Thorn Abbey

Imperial Abbey of Thorn
Reichsstift Thorn (de)
Rieksstif van Thoear (li)
Rijksabdij van Thorn (nl)
Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire

Coat of arms

Territory of the Abbey of Thorn (blue), in the 18th century. The striped area of Neeroeteren was a condominium between Thorn and Liège
The Low Countries in the 16th century, showing the Abbey of Thorn in dark blue, at the north-eastern tip of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège (paler blue, centre)
Capital Thorn (Netherlands)
Languages Dutch
Government Theocracy
Historical era Middle Ages
  Founded ca 975
   Gained Reichsfreiheit 1292
  Joined Council of Princes 1793
   Annexed by France 1795
  Awarded to Netherlands June 9, 1815
   1790 1.5 km² (1 sq mi)
   1790 est. 3,400 
     Density 2,266.7 /km²  (5,870.6 /sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bishopric of Liège

Thorn Abbey or Imperial Abbey of Thorn was an imperial abbey of the Holy Roman Empire in what is now the Netherlands. The capital was Thorn. It was founded in the 10th century; independence ended in 1794, when it was occupied by French troops. The abbey was reichsunmittelbar and belonged to the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle.

The territory covered about 1.5 square kilometers with 3400 inhabitants in 1790.


Ansfried of Utrecht and his wife Hereswint are regarded by some sources as the founders of the Abbey of Thorn

Details of the founding of the abbey are not clear. According to some sources, the abbey was founded by Countess Hilswind in 902 for herself and her daughter Beatrix. She donated the necessary land, which had been personal property, given to the Countess by King Zwentibold. Other sources claim a Benedictine double monastery was founded by Bishop Ansfried of Utrecht and his wife Hereswint in 925. A Romanesque abbey church was built in 992; some sources give this as the year the Abbey was founded.

Abbey structure

Model of the abbey district
View of the south side of St. Michael's Church

The collegiate women came only from the high nobility. It is likely that Thorn had belonged to the Benedictine order originally. It probably changed, however, in the 12th century, to a free secular ladies' abbey. In 1310, the secular cannons of the Abbey stressed their secular status and they claimed to never have been Benedictine.

In the 18th century, collegiate ladies were, in principle, required to reside in the Abbey all year, except for at most six weeks per year. However, for 600 florins, ladies could buy themselves free. In theory, free ladies were still required to provide six weeks of choral service; this was not always observed in practice. Some ladies held positions in several abbeys. This possibility of buying freedom appears to have been used frequently. Maria Josepha of Hatzfeld and Gleichen, for example, was a member of the abbeys at Thorn and Essen for 46 years. During this time, she resided in Essen Abbey for four years, but never in Thorn.

The abbey district contained a curia building for the Deachoness and five house for the ladies. In the 14th Century, a new Gothic Abbey Church was built. Some of the ladies built houses outside the abbey district.


The imperial immediacy of the abbey was confirmed in 1292 by King Adolf of Nassau. Under Emperor Maximilian I, the abbey was under the special imperial protection. In the imperial matriculation register at Worms, the Abbey was recorded as a reichsunmittelbar area. The matriculation duties, however, were transferred to the Counts of Lippe.

The abbey was a member the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle and the Rhenish College of Imperial Prelates.

In the 17th century the governorship of the Spanish Netherlands sought to restrict the imperial immediacy. The abesses resisted these attempts successfully. In the 18th century, the abbess held the title of Princess. Several abbesses were simultaneously head of Essen Abbey.

The territory was conquered by French troops in 1794 and formally annexed by France in 1795. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna awarded the territory to the Kingdom of the United Netherlands.



  1. Derolez, Albert (1999). Corpus Catalogorum Belgii: Counts of Flanders, Provinces of East Flanders, Antwerp and Limburg. Paleis der Academiën. pp. 201–202.
  2. Verspaandonk, J. A. J. M. (1875). Het hemels prentenboek: Devotie- en bidprentjes vanaf de 17e eeuw tot het begin van de 20e eeuw. Hilversum: Gooi en Sticht. p. 9. ISBN 9030400641.

Coordinates: 50°10′N 5°50′E / 50.167°N 5.833°E / 50.167; 5.833

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.