Whe comes here for the first time in the romantic valley of the Neisse in the triangle of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, rubs his eyes in amazement. On the German side of the river, close to the border with Poland, there seems to be a fairytale castle. With domes, towers and decor in the Bohemian Baroque style.
And yet St. Marienthal is nothing less than that. Behind the magnificent facades, simplicity, obedience and renunciation prevail. This is where women live who have dedicated their lives to God and their community.
Led by Abbess Elisabeth Vaterodt, ten Cistercian women currently follow the rules of St. Benedict, who saw the monastery as a place of encounter with God. For the nuns in the black and white costume, this act of community takes place in work and prayer, true to the motto of the order “Ora et labora” – “pray and work”.
The St. Marienthal Monastery welcomes guests
“Good day! Welcome to St. Marienthal. It’s nice that you want to stay with us for a while. ”Beata Bykowska kindly asks the elderly lady for the suitcase, carefully hooks her under and leads her into a side wing of the monastery. There are eleven rooms for overnight guests, all without any frills, but contemporary with a built-in shower / toilet cubicle, TV and even WiFi.
The charming Polish takes the time to brief you on processes and peculiarities, including little tricks for undisturbed sleep: “Sometimes the ventilation in the shower switches on at night and then hums cheerfully to itself. If it’s annoying, then – bang – just switch off the fuse! ”Laughs and walks off – the next guest is already waiting for his key to heaven.
Josefine Schrader is left alone. Arrived at the destination of your dreams. She has always been fond of the Cistercian Order, the elderly lady replies when asked why. The husband had died, the children left the house, now she could share their lives with the sisters on the spot and come closer to God on this special path.
“Basically, we are open to anyone who respects our rules and the special space of the monastery,” explains the receptionist and religious educator Beata. “But first and foremost, people come who want to be alone. Want to experience monastery life and monastery women. Or who just want to distance themselves from everyday life, sometimes from their families too. “
Get used to the silence and the silence
Work and prayer. Prayer and work. Around the clock. Day after day. Year for year. For the next four weeks, Ms. Schrader will also submit to this strictly structured daily routine. How the Cistercian women work in the sewing, laundry, kitchen and garden. How the sisters celebrate services in the monastery church seven times a day. And spend many hours studying the Bible, Psalms, and religious rules.
Sufficient contacts on a worldly and spiritual level are ensured – be it in the monastery market, during tours or as a conversation partner. Listening when requested, to have an open ear for worries, needs and problems, that is part of the service here – even at night you can find emotional support if necessary. And Josefine Schrader will fall back on that too.
“For newcomers like you, silence and silence take a lot of getting used to,” reveals Sister Mechthild. Both are essential elements in monastic life, because much of the spoken word is simply superfluous and silence is preferable to even good conversation.
What they did during the guided tour through the spatial and spiritual interior views of the monastery – thank God! – does not take literally. And lectures on God and his local world as competently and eloquently.
Giving up is out of the question for the Cistercian women
Her parforcer ride through history began in 1234, when Queen Kunigunde of Bohemia founded the abbey as an atonement foundation and gave the property to the nuns of the Cistercian order. The monastery suffers severe blows of fate, for example when the Hussites destroy it in 1427. When it was to become a secular women’s monastery in the course of the Reformation. When it was rebuilt from scratch in 1683 after a major fire as a baroque complex.
At the end of the war in 1945, the courageous abbess opposed the SS eviction order and prevented the monastery from being blown up. It suffered its most recent stroke of fate in 2010 when the monastery was flooded during the worst flood in its history – the damage amounting to millions has still not been completely eliminated.
But giving up was never an option: the Cistercian women have been keeping monastic life in St. Marienthal going for 786 years. Without any interruption – they are extremely proud of that too.
“Temporary Monastery” is an offer for testing
When asked politely, Sister Mechthild even chats from her own sewing box. Once she rose to middle management at BMW in worldly life, 20 years ago at the age of 40 she fell into a deep crisis of meaning: “I was simply fed up with my job and career and disdainful Mammon. A new car every six months and all that material abundance – that made no sense and took away all my joie de vivre. ”
What she then found in the Order during a long process of maturation and reflection was, among other things, “the feeling of contentment without any external cause, a joy that God gives and that cannot be compared with external joy”.
Those who want to have similar experiences and even share them, who are looking for ways to find themselves in the quiet of the monastery, who want to escape the hustle and bustle for a while, who want to meet people who are at peace with themselves, who like Josephine after contemplation, devotion and strives for meditation – he should check into the monastery for a little longer.
For example, on the so-called days of reflection. Women who also feel called to a life in a monastery and with God can even test themselves here with the “Temporary Monastery” offer.
But Germany‘s easternmost monastery is not only a special place for believers and those seeking meaning. The location in the border triangle on the Via Sacra and the Oder-Neisse cycle path including the nature reserve makes it interesting for day trips to Upper Lusatia and as a resting place for hiking and cycling tours in the Neißetal.
In the monastery itself, you can watch the storks on the abbey chimneys into their nests, stroll in the garden of the Bible plants or stroll along the Neisse, whose water no longer drives mills and sawmills, but covers your own electricity needs. Right behind the monastery you can climb the Kalvarienberg, Germany‘s easternmost vineyard, and enjoy an almost heavenly view – of all the splendor and splendor of St. Marienthal.
Tips and information
Getting there: By car: Autobahn A4 from Dresden to Görlitz, continue on federal road 99 towards Zittau to Ostritz. By train to Görlitz or Zittau, then by bus to Ostritz / St. Marienthal.
Accommodation: Normally possible all year round, currently closed due to Corona. Room in the monastery 21 or 35 euros (depending on the equipment) per person in a double room; Single supplement: three and six euros. There are a further 67 rooms in four guest houses on the monastery grounds, from 36 euros per person in a double room; Breakfast: ten euros (children reduced), lunch / dinner: à la carte in the Klosterschänke. We offer fasting weeks, seminars, days of reflection, and monastery tours. Hiking maps and rental bikes are available on site (stmarienthal.de)
Participation in the trip was supported by the Tourism Marketing Society of Saxony. Our standards of transparency and journalistic independence under: axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.