a religious order which was founded in Rome by the German priest Father Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan in 1881. Considering his mission, the members shall proclaim salvation to all, which appeared to us in Jesus Christ, namely “by all ways and means which the love of Christ inspires.” Father Jordan himself was deeply moved by the word of John’s Gospel, “this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3)

To achieve this goal, the Salvatorians proclaim all people salvation, which has appeared in Jesus Christ. We shall ready to serve all people in any place, by all ways and means which the love of Christ inspires. Their apostolate is not limited to a specific task, such as formation or working with young people. They emphasize the universality of the Christian vocation by encouraging the laity to live their baptismal vow and to be witnesses of faith in their personal and social life.

Therefore, they are represented in mission countries, they solidarise with the poor and outsiders and are committed to personal development, family life, health, and education; they run parishes in terms  of the Salvatorian charism; they support young people who want to find out how they can live their Christian vocation; they promote Christian formation and encourage spiritual growth and active participation in the Church and in the world; they conduct research and teach in universities and proclaim the Gospel in an appropriate manner and in dialogue with each culture by the means of social communication.

Address of the Generalate (Centre in Rome):
Curia Generalizia della Società del Divin Salvatore
Via della Conciliazione, 51
I - 00193 ROMA
Tel. +39 (06) 686 291
www.sds.org

The Salvatorians are represented on all continents, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America.

In Europe, they are in the following countries: Albania, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Austria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary and Belarus

The Order is administratively divided into provinces. The German province was founded in 1908. In 1930, it was divided into a North and a South German Province. In 2009, these two provinces have been reunited to a "German Province".

Communities living in Germany:
Bad Wurzach, Berlin, Kall-Steinfeld, Cologne, Lindau, Munich, Münster, Pfarrkirchen, Stuttgart (German Province);
Grevenbroich, Solingen (members of the Belgian Province)

Address oft the provincialate (Centre in Germany):
Provinzialat der Salvatorianer
Agnes-Bernauer-Str. 181
D - 80687 München

Tel.: +49 (89) 546 737-31
Fax: +49 (89) 546 737-32

info@salvatorianer.de
www.salvatorianer.de

Father Jordan - Founder of the Salvatorians

P. Jordan

Father Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan was born on 16th June, 1848 in Gurtweil near Waldshut / Black Forest and received the name of John the Baptist in baptism. He first learned the trade of painter. After the usual apprenticeship and journeyman years, he later fetched the Abitur with 26 years of age. Then he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. In 1877, he entered the Seminary of St. Peter and was ordained to the priesthood on 21st July, 1878. Because of the "Kulturkampf" that time, he was sent for further studies in Rome, where he dealt with the languages of the Near East.

After a study tour to the Orient, he founded the "Apostolic Teaching Society" which in the first stage should include men and women who live the evangelical counsels. The day of foundation of the male branch became the 8th December, 1881. Shortly after that, he reorganised it to religious congregation with the name "Society of the Divine Savior" (Salvatorians). The purpose was the outer and inner mission; he himself assumed the name Father Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan.

Together with Baroness Therese of Wüllenweber from the castle Myllendonk (near Mönchengladbach), he founded the order of the "Sisters of the Divine Savior" (Salvatorians) on 8th December, 1888. His attempt to gather academics in a second stage to defend the faith did not succeed; but especially in the German-speaking area, he could gather believers who should work apostolically in their living environment.

Already 1890, he began to spread out the two religious communities to Assam (Northeast India), then to several countries in Europe and finally to North and South America. He himself cared about the spiritual guidance and apostolic formation of the young confreres.

Together with the generalate, he had to move to Fribourg in Switzerland because of the First World War in 1915. In the same year, the 3rd General Chapter of the Order met his desire to resign from the government of the society. It assigned the government of the Salvatorians to Father Pancratius Pfeiffer (1872-1945). Father Francis of the Cross died after a long illness on 8 September 1918 in Tafers in Fribourg (Switzerland) in the reputation of a saint. His remains were transferred to the Mother House in Rome in 1956.

The process for beatification was started in 1942 and approaches toward completion.

 

Re-foundation and restoring of the Monastery (under construction)

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