We sang a Te Deum after a momentous conventual chapter in Heiligenkreuz today. The chapter (the assembly of all the monks with final vows) decided to send a colony of monks from Heiligenkreuz to revive the Cistercian Abbey of Neuzelle in Lower Lusatia in Eastern Germany. The idea had come to us from the Bishop of Görlitz, the diocese in which Neuzelle is located.
The Abbey was founded in 1268 by Henry the Illustrious, Margrave of Meissen and Lusatia (Neuzelle is situated in Lower Lusatia) for the benefit of the soul of his deceased wife Agnes. Since Lusatia subsequently came to the crown of Bohemia and thus the Habsburgs, and the religious life of the abbey was exemplary, Neuzelle survived the Reformation, and could even continue when it fell to Saxony as a consequence of the Thirty Years’ War, since the Emperor reserved certain rights to Himself, and closely attached the abbey ecclesiastically to Prague. Thus the abbey even survived the secularisation of 1803. However, after the territory was annexed by Prussia in 1815 as a result of the Congress of Vienna, the abbey was dissolved in 1817 (even though the Prussian King had promised to maintain all spiritual foundations). The abbey church became the Catholic parish church.
The abbey church was probably consecrated in 1309. It was built as a Gothic hall church. To this basic structure, which can still be discerned as you will see in the pictures, baroque stucco work and a new (mock) vaulting to create room for the ceiling frescoes immediately after the Thirty Years’ War (1655). The new side altars – so characteristic for this church -, as well as a new choir and high altar were added by Bohemian artists under Abbot Martinus Graff (1727-1741). The works were crowned in the consecration of the new high altar by Bishop Andreas Zaluski of Kulm, Grand Chancellor of the Crown of Poland in 1741, three days before the death of Abbot Martinus.
199 years have passed since the dissolution of the abbey. Soon Cistercian monks will again be singing the Divine Office there.