Founded during the 12th century the monastry nowadays is among the oldest and most important brick buildings eastern the river Elbe. The Praemonstratensian of Jerichow formed the architecture of middle and northern Europe in a sustainable way. The Church was a Prototype for over 20 other churches of the region. A main part of the architectural sculptures was preserved. The museum of the monastry informs about the history and importance of Jerichow and the monastry. In Summer there are concerts and exibitions in the monastry halls and yard.
From the 11th century the Elbe-Havel region was owned by the Counts von Stade. Jerichow originates from a fortress that they had erected in the early 12th century on the bank of the river Elbe, which used to run here (today a backwater), in order to secure the river crossing and the important road to Havelberg. Soon a settlement with a marketplace and church was established directly south-east of it. In 1144 Count Hartwig von Stade, the last male descendent of the dynasty and canon in Magdeburg, and later archbishop of Bremen, and his mother, Richardis, founded a Premonstratensian monastery next to the existing church. This order had been established by the Archbishop of Magdeburg, Norbert von Xanten, and was especially committed to spiritual guidance and missionary activities. The name is derived from the French mothermonastery of Prémontré. However, the order’s centre, the monastery of St Mary (Liebfrauenkloster) in Magdeburg, which sent the first monks to Jerichow, played a more important role with regard to Germany and Central Europe.
In 1148, allegedly because of the noise from the marketplace, the monastery was moved out of town. In 1172 Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg documented the use of the monastery in its new place. Next to St Mary’s (Unser Lieben Frauen) in Magdeburg, Jerichow was one of the most important Central German Premonstratensian monasteries. It did not own large estates, though, and therefore experienced an economic decline in the late Middle Ages.
In the course of the Reformation the foundation was dissolved in 1552. The property was taken over by the archbishopric in Magdeburg and managed as a farmyard with a malthouse and brewery. The Elector of Brandenburg used it as a demesne after an attempt to revive the monastery failed in 1629–1631 and after the archbishopric in Magdeburg was dissolved in 1680. The Great Elector, Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg, made the baroque church available to the reformed community in 1685.
The agrarian use of the monastery buildings continued until the 20th century: for a long time a pig fattening station and a distillery, among other things, were housed here. After 1945 the buildings were state-owned. In connection with restoration work on the church beginning in 1955 it was possible to restore the enclosure buildings to a large degree gradually between 1964 and 1990. In 1977 a museum opened in the east wing.
Architecture and Furniture
The former monastery church of Jerichow is one of the oldest and, in terms of art, most important brick buildings in the Brandenburg Marches. It was the model for numerous churches in the wider surroundings. The enclosure section is among the best-preserved monastery buildings of the Romanesque period.
The building’s history has under investigation for a long time, but some riddles still remain. It is, for instance, unclear when today’s church was built. If it was already standing in 1172, from which date there is written confirmation that the monastery was in use, it would be the oldest brick building in Northern Germany. It is however possible that after the monastery was moved in 1148/49 timber and clay buildings were erected first, which were later gradually replaced by today’s solid-brick architecture. Their extraordinarily high quality indicates that Italian builders were involved to a substantial extent: comparable buildings from that time can only be found around Parvia in the Lombardy. At all events, the Premonstratensians of Jerichow determined the architecture of North and Central Europe for a long time. They were the first to make use of the rich clay deposits of the marshy lowlands of the river Elbe in order to bake bricks.
At first the central part of the church was a towerless basilica with a square chancel and apse as well as side apses on the transept. Soon, however, – probably at the close of the 12th century – it was extended: the side apses were replaced by today’s side chapels with apses, and a two-aisled crypt was inserted below the chancel and the crossing. In the course of another extension, this time to the west, the building received the monumental two-tower front, which was completed in the second half of the 13th century. After that the pointed tower caps (second half of the 15th century) were added and the windows were enlarged.
Only small changes were subsequently made to the enclosure buildings, which were erected gradually, at the same time as the church was built. The oldest part is the east wing from the late 12th century with the most important common rooms, including the two-aisled capital hall and the large dormitory on the upper floor. The south wing is a little younger with the former refectories. The final part was the cloister, dating from around 1230/40, the north wing of which was pulled down in the 16th century, though.
After it had been damaged during the Thirty Years’ War, the church was temporarily renovated for the reformed parish. From 1853 to 1856 a thorough restoration followed under the direction of the Prussian Curator Ferdinand von Quast, work which is regarded as a milestone in the history of monument preservation. More recent restoration work on the church in 1955 and on the enclosure since 1964 are a continuation of the attempts made then to rebuild one of the most beautiful Romanesque monasteries.
Furnishing and Decoration
The main part of the Romanesque architectural sculpturing has survived. Inside it effectively contrasts the light grey with the even red brick surfaces. The sculpturing of the capitals inside the crypt with its individual forms is, in particular, among the artistic masterpieces from around 1200. Inside the crypt there is also a column from Italy made of quartz diorite, which maybe came to Jerichow via Magdeburg. Of the church furnishing the Romanesque high altar and the base of the newly assembled paschal candelabra have survived. The large late Romanesque sandstone font comes from the city church. Only some reliefs and tombstones remain of the Gothic interior.
In the enclosure area the differently built capitals of the summer and winter refectories are worthy of special note. In addition, the decoration with sculptured columns of the portal from the east wing of the cloister has been preserved.
Regular guided visits
Up to 15 persons: € 20,00
From 16 persons: € 1,00/person
Adults: € 8,00
Reduced rate: € 5,00
Senior citizens: € 6,00
For groups of more than 10 people: by arrangement
Duration around 90 minutes
Contact for guided tours:
Am Gut 1
Tel.: (+49 39343) 285
Fax: (+49 39343) 9 26 61