Station: [12] Inner Courtyard of the Abbey

This place is delightful – simply out of this world! – Like many inner courtyards, the one at Heiligengrabe Abbey was deliberately laid out as a miniature Garden of Eden. During the early period, this was probably where the nuns were laid to rest.

The history of the abbey courtyard has certainly been eventful. For the best view, you should probably stand at about the level of the old well.

The squat corner tower with its striking dome is the most recent addition to the abbey. It was built in 1907 from a design by the court architect Ernst von Ihne. The name "Kaiserturm" – Emperor’s Tower – may reflect the fact that the roof resembles a spiked Prussian helmet... but it was definitely due to Kaiser Wilhelm II. funding its construction. The tower houses a spiral staircase and served as an escape route for the girls attending the collegiate foundation’s school.

That was because their dormitories were in the north and east wings of the abbey, in other words, on both sides of the tower. The rooms were at the level of the dormer windows in the attic. From 1847 to 1926, the classrooms used by the girls’ high school were also on the left of the tower, and there was a gallery that gave access. Known as the abbey’s north wing, this section was redesigned in the mid-19th century by the influential Prussian architect Friedrich August Stüler.

On the opposite side, there’s a chunky tower adjoining the south wing. It once housed the archives from the time when this was a Roman Catholic nunnery. However, those records were lost fairly early on, during the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century.

Tucked away just a few metres to the right of the Archive Tower is an unobtrusive staircase leading up to the first floor of the tower. The stairs are no longer in use because the individual steps are too worn, reflecting the passage of many feet over the centuries. In medieval times, those stairs led via the south wing to the nuns' choir, the big gallery in the church where the nuns attended services. In the early 20th century, this narrow staircase provided access to the local history museum, which was housed on two floors of the south wing. 

Check your screen to see what an idyllic place this once was.

Depicton 1 © Dietmar Rabich
Depiction 2 © Dietmar Rabich
Depiction 3 © Klosterstift zum Heiligengrabe
Depiction 4 © Gisbert Rode
Depiction 5 © Sarah Romeyke
Depiction 6 © Max Ziesig