Dominican priory (1229 - 1539)
and the convent church
of Saint Paul (1231/1240-30 May 1968)

A brief description.

Leipzig's name is derived from the Slavic word Lipsk, which means "settlement where the lime trees stand".

Chronicles of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg documented Leipzig in 1015. Otto the Rich
endowed Leipzig with city and market privileges in 1165. Therefore, this city has fundamentally shaped the history of Saxony and of Germany. Leipzig belonged to the Diocese of Merseburg. The oldest church was Peterskapelle; the larger Nikoläikirche was built later. Parts of this  are still extant in the present church of that name.
The Augustinian Canons founded the Thomaskloster, the first priory in the reign of Margrave Dietrich (1197-1221). The Nikoläiskirche and the Peterskapelle were made subordinate to this
priory. A school, the oldest in Saxony, was soon founded in connexion with the priory.

Between 1220 and 1230, the Cistercian Sisters founded their monastery, which found a great benefactor in Margrave Heinrich (1230-88). The Franciscans built also their priory, which existed at least as early as 1253.Including these convent churches, Leipzig  possessed six churches in the Middle Ages; to these were added the Katharinenkapelle (1240), the Marienkapelle (about 1262), and the chapels belonging to the town hall and the castle (fifteenth century).

The oldest hospital in the town was founded together and in connexion with the Thomaskloster in 1213; its management was transferred from the convent to the town in 1439. St John's hospital, erected at the end of the thirteenth century, was originally devoted to the care of lepers.

The Dominican priory and the convent church of Saint Paul.

Source: G. M.Löhr, O.P.: Die Dominikaner an der Leipziger Universität. Vechta 1934. S. 16 vv.

It is not easy to find information about the appearance of the Dominican priory in Leipzig from 1230 until 1539. The Dominicans founded their priory in 1229 with as first prior Heidenreich (Hendericus) of Chelm (+ 24 June 1263), appointed Bishop in 1245.
Margrave Heinrich (1230-1288) ratified the take-over of the homestead of Knight Heinrich von Wahren by the Dominicans, and allowed them to build a priory with church on 11 July 1231.

Germany 1992, Mi 1622, Sc 1753, Maximum Card.

Their modest convent church, dedicated to Saint Paul, was consecrated in 1240 in the presence of the Archbishop of Magdeburg and the Bishops of Merseburg, Naumburg, and Meissen.

In 1243, Innocent IV, Pope 1243-1254, assigned the Dominicans to preach the crusade in the dioceses of Merseburg, Naumburg, Magdeburg, Halberstadt and Meissen, at support of the Deutsche Order to Livland and Prussia.  Pope Alexander IV repeated this order in 1256.

The Dominican Dietrich von Apolda tells the vision of a Franciscan who saw near the recently dead prior Wichmann von Ruppin, O.P. (2.11.1270), prior Johann von Magdeburg, Zacharias von Halberstadt and Gottshalk von Leipzig. *Acta Sanctorum 1 August.

There are little known facts about the appearance of the Studium Generale to educate young men, who joined the Order, in convent life, exegesis, philosophy, theology, canon law etc. Such a studium was only for the young friars had Dominican scholars.  Two Dominicans of the Polish Province studied there in 1399.The mystic Hermann von Loveia, circa 1300 was a scholar.  

The priory had also a church for the daily choir prayer, (psalms, hymns, lectures), and to celebrate the Eucharist. The church was also accessible for the public.
The priory had a circle of friends and benefactors, who were associated with the convent. In appreciation, some benefactors were buried sometimes in the convent church or in the historic crypt.
The convents garden is now the university's Botanischer Garten (botanical garden), established in 1542, and is the second oldest botanical garden in Europe.

Source: Wikipedia

The Universities of Prague and Leipzig.

The fame and importance of Leipzig greatly increased by the foundation of the university on 2 December 1409, - in Latin named Alma Mater Lipsiensis -.

The foundation of this University is closely connected with the history of the Charles IV University of Prague, which in the first instance had a connection with the Studium Generale of the Dominicans in this city.  
The fact is that on request of the Czech and Roman King Charles IV the Dominican
Order founded a studium generale in Prague in 1347, with as Regens Studii Magister Johannes von Dambach, O.P. from the priory of Strasburg.

King Charles IV founded the University of Prague by a deed on April 7, 1348. It was the first university to the north of the Alps and to the east of Paris.
The Charles IV University followed the example of the Bolognese and the Parisian universities
and in a short time became international famous.

The university consists of four faculties: faculty of theology, of arts, (collective for the Trivium: grammar • rhetoric • logic; and the Quadrivium: geometry • arithmetic • music • astronomy); the faculty of law, and of medicine.
The Dominican Order signed a decree on 8 September 1383, that Dominicans could study Theology, and take doctoral degree. Jakob von Soest, O.P. was a famous scholar of Theologiae, and stayed at Prague until 1405.
Not only Czech but also many foreign teachers and students were members of the academic community of the university, especially those from Central European areas for whom the university in Prague became accessible and erudite university of the studium generale.

Charles’s son and successor King Wenceslas IV (King 1376-1419) extended his influence on the university. The three foreign nations (Poland, Bavaria and Saxony) at the university opposed the request of Wenceslas to take a neutral attitude between the two rival Popes in the Great Schism.

On 18 January 1409, Wenceslas changed the statutes of the university. He strengthened the position of the native members of the academic community by the Kutná Hora Decree (Czech: Dekret Kutnohorský) or Decree of Kuttenberg (German: Kuttenberger Dekret).
With this decree, he gave the Bohemian nation three votes and one vote to the other three nations in the affairs of the Charles University.

In addition, the doctrines of John Wycliffe led to controversy at the University of Prague in 1403. Jan Hus wanted to teach this new doctrine, but most German masters and professors rejected the new thinking. Jerome of Prague went to Wenceslas, who promised to change the constitution of the university. Shortly after that, Hus himself became rector of the university.
By this signal somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000 German doctors, masters, and students left the University of Prague between 11 until 18 Mai 1409. This exodus under the leadership of Johannes of Münsterberg went to Leipzig, and resulted in the foundation of the University of Leipzig.

Source: Site: Charles University in Prague

Pope Alexander V issued the Bull for the foundation of the University of Leipzig on 9 September 1409 in Pisa. 13 November, the Bull was announced in the house of the last Prague Rector Magnificus Henning Bolyenhagen in Leipzig.

On 13 December 1409, the University was formally opened in the refectorium of the priory of Saint Thomas of the Augustinian Canons in the presence of Friedrich and Wilhelm, Landgraves of Thuringia and Margraves of Meissen.
The university was modelled on the University of Prague. The first rector was Johannes of Münsterberg. The lectures began with 16 Magistri. 369 Students and Baccalaurii were matriculated.  (Löhr o.c. p. 9).
The Bishop of Merseburg was appointed chancellor. At the opening of the sixteenth century, Leipzig was, like Cologne, a stronghold of scholasticism and a large part of the "Epistolæ virorum obscurorum", written in Erfurt near by, refers to it.

Many Dominicans of the priory were scholars or students at the faculty of Theology.
A Dominican of great merit is Doctor and Professor Johann Melzer, known as Brasiatoris or Braxatoris, von Frankenstein. He was student at the Prague University, took his doctoral degree at the University of Leipzig in 1410. Löhr means that Melzer joined the Dominican Order after his promotion. In 1429, he is appointed inquisitor. (Löhr, o.c. p. 20-25.) He died in Dresden in 1446 and was buried in the priory of Pirna.
Löhr describes the course of life of the Dominicans Petrus Wichmann (o.c.p.25-33), Johannes Halberstat (33-35), Johannes Kune (35-47), and Johannes Russwein (47-48).
Member of the priory was Johann Tetzel, citizen of Leipzig (ca 1465- Dominican ca 1487- 11.8.1519).

The disputation in Leipzig between Martin Luther and others, 1519.

“In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of the Dominican Johann Tetzel (ca 1465- Dominican ca 1487- 11.8.1519) of the priory of Leipzig in promoting this cause provoked the Augustinian Martin Luther (10.11.1483-18.2.1546). 

He made a written protest in his Ninety-Five Theses,  - printed in Leipzig -, against what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28, Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings a soul from purgatory springs".

The Ninety-Five Theses not only denounced such transactions as worldly but denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf in the first place: the only thing indulgences guaranteed, Luther said, was an increase in profit and greed, because the pardon of the Church was in God's power alone.”

Source: Wikipedia

The University of Leipzig, especially the Theological Faculty, remained true to the Church at the beginning of the Reformation, while Wittenberg, founded in 1502, was a starting-point for Luther's doctrine.

After many events, there was a great Dispute about the 95 Theses  in Leipzig from 27 June until 15 July 1519. Martin Luther and the priest and Doctor of Theology Andreas Bodenstein, named von Karlstadt (ca 1480-24.12.1541) disputed with the famous theologian and priest John Maier, - or Mayer -, von Eck (13.11.1486-10.12.1543). Both sides claimed the victory.

The warning from Pope Leo X, 1520.

On 15 June 1520, Pope Leo X warned Luther with the papal bull (edict) Exsurge Domine that he risked excommunication unless he recanted
41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the 95 Theses, within 60 days, (Denzinger 740-781).
Autumn 1520, Johann von Eck proclaimed the bull in Meissen and other towns. Karl von Miltitz, a papal nuncio, attempted to broker a solution, but Luther, who had sent the Pope a copy of On the Freedom of a Christian in October, publicly set fire to the bull and decretals at Wittenberg on 10 December 1520, an act he defended in Why the Pope and his Recent Book are Burned and Assertions Concerning All Articles.

Hungry 1983, Mi Bl 65, Sc 2796.

500th Anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther (10 November 1483 - 18 February 1546). His portrait (120,6 x15,2 cm) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) in 1529, in private ownership, Hamburg.   On this block at the right the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. At the top the German translation of the Bull ‘Exsurge Domine’ of Pope Leo X against the Theses of Luther,15 June 1520. Luther
burned the Bull publicly in Wittenberg on 10 December 1520.

The excommunication of Luther, 3 January 1521.

As a consequence Pope Leo X excommunicated  Luther in the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem  on 3 January 1521.Among the many scholars of the Leipzig University, who energetically opposed the new movement by word and writing, particular mention must be made of the Dominican Petrus Sylvius, also named Penick or Pienitz of Forst, (ca 1470-1536) of the priory of Leipzig;  Jerome Dungersheym (22.4.1465-2.3.1540) professor of Theology at the university of Leipzig from 1506 until 1540, the Franciscan Augustin Alfeld, Hieronymus Emser (26.3.1478-,8.11.1527) and later the humanist John Cochlæus (Dobeneck, 1479-11.1.1552).

The Reformation made no headway in Saxony and Leipzig as long as Duke George lived; he even commanded four hundred adherents of the new teaching to leave the town in 1552, and forbade the people of Leipzig to attend the University of Wittenberg.
During the period of religious dissension, the University of Leipzig declined greatly. Through the efforts of its rector, Kaspar Borner, the university obtained from Duke Maurice of Saxony an annual grant of 2000 gold gulden.

Dispute of 29-30 April 1534 with the sympathizers of Martin Luther were taking place in the Dominican priory. The participants hoped for settling the dispute. Löhr o.c. p. 103.
After the death of Duke George in 1539, disputes followed in the great hall of the Fürstenkollege in Leipzig, 17, 20, and 23 June 1539. Friedrich Myconius (Mekum, 1491-1546; colleague and friend of Luther) and Caspar Cruciger the Oldest (1504-1548) disputed with the Professors of the Faculty of Theology and Dominicans, but all without result. Myconius claimed the victory.
The Reformation was introduced, and in all convents
in Leipzig were suppressed, their lands sold, the buildings mostly torn down, and Catholic public worship abolished in 1543.

The University and the Dominican buildings from 1539.

The Dominicans had to leave their priory and church by order of the Reformation in 1539.The University housed the Dominican priory as the Collegium Paulinum since 1543.Duke Moritz gave the garden of the Dominican priory in possession to the University for a botanic garden. Martin Luther consecrated this church as a Protestant church for the university in 1545. In the University Library are many incunabula, manuscripts and books from the Dominican and other priories and convents.

Famous student of the University:

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German poet and polymath.
Angela Merkel, first female German Chancellor.

Gustav Hertz, German physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosophier.
Richard Wagner, German composer.
Wilhelm Wundt, German psychologist, founded the first formal laboratory for psychological research.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, German philosopher and writer.
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German politician, Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor.
Werner Heisenberg, German physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, German polymath.

Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist, founder of structuralism.
Maximilian von Frey, physiologist, inventor of the esthesiometer.
Ernst Bloch --
Christian Thomasius -

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia. Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Knight.

The history of the collegium Paulinum and the convent church of Saint Paul, after WO II.

During WO II, the centre of Leipzig was destroyed, also many buildings at the Augustusplatz, among others the Paulinum. The church of Saint Paul was preserved.
 In 1953 until 1991, the university was renamed Karl-Marx-University.  The city council wanted a renovation of the centre, and the SED-led city administration and the university administration decided on Ascension Day 1968, to blow up the former Dominican priory, - now Paulinum -, and the convent church of Saint Paul, now Unichurch.  
Its subsequent des­truction was a deliberate attack not only on the city’s cultural heritage, but also on Christianity: at the heart of a new Socialist city, there was no room for a church. Protestors against the blasting operation were arrested.

As one of the city’s most characteristic monuments, the church of Saint Paul had been a musical tradition and featured names such as Frederick Mendelsohn-Bartholdy, Max Reger, and Johann Sebastian Bach, whose cantata Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf was first performed here. It had been home to the university chaplaincy, and, after the Second World War, had been a place of worship for the city’s Roman Catholic population.

The decision was carried out on 30 May 1968. At 11 in the morning, the Paulinum and St. Paul’s Church were blown up under the orders of then East German head of state Walter Ulbricht.


After the blow up on 30 May 1968.

The explosion destroyed many beautiful items of the church. Its medieval altar was later relocated to the neighbouring Thomaskirche, home of one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Germany. The organ, which had been played by Bach himself, was lost for ever.

No proper arrangements were made for the reburial of the remains of more than 800 people buried over the centuries in the church’s historic crypt. Many of the treasures buried with them vanished without trace.  30 May 1968: the sad lot of the Paulinum and the Saint Paul’s Church
A new university complex in functional and sober DDR architectural style was built in 1975. Until 1971, a rectory building was on the site of the Augusteum's main wing.


Rebuilding plans after 1991.


After reunification a "citizens' initiative for the reconstruction of the university church and Augusteum of Leipzig" gathered but after years of litigation demands for reconstruction have been waived in favour of the university's need for modern teaching and research facilities.


Plan of architect Erick van Eegeraat.


The university authorities opted for the plan of the Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat (17 April 1956) to build a multi-purpose assembly hall, the Paulinum, with a separate prayer-room. It was, in the words of the architect, “a unique combination”. The university says that the Paulinum will be a suitable home for the works of art rescued from the University Church, and part of a building complex for the university “worthy of its significance for the future of the state”.


There were many objections and desires.
The plan for the ‘Aula’ implies a space for University’s affairs, and separated by a glass wall - a space for sacred services, silence, reflection and prayer.

The board of the University was fearfully prepared for keeping the branch of knowledge and religion strictly separate, and would therefore put in a dividing wall.

In this ambivalence Erick Egeraat said: ”Who will see a church, he sees a church; who will see an Aula, he sees an Aula.”


The Paulinum is surrendered in October 2010. So the Dominican priory and convent church return in Leipzig on the same grounds but with a different intention.
Since 1229, the Dominicans had a priory and church on the Augustusplatz in Leipzig until 1539: 310 years. They were in relation with the University of Leipzig for 130 years.


Prior Bernhard Kohl, O.P, the members of the priory of Saint Albertus in Leipzig-Wahren, and members of the Scientific Institute of the Ordensprovince Teutonia, Espaces-Berlin, and M.
Dominique Chenu, commemorate the 600th  anniversary of the University with publications and presentations in 2009. Perhaps many interesting additions appear.


Gabriël M. Löhr, O.P. Die Dominikaner an der Leipziger Universität. Vechta, Albertus-Magnus-Verlag, 1934. WikipediaMany other sites.



A reproduction of an unknown wood engraver, 16th century, from Germany. This woodcarving is the Frontpage of the anonymous pamphlet entitled: On aplas von Rome kan man wol selig werden durch anzaigung der götlichen hailigen geschryfft. (publishing by Melchior Kamminger, 1520, 4th edition).

On the left you can see the pulpit with a Dominican friar (Tetzel?) reading the papal bull of indulgence provided with five hanging seals. On the background at the left the arms of Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and at the right the arms of the Medici for Pope Leo X (1513-1521).

Before the big cross the strongbox. The engraver made his work around 1520 and gave a critical note to show the cross with the crown of thorns! To see is also a man with a hat with over his shoulder a flail in discussion with a friar.
This tableau is in the Middle Ages the indication of the critical horse sense.

Surinam 1983, Mi 1164, Sc 662.

Leipzig: botanic garden with the Dominican church of
Saint Paul. The university's Botanischer Garten (botanical
garden) was established in 1542 and it is the second oldest
botanical garden in Europe.

Germany 1992, Mi 1622, Sc 1753.



600th anniversary of the University of Leipzig.
Augustusplatz around 1845 with the former Dominican
church of Saint Paul.

Germany 2009, Mi 2747, Sc -.  


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