The Princess-Abbesses of Thorn Abbey

Photo by Moniek Bloks

In a small city in the south of the Netherlands lies Thorn Abbey, which once upon a time was an Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire. It was probably founded around 900-1000, sources differ on the exact date. The imperial immediacy of the abbey was confirmed in 1292. It had special imperial protection under Emperor Maximilian I. The abbey stood under the leadership of a (Princess)-abbes.

  • 982 – ?: Hilsondis (or Hilswinde?)
  • 1010 – ?: Benedicta
  •  ? – ?: Godchildis
  •  ? – ?: Adelaide
  • Before 1217: Elizabeth
  • 1217 -: Jutta
  • 1231-1269: Hildegond de Born
  • 1273-1304: Guda of mountain race
  • 1310-1337: Margaret of Bautersheim I
  • 1337: Isonde of Wied
  • 1337-1378: Margaret II of Heinsberg
  • 1389-1397: Margaretha III of Horne Perwez
  • 1404-1446: Mechtilde of Horne
  • 1446-1454: Jacoba of Loon-Heinsberg
  • 1454-1473: Else of Buren
  • 1473-1486: Gertrude de Sombreffe
  • 1486-1531: Eva of Isenburg
  • 1531-1577: Margaretha IV of Brederode
  • 1577-1579: Josina I of Manderscheid
  • 1579-1604: Josina II of the Mark
  • 1604-1631: Anna of the Mark
  • 1631-1632: Josina Walburgis of Löwenstein-Rochefort
  • 1632-1646: Anna Eleonora of Staufen (also Abbess of Essen)
  • 1646-1647: Anna Catherina of Salm-Reiffenscheidt
  • 1647-1690: Anna Salome of Manderscheid-Blankenheim (from 1690 to 1691 she was abbess of Essen)
  • 1690-1706: Eleanor of Löwenstein-Rochefort
  • 1706-1717: Anna Juliana of Manderscheid-Blankenstein
  • 1717-1776: Countess Palatine Francisca Christina of Sulzbach (she was also Abbess of Essen)
  • 1776-1795: Maria Kunigunde of Saxony (she was also Abbess of Essen)


Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks

Quite surprisingly (for me anyway!) Thorn Abbey is the burial place of Maria Christina of Salm-Salm, a daughter of Nikolaus Leopold Fürst of Salm-Salm and Dorothea Franziska Agnes of Salm-Salm. She lived in the abbey from the age of nine and died there at the of 51.

Photo by Moniek Bloks

The identity of the preserved mummy at the abbey are not known exactly. They are quite beautifully preserved, especially the clothing.

Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks

This little box contains the remains of, possible the founder of the abbey, Hilsondis.

Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks
Photo by Moniek Bloks

This wall was once part of the Palace of the Princess-Abbess, but the palace has disappeared.

Photo by Moniek Bloks

Most of the abbey buildings have disappeared, though the Abbey Church (St. Michaels) has remaining details from the time of the founding of the abbey.

It’s quite an adventure to reach Thorn, but once you’re there it’s quite worth it. The local museum currently has an exhibition on the abbey, called “Women and Power”, which will run until 1 January 2017. It’s small but I liked it.

About Moniek Bloks 2226 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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