Station: [8] Collegiate Church

A portal with a pointed arch is set into a mighty wall of natural stone and brick. For 700 years, the collegiate church has stood next to the south wing of the abbey. 

In keeping with the customary design of Cistercian abbeys, the church is a simple space with a single-aisle, roofed over by a ribbed vault with seven bays. In terms of architectural history, the oldest parts of the entire abbey complex are towards the east (that is, in the choir) and in the abbey’s east wing. Only recently, detailed late medieval ceiling paintings were uncovered during restoration work inside the church.

Over the centuries, the collegiate church was repeatedly altered and remodelled. Its most striking feature is probably the impressive stepped gable that dominates the upper third of the church façade. It may look medieval, but it actually dates from the early 20th century! It was modelled on the chapel’s stepped gables, which are genuinely ancient.

A fivefold cross – also called a cross-and-crosslets because of its shape – is emblazoned above the portal. It has been ever-present in Heiligengrabe Abbey since the mid-19th century. Sometimes known as a Jerusalem Cross, it was awarded by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The historically accurate term is actually "the Cross of the Kings of Jerusalem", who bore the title "Protector of the Holy Sepulchre"... during the time of the Crusades, at any rate. Friedrich Wilhelm IV. awarded the cross to the "protectors" of the local Holy Sepulchre, which had been erected in imitation of the Jerusalem original.

There’s one more detail worth noting, and that’s the smaller portal in the corner on the left, which is the entrance to the enclosure. That term is derived from the Latin "claustrum" – which means "closed district". But in the Middle Ages, anyone who succeeded in gaining access to the abbey – in other words, to the cloister – entered the protected space through this small portal. 

Presumably in reference to the Swiss mercenaries who were employed as guards at sovereign courts throughout Europe, it’s called the Schweizer Tor – the Swiss Gate.

Depiction 1 © Dietmar Rabich
Depiction 2 © Max Ziesig
Depiction 3 © Dietmar rabich
Depiction 4 © Sarah Romeyke
Depiction 5 © Sarah Romeyke