Augustinian Canons of Sülte in Hildesheim

The salt marsh that lies to the east of Hildesheim city centre has always been considered by the inhabitants of the bishopric a site of ghosts and demons. In order to confront this superstition, Hildesheim Bishop St. Godehard founded a hospital and pilgrims’ hostel there in 1022. The clerical community that was active in the extended and newly-consecrated church (1034), through the introduction of the Augustinian Rule, later became a monastery, originally founded in 1147. The canons of Sülte were active in the chaplaincy in and around Hildesheim. Their community was richly stocked and in the 15th century belonged to the Union of the Seven Chapters in Hildesheim, in which the most influential organisations of the bishopric united to preserve their interests.

In 1439 the Dutch Augustinian canon Johannes Busch arrived in Sülte as the new sub-prior, having made his final consecration in the chapter of Windesheim bei Zwolle, one of the centres of the devotio moderna, the “new piety”. One year later he was appointed prior and remained in this office from 1440 to 1447, and again from 1459 until 1479. During this time, he spread the Windesheim Reform with papal support into Lower Saxony, Westphalia, and Thuringia. Busch and his counterparts also provided for the expansion of the monastic library, the previous condition of which nothing is known. Twenty manuscripts secured today for Sülte were all written after the Windesheim Reform, 15 of which are in the Herzog August Bibliothek (including the recently acquired Liturgica Cod. Guelf. 26 and 174 Helmst.). In addition, there are several incunabulae and early prints. During the development of the Wolfenbüttel manuscript holdings, it can also be shown that the canons prepared codices for external patrons or gave them to sister institutions. Multiple manuscripts, later in the possession of the Benedictine monastery Clus bei Gandersheim, originated in Sülte (Cod. Guelf. 272, 292, 307, 385, and 386 Helmst.). The Augustinian convent Heinningen, that was reformed by the provosts from Sülte, Berthold Semeyer and Johannes Busch, also held two manuscripts from Sülte (Cod. Guelf. 399 and 719 Helmst.).

After the 16th century the fate of the chapter was repeatedly determined by events of war, destroying the existence of the books in Sülte with the exception of those manuscripts listed. In 1546, the entirety was hauled away from the monastery that at that time still stood outside the city walls. The temporary new construction was again heavily damaged during the Thirty Years War. The liturgical codices that were saved from destruction were wantonly cut up by Protestant pupils, a few fragments reappearing later. The monastery was re-established at the beginning of the 18th century. After the Repeal of 1803, however, there was no longer a use for it; the buildings, having served as an army barracks, were demolished in 1830. A hotel and event venue now exist on that site, and, except for the few books obtained, no remnant of the monastery of Sülte at Hildesheim remains. In the course of further research into this collection, one or more pieces might yet be added.

  • Bertram Lesser

Further Reading

Hermann Herbst, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bibliothek des Sülteklosters zu Hildesheim, in: Alt-Hildesheim 15 (1936), pp. 30–36

Stefan Bringer, Das Augustiner-Chorherrenstift St. Bartholomäus zur Sülte in Hildesheim. Seine Geschichte zwischen Reformation und Säkularisation und die Seelsorgetätigkeit seiner Chorherren, in: Die Diözese Hildesheim in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart 65 (1997), p. 129–173

Stefan Bringer, Article: “Hildesheim – Kollegiatstift zur Sülte; seit 1119/30 Augustiner-Chorherrenstft, später zeitweilig Doppelstift (Ca. 1034 bis 1803)”, in: Niedersächsisches Klosterbuch. Verzeichnis der Klöster, Stifte, Kommenden und Beginenhäuser in Niedersachsen und Bremen von den Anfängen bis 1810, 4 vols., hrsg. von Josef Dolle und Dennis Knochenhauser, Bielefeld 2012 (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Historische Landesforschung der Universität Göttingen 56/1–4), vol. 2, pp. 706–712