Kloster Michaelstein

Michaelstein Monastery


A good 875 years ago, Cistercian monks settled in a valley away from Blankenburg (Harz). An economically successful abbey developed from an initially difficult life. Donations, the vowed poverty as well as life determined by work and strict self-management increased the monastic property. In 1543 the last Catholic abbot resigned and the Counts of Blankenburg took over the monastery. They set up a monastery school that continued to exist even after the dukes of Braunschweig took it over. At the beginning of the 18th century, Duke Ludwig Rudolf had extensive construction work carried out and a seminary set up for preachers. Until well into the 20th century, the former abbey only had economic functions that the monastery property retained under various legal entities even after the land reform.

For almost 50 years the monastery has developed into a place of cultural diversity around nature, monastery history and music. Whether in concerts, visiting a museum or one of the numerous events, you will always find new and colorful facets on Michaelstein. Today the Saxony-Anhalt Music Academy for education and performance practice is located here. For many decades it has had a firm place in the European professional world.

In addition to the pronounced musical focus, the entire monastery complex has meanwhile become a tourist attraction, the Michaelstein Monastery Museum is a diverse world of experiences with history, gardens and music on the Romanesque Road and the R1 European Cycle Route. With every visit you can discover something new all year round: whether on a guided tour of the monastery or in the numerous workshops for young and old.


Monastery rooms – the story of the white monks from Michaelstein

Thanks to extensive renovation and construction work in recent times, the monastery rooms from the late Romanesque and Gothic times are well preserved. The sublime simplicity of a Cistercian abbey impressively embraces the visitor in the cloister, refectory and chapter house. The arrangement of the work and living rooms of the choir monks and lay brothers on the ground floor of the cloister largely corresponds to the ideal plan of the Cistercians.

The early Gothic cloister with its ribbed vault is the central focus of the enclosure, both in spiritual and communicative terms. Romanesque remains, as well as plant elements on the consoles and keystones, have been preserved. The Romanesque church and the dormitory (dormitory) are only fragmentary. The refectory, on the other hand, shows an alternating sequence of pillars and columns with various depictions of plants. The calefactorium still gives an idea of ​​the simple character of a work space. The chapter house was previously a meeting and consultation room for the monks. The red consecration crosses still bear witness to the later use as a church. The two pillars are beautifully decorated. A special feature is the so-called abbot’s chapel, which differs from the usual plan of a Cisterze. The only Gothic tracery windows have been preserved here.

Monastery gardens – the blooming foods and fragrant medicines of the monks

Monastery gardens originally served to ensure the abbey’s independent self-sufficiency. Inside the enclosure were herb, vegetable and fruit gardens, outside the walls there were vine, hop and cabbage gardens. The two monastery gardens with numerous plant treasures are an attraction and have been part of the Garden Dreams Saxony-Anhalt network since 2018. Both gardens are modeled on medieval plans and records.

Around 260 types of plants thrive in the herb garden, especially medicinal plants from the Middle Ages based on the St. Gallen monastery plan. There are many thematic areas into which plants are divided – fragrant and wild herbs, sympathetic plants, medicinal and aromatic herbs, Marian and symbolic herbs, magic plants and coloring herbs. The monastic herb garden used to play a very important role as a supplier of medicinal products. The heart of the garden are the raised herb beds framed with wooden planks. They guarantee the warmth-loving herbs a dry foot, good floor ventilation and easier maintenance.

The vegetable garden shows the earlier plant-based food diversity. The approximately 100 plant species cultivated represent in particular the fine vegetables and spices on the monk’s table as well as their common house vegetables and field fruits. The plant-based food range of yesteryear is supplemented by field crops, cereals, types of fruit and edible flowering plants. Examples of naturalized vegetables from the 16th to 18th centuries are added to the monastery vegetable garden.

The permanent exhibition Monastery Gardens: Development – Use – Symbolism in the former monk’s hall gives insights into the history of horticulture

and shows connections to medicine, nutrition, art and monastic architecture. Medieval monastery gardens are predominantly kitchen gardens for herbs, fruit and vegetables. Benedictines and Cistercians are now considered to be the founders of European horticulture. Until the middle of the 13th century, monasteries were the only cultural sites for growing plants and medicinal herbs. Essential knowledge of their garden culture can be found in the kitchen gardens of castles and rural populations. The monastery gardens change over the centuries. The number of garden sections increases, the decorative and representational character becomes dominant, but the design features are retained.

KlangZeitRaum – On the trail of the secret of music

Even the Cistercian monks filled the venerable monastery rooms with their singing. An organ has also been sounding in the baroque church since the beginning of the 18th century. At the end of the 1960s, Dr. Eitelfriedrich Thom incorporated the Telemann Chamber Orchestra into the monastery complex. In the period that followed, the Michaelstein Monastery developed into an important and nationally known venue for concerts, seminars, courses and international conferences.

The performance practice of early music, i.e. the endeavor to reconstruct the original sound image, runs as a guide through the long-term and diverse activities of today’s music academy. The interpretation of the musical work with historical musical instruments is essential for this. For this reason, musical instruments from bygone times have been collected since the early 1980s. The Michaelsteiner Musical Instrument Collection was significantly enriched with around 500 exhibits in 1988 when it took over the estate of the late restorer Peter Liersch from Potsdam. In the same year, Dr. Thom on the upper floor of the west wing of a musical instrument museum.

The collection in the Michaelstein Monastery now has around 1,000 exhibits from the early 18th century to the present day, including musical instruments and bows, a large number of sound information carriers, as well as some graphics and furniture.

The current permanent exhibition “KlangZeitRaum – On the trail of the secret of music” has been on view in the Michaelstein Monastery since December 2012. Musical instruments of the respective time or their development from historical to modern instruments also form the core of this new presentation. At the same time, it shows itself as an exhibition on performance practice and is dedicated to making music for several centuries.

The music machine of Salomon de Caus – A show in 1615

Water wheel operated, pin rollers controlled and a moving nymph figure – ringing, funny machines with moving figures have always been an attraction.

In the music machine – a mechanical work of art in which a scene from ancient mythology is accompanied by organ music – the universal engineer Salomon de Caus combined various mathematically founded sciences and arts: the art of mechanics and mechanical engineering, sculpture, organ building and the Composition of music combine with the antique subject to form a total work of art. This is not only a testimony to technology, culture and life plans at the time of their intellectual development, but also testimony to the visions of that time. The awareness of such ideas, the critical examination of developments, elements and, above all, connections that point sustainably into the future, make the music machine an educational exhibit par excellence for the present day. Michaelstein Monastery has one of these, the Salomon de Caus music machine, which is unique in the world.

Originally, Salomon de Caus, engineer and garden architect, devised a music machine for the Heidelberg castle garden in the early 17th century. The realization was prevented by the Thirty Years War. A reconstruction succeeded in 1998. Experience the music machine in the new building and let yourself be inspired by the sound experience and the fabulous backgrounds!

Music Academy Saxony-Anhalt

Musicology, music practice and further education come together here; this is where the processing, communication and dissemination of the musical cultural heritage take place. Here musicians can get decisive impulses for performance practice and (music) educators can get suggestions for their daily work.

Music history research also deals with regional music culture, musical instrument research can fall back on an extensive collection of historical musical instruments. Concerts offer a varied program, courses and conferences address current questions about education and performance practice.

Two Michaelsteiner specialties complete the picture: “Early music for young people” with the youth baroque orchestra Michaelstein BACHS ERBEN and the

multi-faceted “Basseurope Academy”.


Internationally renowned interpreters, young musicians and participants in our courses: the spectrum of programs ranges from early music to classical and romantic to jazz, rock and pop. Because we have been dealing with historical performance practice in Michaelstein for 50 years, we like to choose music from the Baroque period, but especially works that have only just been rediscovered! As a highlight, these works can also be heard on instruments in our collection.

The listed monastery complex offers an incomparable atmosphere: in the refectory, in the salon, in the old forge or in the large concert hall, the music barn.

Course program

Our range of courses is as diverse as our participants. The courses at the Music Academy in Michaelstein cover a wide range: Instrumental and vocal courses in all directionsCourses in music pedagogyCourses in rhythmicsCourses in choral conducting Closing concerts present the results to an interested audience.


Michaelstein maintains the discourse between performance practice, musicology and musical instrument making in annual conferences.

The scientific workshops offer a platform for the entire field of “historical performance practice”: dealing with internal musical aspects, knowledge of external conditions and the interdisciplinary environment.

In the symposia on historical musical instrument making, individual instrument families are the focus of their development over several centuries. The professional exchange between musicologists, museologists, interpreters, instrument makers and restorers revolves around various aspects of the original instruments as well as the development of sophisticated replicas for today’s music practice.

In the conferences, musicology and instrument studies meet musical practice, for example through musical examples within the lectures or concerts in connection with scientific lectures.

Rehearsal and conference location

Scenic location, well equipped with instruments and the proverbial monastic tranquility are the best prerequisites for a course or rehearsal stay.

The special thing about conferences in Michaelstein: The monastery is outside the city – your group can concentrate fully on the conference goal. During the conference breaks: Just a few steps – and you are in the middle of a wonderful Harz landscape. A whole range of incentives from the monastery can ideally complement your conference: Candlelight in the evening retreat; Drumcircle – non-verbal team building; Meditative tours in the historical cloister.

For your stay for a course or a rehearsal phase, you can use our functionally furnished guest rooms in the hotel and inn “Zum Weisse Mönch”. The 35 rooms can accommodate up to 88 participants. Of course, the hotel also offers you meals from breakfast to full board.

Source: www.kloster-michaelstein.de