Premonstratensian monastery from 1193 and later noble castle, remains of a late Romanesque monastery church and the monastery buildings belonging to it, converted into a castle in the 17th century
Mildenfurth Monastery, which is approached over an impressive roofed wooden bridge near Wünschendorf, lies south of Gera in the middle Elster valley. The Heimathskunde von Thüringen dating from 1860 mentions that of the once “noble monastery only residential buildings and underground vaults and walls are left”. A century and a half later building archaeologists classify this entire complex of a medieval monastery converted into a Renaissance castle as a significant edifice, because the transition from one to the other is still clearly visible.
It is rather rare that a late Romanesque collegiate church, which we now know for certain was begun in the first decade of the 13th century, was converted into a noble residential castle from the mid-16th century on. In the case of Mildenfurth the reasons were changing property conditions and changes of use in the course of time. The Premonstratensian monastery was founded on 8 September 1193 by the governor of Weida, Heinrich II, called the Rich. With the introduction of the Lutheran doctrine about 330 years later the decline of the monastery began. On 1 May 1544 the Festungshauptmann Matthes von Wallenrod from Coburg, a faithful follower of the Elector, purchased the monastery. Twelve years later he started the conversion into a residential castle. Of the church and its interior he kept what could be fitted to his plans. From today’s point of view Wallenrod was thus both destroyer and creator of a monument. Visitors see a centrally planned building flanked by towers; its four wings were built around the crossing of the once three-span basilica with transept. The special charm of Mildenfurth Monastery lies in the fact that although there were two main building phases the variety of forms in the interior and on the facades seem nonetheless almost like a unified whole.
In 1989 stabilisation work began on the main building which until then had been used for instance as an old people’s home and for storing fruit. In 1996 the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia took over the property. In 2005 the scaffolds on the northern transept were taken down; based on finds the surfaces below the slate roof are now painted in broken white and the square stones at the corners in pink. Only a few metres away a provisional shelter above the horizontal member of the former monastery church’s west portal indicates that restoration works are continuing. Since 1990 Mildenfurth Monastery has also established itself as a place for concerts and similar events.