Helfta, Convent of
HELFTA, CONVENT OF
A former Cistercian establishment near Eisleben, Saxony, Germany, in the former Diocese of Halberstadt. It was founded in 1228 by Count Burchard of Mansfeld in Mansfeld and was moved to Rossbach in 1234 and to Helfta in 1258. The community followed the cistercian constitutions without belonging to the order, and the spiritual direction of the nuns lay in the hands of dominicans from Halle after 1271. Under Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn (1251–92), Helfta became the most famous center of German mysticism. The visions and revelations of mechtild of hackeborn, Mechtild of Wippra (d.1299), gertrude the great, and mechtild of magdeburg represent a transition from the mysticism of bernard of clairvaux to that of the mendicant orders. Steeped in a liturgical life centered around the Eucharist and, especially in Gertrude, the Sacred Heart, these nuns relived their bridal relationship with Christ and praised their mystical union with the bridegroom in emotion filled revelations that reached incomparable heights of hymnic power in Mechtild of Magdeburg. After having frequently suffered from wars in the area, Helfta was dissolved in 1545.
Bibliography: h. grundmann, Religiöse Bewegungen im Mittelalter (2d ed. Hildesheim 1961). w. muschg, Die Mystik in der Schweiz, 1200–1500 (Leipzig 1935) 109–113. f. w. wentzlaffeggebert, Deutsche Mystik zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit (2d ed. Berlin 1947) 48–59, 293–294. e. krebs, w. stammler, and k. langosch, eds., Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Verfasserlexikon, 5 v. (Berlin-Leipzig 1933–35) 2:43–44; 3:321–326, bibliog. h. neumann, ibid. 5:673–674, bibliography; "Beiträge zur Textgeschichte des Fliessenden Lichts der Gottheit und zur Lebensgeschichte Mechthilds von Magdeburg," Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Phli. hist. Klasse (1954) 3:27–80. w. bunke, Lexikon für Tbeologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 5:209–210. j. quint, Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturgeschichte, ed. p. merker and w. stammler (2d ed. Berlin 1955–) 2:547–550. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 1:1398.
[a. a. schacher]