Dominican priory of Saint Catherine of Alexandria

A brief description.

The Hanseatic town of Stralsund is almost 800 years old and exhibits many remarkable jewels of medieval architecture. Besides visiting the really fascinating churches a visit to St. Catherine's monastery (priory with church) in the town centre is an absolute must. This building was already mentioned  by an inscription dated 1251, only 17 years after Stralsund was granted a town charter by the Prince of Rügen Witzlaw I. Today it is one of the best preserved and most beautiful monastery complexes of Northern Europe.

Land and means to build the Dominican convent were donated by charter of king Jaromar II. of Rügen who by doing so provided for a further home for the brothers of the mendicant order. In the course of three centuries, the originally modest appearance of the Dominicans' property developed into a remarkable estate, not least through the construction of a modern brick church which was begun at the end of the thirteenth century and, after its completion, was consecrated to St. Catherine of Alexandria.
The monasteries of the mendicant order reached their zenith in the fifteenth century, and the Dominican convent in Stralsund, at this time, was one of the outstanding ones in Northern Germany.

Already around 1400 the church with its three naves was lengthened by five bays to finally eight bays, the ceilings were equipped with vaulting and the enclosure buildings were erected. Around 1500 the monastery witnessed its last architectural alterations. Almost at the end of the convent's existence, the large refectory was completed with a vault painting of grotesque effect.

During the reformation, the monastery was plundered; the Dominicans had to leave the priory in 1525, which became municipal property. For a short time, it once again functioned as a monastery for the Brigit tine nuns. From 1559 onwards, following a decision of the town council, the monastery was used as a school and orphanage.

In 1668, an arsenal of the Royal Swedish Government was installed in St. Catherine's church. Also under Prussian rule the former monastery church functioned as an arsenal. Only at the beginning of our century, when the church was placed again at the town's disposal, did an extensive restoration of the entire monastery buildings take place and the medieval core was uncovered.

Since 1924 St. Catherine's monastery has been the home for the museums of Stralsund. The Museum of Cultural History in Stralsund was founded as a museum for the province of Neuvorpommern and the isle of Rügen already in 1858 and one year later opened to the public. It is the oldest museum of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The first public exhibition galleries were located in the Town Hall. When, in 1924 the first treasures of the museum moved to the monastery St. Catherine, such spacious exhibition halls as the museum possesses today could only be dreamt of. The basis for the collection, today so manifold and extensive, was the art collection of the Swedish Governor General stationed in Stralsund, Axel Count of Löwen. He dedicated his collection to the town in 1770.

Nowadays the comprehensive collections of archaeology, folk studies and history of art and culture of the region of Vorpommern are on view in four listed buildings. In the museum some gothic altars and sculptures, which give masterful evidence of middle age’s skill. The permanent exhibitions on pre- and early history, on the town's history from its foundation to modern times, on fine arts and historical toys cover all three floors of St. Catherine's monastery.

The priory houses a beautiful Chapter Room with a decorated ribbed vault from the 15th century, leaned on eight slimlinepillars. The refectory of the priory is a Gothic hall also with vault paintings. The concerts held in the refectory are organized almost throughout the year and are welcomed by many as being especially attractive.

The church houses today after an alteration with three floors by steel constructions in 1973, ‘Das Deutsche Meeresmuseum, Museum für Meereskunde und Fischerei-Aquarium‘.   

Sources: Internet Dominikanerkloster



Germany (DDR) 1988, Mi 3164, Sc 2671.




Front of the church of Saint Catharine of Alexandria.

Germany 2001,Mi 2195, Sc --.

Postmark Stralsund, 13.06.2001: 750 Jahre
Katharinenkloster. 50 Jahre Deutsches
Meeresmuseum Stralsund.


 The side-view of the former Dominican church.

 Germany 2001, Mi 2195, Sc -, and

Postmark Stralsund, 13.06.2001.
Ausstellung 750 Jahre Katharinenkloster.






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