Adolf IV in a sarcophagus: an ideal portrait painted about 1450, originally the lower part of a double portrait in the Maria-Magdalenen-Kloster, Kiel. Source: Wikipedia


In the beginning of the 19th century, the Franciskan monastery in Hamburg was torn down. Recent archaeological excavations have provided new insigt into its early history.

The Franciskan cloister in Hamburg was demolished in 1806-07 and nobody really knows what it looked like. However, recent archaeological excavations have resulted in remarkable findings. As the history behind the cloister is rather fascinating, the archaeologist are exited.

The Early History

In 1231 Count Adolph IV of Schauenburg and Holstein won a decisive victory over a Danish army headed by the King, Valdemar Sejr. The story behind the battle was the kidnapping by German Count Heinrich von Schwerin of the king and his eldest son in 1223. In a Danish chronicle the incident was described as follows:

“1223. Together with his eldest son, King Valdemar was treacherously kidnapped while they were lying in their beds by count Heinrich at the island of Lyø of the 6th of May. They were taken to the castle of Schwerin. There they had to stay the next three years, while the Danes ransomed them for 60.000 mark Lübish. But the horses, clothes and other things, which were captured by the Saxons that year was worth the double. Notice reader, that the Germans never or very seldom have won and triumphed without deceit and treason, as it is in their nature, which is apparent from the kidnapping of the two kings and from many other incidents.” (Rydårbogen).

The kidnapping was considered shameless as the count was the vassal of the king and had taken part in both the hunt and the following party. Apparently, the plan was to deliver the two kings into the hands of the holy Roman Emperor. Unfortunately the Pope intervened and threatened with a ban if the king was not returned unharmed. At first, the Emperor entered the negotiations with glee, trying to get the Danish King to become his vassal. The Danish negotiators declined and the emperor held back. Nevertheless,  a faction of the Albingian counts from Pomerania, Mecklenburg and Holstein continued to pursue a heavy ransom. In all, it took until Christmas 1225 to negotiate a release of the king and his oldest son.

The ransom was extremely heavy. All in all it consisted of 45.000 mark plus the jewels of the queen Berengaria plus equipment of dresses and horses for a 100 knights. Added to this was the loss of the overlordship of all the land between the rivers Eider and Elbe (The Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein) plus the former Slavic provinces captured in the endless wars along the Baltic and Northern German seashore. Also, the two younger sons of the king – Eric and Abel – were sent as hostages to secure the agreement.

Nevertheless, on his return, the Danish king mustered an army in order to pursue the aggressors and regain the lost. July 1227 the two armies met at Bornhöved in Holstein where the army of the king was routed. Although he lost an eye, the king barely escaped.

One of the counts, which took part in the politics and the battle of Bornhöved was Adolph IV, the count of Schauenburg. According to the legend he prayed to God and promised to found a cloister if the Germans won the battle. Miraculously the weather shifted, the Danes lost and the Franciscans got their new Maria Magdalena cloister in Hamburg. In 1239 the count himself withdrew to live there according to the Franciscan rule and in 1244 he was ordained as priest in Rome. At this point, the Count had appointed his son-in-law, Abel, as protector of Holstein as well as his children. Abel was the brother of the next king of Denmark, Eric Ploughpenny.

The last years of Count Adolp were spent in another Franciscan cloister in the city of Kiel, another of his foundations.

The new archaeological findings consist of foundation stones of the church as well as graves.


Adolf IV in a sarcophagus: an ideal portrait painted about 1450, originally the lower part of a double portrait in the Maria-Magdalenen-Kloster, Hamburg. At 2.77 metres long, the figure is greater than life-size. Source: Wikipedia


Klosterreste unter Handelskammer entdeckt
In: Süddeutsche Zeitung 27.02.2012




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