19 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Magnificent Romanesque and Peasant war fury in the lost Kaltenborn monastery near Allstedt

From the 12th to the 16th century, the Kaltenborn monastery near Allstedt was a religious, cultural, and economic center of the southeastern Harz foreland. Today the abbey has wholly disappeared from the cultural landscape. Current excavations by the State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA) bring to light impressive relics of the monastery church, but also many evidence of the destruction of the complex in the Peasants’ War of 1525.

The Augustinian monastery of Kaltenborn near Emseloh (Mansfeld-Südharz) was founded in 1118. The founders were the Saxon-Thuringian Count Wichmann and his wife Kunigunde, the daughter of the famous Ludowinger Ludwig the Springer. Favored by the high nobility and richly endowed with donations, Kaltenborn developed into one of the most prosperous and influential monasteries in the region.

The prosperity and power of the monastery, as well as its vigorous collection of taxes, aroused resentment in the affected population – refusal of services by Kaltenborn subjects has been reported as early as the mid-15th century. When the Peasants’ War broke out in central Germany, the Augustinian monastery was plundered and devastated by insurgents from the nearby villages of Riestedt and Emseloh in April 1525. Many monks fled and did not return. The monastery did not recover from this and was finally abolished in 1538. Later, the church, cloister and all other buildings were removed so thoroughly that today only small rests of ruins have remained of the once magnificent abbey.

The eastern end of the monastery church with rectangular main apse and a semi-circular northern side apse, bird’s eye view from the east. Photo © State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA), Robert Prust

Current geophysical investigations, metal detector surveys and excavations under the direction of Prof. Dr. Felix Biermann (LDA) have now produced surprisingly rich relics of the monastery. The walls of the abbey church have been partially preserved under enormous masses of rubble up to a height of two meters. The stately three-aisled basilica with transept, rectangular main apse and semi-circular side apses was built in Romanesque forms in the first half of the 12th century and later expanded in Gothic style. In the south, the cloister buildings connected to a large, walled, roughly rectangular courtyard with a diameter of up to 230 meters, in which various buildings were located. Particularly impressive are the Romanesque architectural and decorative elements of the church, which include magnificent column bases, lintels with floral motifs and round arches with friezes – the latter with close parallels to the Ulrichskirche in nearby Sangerhausen, which has survived to this day and is one of the main works of Romanesque art in Saxony-Anhalt.


Writing stylus of the so-called »Harz Group« made of non-ferrous metal, 12th/13th c. Century. Wax tablets are written with such pens. Photo © State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA), Juraj Lipták
Writing stylus of the so-called »Harz Group« made of non-ferrous metal, 12th/13th c. Century. Wax tablets are written with such pens. Photo © State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA), Juraj Lipták

These architectural relics and a rich ensemble of small finds – coins, book fittings, belt buckles, pieces of jewelry, scales, signet rings, pens, and the like – shed light on the monastery’s proud early days. Other finds tell of its eventual downfall.

Numerous fragments of stove tiles from the 15th and early 16th centuries, including colorful glazed ones with figurative and floral decorations, attest to the comfort and even luxury that a monastic community did not look good on. Such finds manifest a dissolution of traditional monastic discipline and asceticism, which explains why the monasteries were only able to offer little resistance to the Reformation. The furor of the rebellious peasants resulted in layers of fire and debris with smashed ceramic vessels, broken glass from windows, tiles, and metal objects melted in embers as a result of massive destruction.

State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA)

Cover Photo: Romanesque column base in the main apse of the monastery church. © State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA), Felix Biermann

Related Articles

Salvage Excavations Started in Giresun Island on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast

18 May 2021

18 May 2021

Rescue excavations are starting again on Giresun Island, where the first examples of human settlement in the Black Sea Region...

60-million-year-old Snail Fossil Found in southern Turkey

22 May 2021

22 May 2021

A snail fossil dating to the age of 60 million was found in Mersin’s Toroslar district. The snail fossil discovered...

Submerged Roman structure of concentric walls discovered on Italy’s western coast

3 June 2024

3 June 2024

Archaeologists have recently uncovered a significant Roman-era structure submerged near the coastline of Campo di Mare on Italy’s western coast....

An Urartian fortress was discovered at an altitude of 3,300 meters in eastern Turkey

2 July 2022

2 July 2022

In the Gürpınar district of Van, located in eastern Turkey, a fortress ruin, which is considered to be used by...

Hidden past of Ani ruins in eastern Turkey to be uncovered by excavations

31 May 2021

31 May 2021

Archaeological excavations will reveal the historical mystery behind the ruins of Ani on the present-day Turkey-Armenia border. The Ani archaeological...

Iznik Archaeology Museum reveals 2,500-year-old love letter

16 January 2023

16 January 2023

İznik is an ancient habitation that hosts various civilizations due to its fertile lands, trade routes, and many other reasons....

The 3,000-Year-Old Ancient City is Under Danger

8 February 2021

8 February 2021

For the port planned to be built in Izmir’s Aliağa district, a part of the 3,000-year-old ancient city is in...

Unique Gold Ring and Crystal Amulet among 30,000 Medieval Treasures Uncovered in Sweden

7 March 2024

7 March 2024

In the Swedish medieval city of Kalmar, archaeologists from the State Historical Museums unearthed the remains of over 30,000 objects...

Beautiful’ Water-Nymph Marble Statue Found in Amastris ancient city

8 September 2023

8 September 2023

Excavations in the ancient city of Amastris, located in the Black Sea province of Bartın’s Amasra district, have unearthed a...

Ancient Egyptian cult drank a trippy mix of drugs, human blood, and bodily fluids

7 June 2023

7 June 2023

Researchers have identified some of the components of found in an ancient Bes vase dating back to Ptolemaic era Egypt....

World’s Smallest Stegosaurus Track Found

14 March 2021

14 March 2021

The smallest trace of stegosaurus in the world that lived 155 million years ago was found. Stegosaurus, a herbivorous dinosaur,...

Rare Ceremonial Knives Offering Discovered in the Great Basement of Tlatelolco, Mexico

27 May 2024

27 May 2024

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH)  have unearthed a very special votive offering during excavations at...

INAH Archaeologists recover the coyote-man of Tacámbaro

26 January 2022

26 January 2022

Archaeologists win the coyote-man trial that lasted 30 years in Mexico. The litigation regarding the coyote-man of Tacámbaro, an important...

The 2800-year-old Urartians Lake, which is an engineering masterpiece of its time, is drying

13 July 2023

13 July 2023

Keşiş Lake in Van, in eastern Turkey, which was built by the Urartu King Rusa 2,800 years ago, was negatively...

Artifacts found in Japan could be prototypes of ninja weapons

14 January 2022

14 January 2022

Artifacts discovered in the ruins of structures associated with warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s 1590 Siege of Odawara may be prototypes of...