« Burrows, Winfrid Oldfield Bursfelde, Congregation of Burt, William »

Bursfelde, Congregation of

BURSFELDE, CONGREGATION OF: An association of reformed Benedictine monks, taking its name from the abbey of Bursfelde on the Weser, about 10 m. west of Göttingen, founded by Count Henry of Nordheim and his wife Gertrude in 1093. It had been richly endowed, but by the beginning of the fifteenth century was so far fallen into decay that only a single monk lived there, and he in great poverty, while the church was used by traveling merchants as a stable. Johann of Minden, abbot of Rheinhausen, with Rembert ter List, prior of the Windesheim monastery of Wittenberg, was charged with reforming monastic life in Saxony and Brunswick after the Council of Basel; and the case of Bursfelde was specially commended to him by Duke Otto of Brunswick. He took up the task in 1433, and obtained the monks he needed from the abbey of St. Matthias at Treves. Dying in 1439, he left an equally energetic successor in Johann Hagen, who thoroughly completed the task in the thirty years of his rule, and founded the Congregation, including four other monasteries, with a view to the strict observance of the monastic rule, after the model of the Windesheim Congregation. The spirit grew until Hagen could number thirty-six monasteries, besides some nunneries, under his leadership. The movement spread into the Netherlands also, under the influence of Jan Busch and Nicholas of Cusa. A yearly chapter of the whole congregation was held, always under the presidency of the abbot of Bursfelde. It received numerous privileges from the provincial council held by Nicholas of Cusa in 1451, and was confirmed by Pius II. in 1458 and 1461. It grew after Hagen's death until it numbered 142 monasteries; but in the sixteenth century it began to decline, though there was a brief revival about 1629 and during the Thirty Years' War. Many of the monasteries came into the possession of Protestant princes, including Bursfelde itself, whose Catholic abbot was replaced in 1579 by a Lutheran. Since the foundation of the University of Göttingen, the senior professor of the theological faculty has borne the title of abbot of Bursfelde, with an income derived from the revenues of the foundation. The last head of the Congregation was Bernhard Bierbaum, abbot of Werden, who was elected in 1780 at a chapter held in Hildesheim and died in 1798.

L. Schulze.

Bibliography: Sources are: The Chronicon Windeshemense by J. Busch, ed. with introduction by K. Grube, Halle, 1886; J. G. Leuckfeld, Antiquitates Bursfeldenses, Leipsic, 1713; Ewelt, Die Anfänge der Bursfelder Benediktiner-Kongregation, in Zeitschrift für vaterländische Geschichte, 3d series, vol. v., Münster, 1865. Consult Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen, i. 141–144, 159, 196.

« Burrows, Winfrid Oldfield Bursfelde, Congregation of Burt, William »
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