Dominicans in Magdeburg
Mechtild of Magdeburg

A brief description.

The town Magdeburg was one of the oldest emporia of the German trade for the Wends who dwelt on the right bank of the Elbe. In 805 it is first mentioned in history. In 806 Charlemagne built a fortress on the eastern bank of the river opposite Magdeburg. .
Magdeburg first played an important part in the history of Germany during the reign of Otto the Great (936-73). His consort Editha had a particular love for the town and often lived there. The emperor also continually returned to it.
On 21 September 937 Otto founded a Benedictine monastery at Magdeburg, which was dedicated to Sts. Peter, Maurice, and the Holy Innocents. The first abbots and monks came from St. Maximin's at Trier.

Magdeburg: Archbishopric

Later on Otto conceived the plan of establishing an archbishopric at Magdeburg, thus making it a missionary centre for the Wends on the eastern bank of the Elbe. He succeeded in carrying out his idea after various changes and difficulties.
The glory of the archbishopric increased rapidly, the town also became more important. The so-called Magdeburg Rights were also adopted by many towns in eastern and north-eastern Germany in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (in Pomeranian, Schleswig, and Prussia). The local tribunal of Magdeburg was the superior court for these towns.

The Dominicans in Magdeburg

The Dominicans of the Province Teutonia built in Magdeburg a priory in 1221. By a decision of the General Chapter in 1303 the Dominicans of Magdeburg switched over to the Province of Saxonia.

Magdeburg: member of the Hanseatic League.

Magdeburg was also a member of the Hanseatic League of towns, and as such was first mentioned in 1295. The town had an active maritime commerce on the west (towards Flanders), with the countries of the Baltic Sea, and maintained traffic and communication with the interior (for example Brunswick).

The Reformation in Magdeburg in 1524

Lord Mayor Nicolaus Sturm appoints Luther to Magdeburg and on 26th June Luther preaches in St. John’s Church. The new doctrine was introduced 17 July, 1524, and the town became a stronghold of Protestantism. In the same year, the catholic Mass is abolished. Magdeburg converts to Protestantism whereas only the cathedral chapter and the collegiate church St. Sebastian, St. Nicolai and St. Gangolphi as well as the monasteries of the Franciscans, Dominicans and Premonstratensians remain catholic.

Martin Luther sends Nikolaus von Amsdorf to Magdeburg where he establishes a well reputed municipal school in the former Augustine monastery.

The ownership of the Augustine monastery is transferred to the Council in 1525. Magdeburg takes over the library of the closed monastery which becomes Magdeburg’s first municipal library.

The town – fire in 1631

The Elector Christian Wilhelm of Brandenburg, who had been administrator of the archbishopric since 1598, exercised a policy which was hostile to the emperor, and on this account he was deposed by the cathedral chapter in 1628, the latter having remained strictly neutral. He now hoped to regain possession of the country, by means of an alliance with Gustavus Adolphus, and succeeded in forming the alliance 1 August, 1630, with the help of the Evangelical clergy and part of the citizens.

Gustavus Adolphus sent his equerry, Colonel. Diedrich von Falkenburg to defend the town against the emperor's army. On 15 December, Tilly, commander-in-chief of the imperial army, ordered Field Marshal Pappenheim to advance upon the town. Tilly himself followed in March. The help which was expected from Sweden, however, was not forthcoming; Falkenburg had 2400 soldiers, and Tilly 24,000. In spite of this the town did not surrender. It was besieged on the morning of 20 March, 1631. Falkenburg was killed.

The bloodshed and pillage were frightful; and the misery was only increased by the fire which broke out from some fifty or sixty houses, and which continued to spread on account of the strong north-east wind which was blowing, so that in twelve hours the whole town was in ashes with the exception of the cathedral, the convent of the Blessed Virgin, the parish churches where the fire had been extinguished, and some two hundred small houses. Most of the inhabitants (about 30,000) were smothered in the cellars and granaries where they had taken refuge.

Magdeburg after 1646

Otto von Guericke (originally spelled Gericke,20.11.1602-11.05.1686), (Julian calendar); November 30, 1602 – May 21, 1686 (Gregorian calendar) was a German scientist, inventor, and politician. His major scientific achievement was the establishment of the physics of vacuums.
He served as the mayor of Magdeburg from 1646 to 1676.

In 1650 he invented a vacuum pump consisting of a piston and an air gun cylinder with two-way flaps designed to pull air out of whatever vessel it was connected to, and used it to investigate the properties of the vacuum in many experiments. Guericke demonstrated the force of air pressure with dramatic experiments. He had joined two copper hemispheres of 51 cm diameter (Magdeburg hemispheres) and pumped the air out of the enclosure. Then he harnessed a team of eight horses to each hemisphere and showed that they were not able to separate the hemispheres. When air was again let into the enclosure, they were easily separated. He repeated this demonstration in 1663 at the court of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg in Berlin, using 24 horses.

Guericke applied the barometer to weather prediction and thus prepared the way for meteorology. His later works focused on electricity, but little is preserved of his results. He invented the first electrostatic generator, the "Elektrisiermaschine", of which a vision is illustrated in the engraving by Hubert-François Gravelot, ca 1750.
The Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg is named after him.

After 1680 the town Magdeburg belonged to Prussian Brandenburg.

In 1806, General v. Kleist in a cowardly manner surrendered the fortress to the French, and it belonged to Westphalia until 1814. Since that time it has belonged to Prussia.

During WO II the city was almost total destroyed. The government of the DDR could not restore the whole city; only the cathedral.  After the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990 the restoration is begun.

Sources: Wikipedia
            :   S.P.Wolfs, O.P.: Middeleeuwse Domnicanenkloosters in  Nederland. 
Assen 1984, p.194.
           :   A.M. Walz, O.P.: Compendium Historiae Ordinis Praedicatorum.
                Romae 1929, p. 226.


The Dominicans and Mechtild of Magdeburg

Mechtild of Magdeburg is a celebrated medieval mystic, born of a noble family in Saxony about 1207, and died at the Cistercian nunnery of Helfta near Eisleben, c. 1282 or 1294. She experienced her first inspirations at the age of twelve, when, as she she states, she was greeted by the Holy Ghost. From that time, the greeting was repeated daily. Under this inspiration she desired to be despised by all without, however, deserving it, and for this purpose left her home, where she had always been loved and respected, to become a Beguine at Mageleburg in 1230. Her adviser was her brother Baldwin, supprior of the priory of the Dominicans in Halle, and  Henry of Halle, lector in Rupin.

She led a life of prayer and extreme mortification. Her heavenly inspirations and ecstatic visions became more frequent and were of such a nature that they dispelled from the mind of her confessor all doubt as to their Divine origin. By his order she reluctantly wrote her visions.
Shortly after 1270 she joined the Cistercian nuns at Helfta, where she spent the remaining twelve years of her life, highly respected as one signally favoured by God, especially by her namesake St. Mechtilde of Hackeborn and by St. Gertrude the Great.

Her book

Mechtild left to the world a most wonderful book, in which she recorded her manifold inspirations and visions. According to her assertion, God ordered the title of the book to be "Vliessende lieht miner gotheit in allu die herzen die da lebent ane valscheit", i.e. "Light of my divinity, flowing into all hearts that live without guile". The work is commonly styled "Das fliessende Licht der Gottheit".

 She wrote her inspirations on separate sheets of paper, which she handed to the Dominican, Henry of Halle, lector in Rupin. The original, which was written in Low German, is not extant, but a South German translation, which was prepared by Henry of Nördlingen about the year 1344, is still preserved in the original manuscript in the library of Einsiedeln, Codex 277.
Mechtild began the work in 1250 and finished the sixth volume at Magdeburg in 1264, to which she added a seventh volume at Helfta. A Latin translation of the six volumes written at Magdeburg was made by a Dominican, about the year 1290, and is reprinted, together with a translation of the seventh volume, in "Revelationes Gertrudianse ac Mechtildianae", II (Paris, 1877), 435-707. The manuscript of Einsiedeln was edited by Gall Morel, O.S.B., who also translated it into modern German (Ratisbon, 1809). Other modern German translations were prepared by J. Muller (Ratisbon, 1881) and Eseherich (Berlin, 1909).


MICHAEL, Kulturzustande des deutschen Volkes wahrend des 13. Jahrhunderts, III (Freiburg im Br., 1903), 187-199; IDEM in Zeischrift fur Kath. Theologie XXV (Innsbruck, 1901), 177-180; GREITH, Die deutsche Mystik im Predigerorden (Freiburg, im Br., 1861), 207-277; STRAUCH, Kleine Beitrage zur Geschichte der deutschen Mystik in Zeitschrift fur deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur, XXVII (Berlin, 1883), 368-381; PREGER, Geschichte der deutschen Mystik im Mittelater, I (Leipzig, 1874), 91-112; STIERLING, Studien zu Mechtild v. Magd. (Göttingen, 1909).
Margot Schmidt: De Minne is Al. Meinema, Den Haag 1990, p.61-74.


Magdeburg. Woodcut from Schedel's
Weltchronik (1493).



Germany 2005, Mi 2487, Sc -



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