Nonnberg (Nunberg, Nonberg) Abbey
Community ID
 
4979
 
Alternate Names
 
Benediktinerinnenabtei Nonnberg, Benediktinenstift Nonnberg, Erentrudiskloster Nonnberg, Benediktinen-Abtei Nonnberg, Hoch-Adeliges Stift und Closter Nunberg, Adeliges Benediktinenen-Frauenstift-Nonnberg, S. Erentrude’s Abbey, S. Mary’s Abbey at Nonnberg,
 
Town
 
Salzburg
 
Diocese
 
(Arch)Diocese of Salzburg
 
Medieval Location
 
Duke Theodo granted Bishop Rupert the former Roman territory of Iuvavum (now Salzburg) to build a Christian diocese. Through generous donations and with the aid of his relative Erentrudis, he founded a women’s religious house here. Over time, the commun
 
Modern Location
 
Benediktinenstift Nonnberg, Nonnbergstrasse 2, 5020 Salzburg, Austria.
 
Corporate Status
 
Abbey
 
Dedication
 
Mary of the Assumption, S. Erentrude
 
Date Founded
 
ca. 714
 
Religious Order
 
Benedictine
 
Rule
 
Benedictine – Convent church frescoes unearthed in 1857 indicate that the rule was introduced no earlier than the 11th century (Kulzer, Erentrude: Nonnberg, Eichstätt, America, 50).
 
Foundation Information
 

The abbey was founded in the 8th century by S. Rupert, bishop of Worms, under the instruction of Duke Theodo. At the time, it was common for political leaders of Salzburg to encourage the establishment of monastic communities as a means of affirming their power within the kingdom’s borders.

 
Notable Heads
 

- S. Erentrude/Erentrudis was the first abbess and a relative of founder Rupert. She was of Franconian-Merovingian heritage, but despite her royal descent dedicated her life to caring for the sick and the less fortunate. Tradition claims that prior to her career at Nonnberg, she led a community of religious women at Worms; it is possible that some of these devout followed her to Salzburg (Kulzer, Erentrude: Nonnberg, Eichstätt, America, 51). Erentrude was also known for her pedagogy in regards to young children. Nonnberg chaplain Caesarius compared her piety and compassion to that of the Virgin Mother (GB 211). She made Psalm 73, verse 28 her motto. Her remains were moved to the crypt under the presbytery on September 4, 1023. (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 18) Erentrude’s feast is celebrated on June 30. Until Vatican II, Nonnberg celebrated the transfer of her remains as a second feast on September 4; now, this day serves as their church dedication day. This original abbess has been honored since 1624 as the official Landesmutter, and was declared in a letter from Archbishop Karl Berg a diocese patron in 1896 (GB 212). Apparently some of the devout invoke her assistance when suffering from migraines (213).
- Wiradis I. (998-1027) was often advised by her brother, Abbot Mazelin, to be milder and more lenient.
- Maria I. (1044-1059) was renowned for her piety, and is ascribed with the miraculous healing of a Salzburg leper (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 22)
- During the dangerous time of the Investiture Controversy, Gertraud I. (c. 1189) won her convent the patronage right from the Pfarre Litmanning. She also obtained fishing privileges in the Mattsee from the bishop of Passau (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 25).
- Gertrud II. von Stein (1235-1252) – first recipient of the Pontifikalien. These privileges include the rights to possess and use a Faldistorium (special chair), Pastorale (crosier), and Pektorale (literally, “pectoral cross,” i.e., a distinctive crucifix, suspended on a chain or cord around the neck so as to rest on the wearer’s chest).
- One of the priorities of Diemut V. (1266-1270) was to preserve and improve the economic conditions of Nonnberg. Her means of accomplishing this included an attempt to settle a dispute with the Cathedral and Cloister Salmansweil. During her reign, the sisters had slipped into worldly habits in terms of their hair cleansing and grooming. Archbishop Ladislaus saw that this manifestation of vanity was put to an end (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 32).
- During the rule of Elizabeth III. (1284-1307), Countess of Sonnenberg, taxes and tolls were introduced and levied all over the Salzburg area. Duke Albrecht aided the sisters of Nonnberg by waiving these fees, a privilege that the nuns enjoyed for five hundred years with minimal contestation (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 36).
- Agatha von Haunsberg (1446-1484) led the convent for an impressive 38 years. Due to the devastation wreaked on the library by the 1423 fire, she concerned herself with the procurement and transcription of books.
- Abbess Daria von Panichner (1484-1505) oversaw the transcription of the proper procedures of mourning and burying a deceased abbess, which included a series of vigils. This transliteration also included protocol for election of a new abbess – three candidates are nominated, and a two-thirds majority vote is required to secure the position.
- Ursula von Trauner (1514-1539) guided her sisters through the troublesome times of the Bauernkrieg, or Peasants’ War (1524-1526). During this two-year period, the convent had difficulty in obtaining basic life necessities.
- Cordula von Mundenheim – One of the last two Petersfrauen, both of whom transferred as guests to Nonnberg in 1583. She was the last nun to make her profession at St. Peter. As a young sister, she was prone to sickness and fainting spells. Cordula was accepted into the Nonnberg convent in 1586, became abbess in 1600 and remained in this position until 1614.
- Eva Maria Fleisch von Lerchenberg (1625-1638) had a remarkable love of music. This passion is manifested in the 1625 ceiling frescoes of the nun’s choir (Melton, Loss and Gain in a Salzburg Convent: The Impact of Tridentine Reform and Princely Absolutism on the Nuns of Nonnberg (1620-1682), 7). During Lerchenberg’s governance, Archbishop Paris von Lodron allowed the sisters to use his court for music practice. The convent’s first actual library was created under von Lerchenberg. In accordance with the abolishment of private possessions, all literary materials in custody of individual nuns was to become part of this Bibliothek (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 121). The convent also faced difficult times during Eva’s reign: an outbreak of the plague during the summer of 1636 forced the sisters to flee to Radstadt for four months, during which the abbess became very sick (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 126).
- Johanna Countess of Lodron (1638-1657) was known for her humility, earnestness, and equanimity. She had plenty of love and compassion for her sisters as well as the poor, widowed, and orphaned (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 128).
- Johanna Franziska (1657-1693) oversaw the construction of a Musikchor and new organ in 1680. She enjoyed the eight-day celebration of Salzburg’s jubilee year in 1682, and prayed a forty-hour Gebet with her sisters during the Turkish threat of 1683. Fortunately, Nonnberg sufferred only minor territorial losses.
- Coelestina Agnes (1738-1766) was known for her patience, a virtue needed to guide her community through the trying times of the Seven-Years’ War and to cope with the blindness she sufferred in old age. On a positive note, Archbishop Andreas granted Coelestina and her successors the privilege of wearing the Pektorale all the time, not just on special occasions.
- Antonia Theresia von Eifelsberg (1783-1813) guided her convent through the difficult times of secularization and war with France. She helped her sisters cope with the threat of their home’s elimination. During this time, many convents were being suspended, and the sovereign Archbishop Hieronimus desired to use the Nonnberg estate to enhance the university. With Antonia’s leadership, Nonnberg also weathered the physical threats of hail, fire, and flooding (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 181). In 1805, an Erziehungs-Institut was opened for young women, but was closed eight years later due to a lack of teachers (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 192).
- Matron Henrika von Trauner (1813-1840) oversaw the reopening of the school for young women in 1834, as well as the foundation of an institute for neglected children. Henrika also took in the sisters of Our Lady of Loretto after the great Salzburg fire of 1818 destroyed their convent; the nuns stayed at Nonnberg for fifteen months during rebuilding (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 197). Due to an early injury, Henrika had to have her left foot amputated in 1830.
- Alberta Einhauser (1841-1856) helped restore a good cloistral life to Nonnberg.
- Maria Magdalena Klotz (1876-1890) received the renewal of the Benedictine order during the 1880s with open arms and the slogan “Zurueck zur altehrwuerdigen Tradition!” (Return to time-honored tradition!). She also saw to the establishment of new library facilities.
- Abbess M. Ancilla Schneider (1965-1976), a skilled organist and choir director, led the sisters through their integration of Vatican II protocol into their liturgy and lives.

 
Notable Members/Residents/Guests
 

- Sister Hildegard was called from Nonnberg to be the first abbess of St. George am Laengsee around the year 1000 (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 13).
- Sister Ita was named first abbess of Gurk in 1042.
- Praxedes Hallecker (c. 1499) may be considered the abbey’s first librarian, even though she lived long before the convent’s first official library was established. She wrote a chronicle that provides important information concerning the liturgical order.
- Johannes von Staupitz, a superior and friend of Martin Luther and later an abbot at St. Peter, personally attempted to convert Nonnberg during the Reformation. The nuns, however, could not be moved from their beliefs.
- Frau Helena Pozham played the organ for the 1622 New Year’s Day Mass, the first service in which the sisters themselves provided instrumental accompaniment.
- Scholastica Merman von Schoenburg led the sisters through a musical renaissance in the early 17th century. In accordance with Tridentine policy regarding enclosure, Paris Lodron, Archbishop of Salzburg, forbid Nonnberg from using secular musicians or music teachers. To fill this void, the women turned to sisters blessed with a musical ear, including Scholastica, who they called their “’cause and beginning of music’ (Ursach und Anfaengerin der Musik)” (Melton, Loss and Gain in a Salzburg Convent: The Impact of Tridentine Reform and Princely Absolutism on the Nuns of Nonnberg (1620-1682), 6). Admired for her gift with song, Sister von Schoenburg served as both Chorregentin and Kapellmeisterin. Her sisters described her delight in music as “heavenly nourishment” (Melton, Loss and Gain in a Salzburg Convent: The Impact of Tridentine Reform and Princely Absolutism on the Nuns of Nonnberg (1620-1682), 7).
- Fridericka von Call (librarian 1863-1887) created a catalog for the Nonnberg collections.
- Maria Kutschera/von Trapp, heroine of The Sound of Music, was indeed a novice here in the 1920s.

 
Priveleges & Papal Exemptions
 

ca. 1242 – Archbishop Eberhad grants Abbess Gertraud von Stein and her successors the Pontifikalien, or the female equivalent of a bishopric. With this title came the rights to use a faldstool, carry the crucifix, crosier, and to wear a mitre instead of a crown. The abbess of Nonnberg still dons this garb for certain occasions, and is the only abbess in the world with such honors (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 28).

 
Incorporated Communities
 

The last two remaining members of the Petersfrauen of St. Peter’s Abbey were absorbed into Nonnberg on August 12, 1583.

 
Dependent Communities
 

- The Abbey of S. Walburg in Eichstaett (S. Walburg) was founded in 1035 by Count Leodigar with the help of Bishop Heribert and Abbess Ita of Nonnberg. This convent, in turn, was instrumental in founding several women’s houses in the United States (Kulzer, Erentrude: Nonnberg, Eichstätt, America, 49).
- The founding of the convent at Admont (Admont) was one of several “Tochtergruendungen” supported by the archbishop and settled by sisters from Nonnberg that occurred in the early part of the eleventh century.
Other convents founded with the aid of Nonnberg nuns include:
o St. Georgen am Laengsee (c. 1000) (S. Georgen am Langsee)
o Goess in Steiermark (1020)
o Neumuenster (later Traunkirchen) am Traunses (1020)
o Sonnenburg in Tirol (1029)
o Erla in what is now Lower Austria (c. 1050)
o Gurk in Kaernten (1042) – later resettled by Nonnberg as a dependent priorate (1891); supplied part of the foundation group for St. Erentraud in Kellenried, now Wuerttemberg (1924)
- Nonnberg supplied the foundation colony for the first convent at St. Gabriel in Prague (1889), now in Bertholdstein in Steiermark.

 
Visitations
 

- In 1451, a trio of designated clergy made official visits to both Stift St. Peter and Nonnberg. Abbot Martin von den Schotten in Vienna, Abbot Lorenz von Marianzell, and Johann Schlitpacher von Moelf spent twenty days inspecting Nonnberg (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 66).
- Felician Ninguarda, Bishop of Scala and Nuntius in Northern Germany, made a visitation to the convent in 1581. Instructions from his inspection include mandates regarding abbess qualifications – to lead the convent, a sister must be over the age of forty and have made her profession at least eight years prior. The nuns were also ordered to forsake personal belongings, to do their own laundry or relegate this task to lay sisters, and to replace their beloved handwritten breviaries with printed books (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 101-102).
- A 1621 visitation requested by the archbishop dictated that chaplains should be practicing Benedictines, not Weltpriester (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 112). Prior to the 17th century, Nonnberg did not have a resident confessor. A group of three to four chaplains from the secular clergy led their Gottesdienst (Esterl, Chronik des adeligen Benediktiner-Frauen-Stiftes Nonnberg in Salzburg, von Entstehen desselben bis zum Jahre 1840 aus dem Quellen bearbeitet, 226).
- The archbishop carried out a visit of his own in 1623. To enforce the Benedictine enclosure, he forbid anyone to be permitted entry to the convent without his written permission. The secular music teacher and organist were granted one last year of access, after which the nuns would have to provide their own music for services and recreation. The archbishop also renewed the appointment of laysisters.
- Near the end of her career and life, Abbess Eva Maria von Lerchenberg felt ill-equipped to continue her service, and asked the archbishop’s permission to resign. In order to investigate this request, the abbot of St. Peter visited Nonnberg in 1638. It was decided that the prioress would take over the abbess’s spiritual duties, but that Eva would continue her administrative obligations until the December 16 election of a new abbess.
- In the early 17th century, the archbishop of Salzburg advised the Nonnberg nuns to adhere to Council of Trent reforms. As a result, a stricter clausura was introduced, forbidding outside processions and limiting the abbess’s power in overseeing the convent’s finances. Additionally, lay sisters began to replace servants. (Melton, Loss and Gain in a Salzburg Convent: The Impact of Tridentine Reform and Princely Absolutism on the Nuns of Nonnberg (1620-1682), 1)

 
Patrons/Benefactors
 

- Regintrudis (c. 750) – benefactress and abbess; feast celebrated on May 26.
- Emperor Heinrich II (c. 972-1024) and his wife Kunigunde helped to rebuild the cathedral and rededicated it to St Erentrude in 1043, following a cure which Heinrich attributed to Erentrude’s intercession. See Jocham, Die heilige Ehrentrudis, Abtissin in Salzburg, 119.

 
Social Characteristics
 

Traditionally daughters of the nobility, though this admission requirement of aristocratic heritage was eradicated in 1848. Lay sisters, who busied themselves with domestic chores in addition to some religious responsibilities, were more likely to have humble beginnings than the choir nuns.

 
Assets/Property
 

Nonnberg received generous material gifts from the 8th century duke of Bavaria and the 11th century Emperor Heinrich II. For further accounts of the convent’s endowments, consult the Esterl chronicle, cited in the bibliography.

 
Litigations
 

- Caesarius tells of a legendary dispute with Brother Albert of St. Peter during the reign of Abbess Diemut V. von Velben (1266-1270). The monk had apparently drawn a saltmine boundary to Nonnberg’s disadvantage. The night before the hearing, the abbess and an elder sister held prayerful vigil at the grave of S. Erentrudis. When it came time for Brother Albert to swear before the Archbishop the next day, he fell over dead. Needless to say, the issue was settled in favor of Nonnberg (GB 217).
- In the late 13th century, Abbess Hilta (1270-1284) and her convent were engaged in a land dispute with the Salzburg Domkapitel. The matter eventually involved the archbishop and Pope Gregor X., and was ultimately laid to rest in 1284 (GB 217).

 
Secondary Sources
  
Miscellaneous Information
 

- S. Erentrude and Nonnberg Abbey are featured on a Euro coin as part of the “Great Abbeys of Austria” series. (http://www.austrian-mint.com/285?l=en&muenzeId=3410)
- Acknowledged as a saint as early as the 9th century, St. Erentrude was famous for taking an active role in the community, though little documentation survives from the earliest period (Kulzer, Erentrude: Nonnberg, Eichstätt, America, 50). Thought to be a Merovingian noblewoman, she followed her uncle (or in some versions her brother) St. Rupert to the German regions to proseletize. After Duke Theodo and his wife founded Nonnberg Abbey under the guidance of Rupert around the year 700, Erentrude was installed as abbess. She was known to care for the sick and poor, to guide the nuns under her supervision in holy readings and spiritual contemplation, and, according to Bavaria Sancta, she was especially renowned for instructing children (Joachim, Die heilige Ehrentrudis, Abtissin in Salzburg, 119; Leitner, Deutschland in seinen Heiligen, 42). The abbey may well have followed her lead, as the noblewomen who took their vows may have ministered to the community. The first formal recognition of Nonnberg's educational mission, however, stems from the twelfth century: a document from Archbishop Konrad of 3 November 1144 provides a donation to the convent and adds the proviso "quidquid habent vel habiturae sunt ad puellarum educationibus” (Reichlin, Stift Nonnberg zu Salzburg im Wandel der Zeiten, 20). Nevertheless, the abbey had a pedagogical agenda that forms an important part of the history of the convent.
- In addition to her respectable missionary work, Erentrude is also remembered for her love of prayer and the Bible. She often quoted Psalm 73: “To be near to God is my happiness. I have made the Lord my refuge.” Upon nearing death, she spoke, “It is good for me to cling to God, to place all my hope in God” (Kulzer, Erentrude: Nonnberg, Eichstätt, America, 51).
- Caesarius's fourteenth-century biography describes this rededication of the abbey to Erentrude, and recounts a medical miracle. During the ceremony, the saint's remains were moved, and Abbot Mazzelin, the leader of the near-by St. Peter's Abbey, secretly took a chest bone. He was immediately struck blind. With tears and sighs he prayed to Erendrude; he admitted his theft and promised to resign as abbot and to live as a hermit on an adjoining mountain. He then regained his sight and kept his promise. Even after his death, his connection with Erentrude continues, for the oxen, under the guidance of God, took his remains to Nonnberg, not St Peter's, for burial (Acta sanctorum quotquot toto orbe coluntu : vel à catholicis scriptoribus celebrantur, quae ex Latinis & Graecis..., Ivnii, Tomus vii, 534). This legend is depicted in words and pictures in a baroque painting inside the cloister (GB 211).
- Like many medieval monasteries, the convent at Nonnberg has suffered from a loss of manuscripts over the years. In the case of Nonnberg, this loss might be related to the continued longevity of the abbey – the nuns used their books and other valuables as bribes in dealing with Napoleon and other threats.
- Nonnberg was victim to the great fire of 1423, during which many priceless manuscripts were lost. During the economic hardships following World War I, the convent had to sell many of its precious texts. Thus, the current abbey is understandably protective of its library collection. Interested parties must make a reservation in advance to visit. Outsiders are not permitted into the actual library room. Copy facilities are available for certain stacks, but are not to be operated by the visitors themselves. The Nonnberg library does not participate in interlibrary loan. Microfilms of the majority of medieval manuscripts are available for consultation at the http://www.hmml.org/”>Hill Monastic Manuscript Library.
- During the 15th century, many convents were instructed to refrain from eating meat, using luxurious fabrics, and to otherwise live a humble existence. While the neighboring Petersfrauen gave little resistance to these orders, the sisters at Nonnberg were none too happy with such directives. Consequently, they sought permission from the legates of the cardinal to eat meat thrice a week, sleep on feather beds and wear linen clothing. Dissatisfied with response that the abbess could make exemptions in extenuating circumstances, the convent petitioned Pope Nicholas V. directly to get their special allowances.
- Following the ban on outside musicians instituted by Archbishop Paris Lodron, Nonnberg experienced a surge of artistic activity at the dawn of the 17th century. The talented Scholastica Merman von Schoenburg made her profession in 1617 and proceeded to foster a musical culture within her community. Five years later, the sisters celebrated New Year’s Day mass with organ accompaniment by Helena Pozham, one of their own. This landmark of self-sufficiency ushered in an era of creative cultivation; no less than one third of new sisters were celebrated for their musical talents in the subsequent twenty years (Melton, Loss and Gain in a Salzburg Convent: The Impact of Tridentine Reform and Princely Absolutism on the Nuns of Nonnberg (1620-1682), 6).

 
Contributors
 
Christine Smith and Cynthia J. Cyrus