Helfta Monastery in Saxony, Germany was founded in 1229 on the grounds of the Mansfield Estate in Germany. In the early years, the community moved several times until its reached its present place in the city of Eisleben (which is the city where Martin Luther was born).
Soon after its founding in 1251 Gertrude of Hakeborn became abbess and under her guidance, the convent became a center of education and mysticism. But the nuns had a difficult time. Despite the protection of some powerful families, it was pillaged at least twice during Gertrude's time. The community suffered a great deal, yet the spirit of the nuns flourished.
It should be noted that the Helfta Monastery is a Cistercian foundation. This is important. Cistercians were founded in 1098 by some Benedictine monks who desired to live closer to the original Benedictine life. These monks were led by Robert of Molesme and they left the Benedictine community of Molesm to live closer to the original Rule of St. Benedict as practiced in the earliest monasteries.
This Cisterican Helfta Monastery in Saxony, Germany was called the "crown of German monasteries". The community was the home to four important women scholars and mystics: Gertrude of Hakeborn, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Mechthild of Hakeborn and Mechthild of Magdeburgh
After the reformation the buildings remained in ruins for over 450 years. When the Communist regime in East Germany fell, there was a move to restore the buildings. Under the patronage of Bishop Leo Nowak, Bishop of Magedeburgh, several organizations untied to raise money for the diocese to buy the property from the government and to rebuild the church and some monastic buildings.
In 1999 a small group of Cistercian nuns with their Abbess, M. Assumpta Schenkl, took up residence and as of 2001 the work has successfully restored the Church and two buildings. It is once more occupied and a 'community of prayer and work'.
The hope of the Abbess and the local Bishop is that this place will become an ecumenical center since it has both Catholic origins and is located in the city of Martin Luther.
Their hope is that it will be a center where Catholics and Lutherans can grow closer and that the large number of unchurched citizens will become acquainted with Christ.
The Convent of Helfta and its Literary Nuns can be found at: