History of the building

Monastery and church

The impressive Gothic stone structure which seems uniform at first glance was actually constructed over several stages. The works started in 1286 with the long, single-nave choir. This part of the church, restricted to the monks only, contained the high altar and the choir stalls. Although the first intention was presumably an asymmetrical double-nave or single-nave structure, a change in plans led to the construction of the triple-nave building as the place of worship for the masses.

The church was probably completed during the second half of the 14th century and is firmly joined to the outside by stepped buttresses and pointed arch windows cut into the wall surfaces. As the monks were sworn to modesty, richer architectural decoration was limited to specific areas only, such as the beautiful tracery windows and the elaborate main portal on the north side of the nave. This served as the point of access for members of the public. The frieze of tendrils on the north side of the eastern nave arcade still bears witness to the former coloured version of the interior. A late-Gothic extension in the 15th century added a narrow bell tower south of the choir..

In 1560, the building was converted to an Evangelical parish church and was reorganised accordingly. After further expansions over the 18th century, the church was fully restored by Ferdinand von Quast in 1868-70. This led to the current western portal and its associated small window.?St. Paul’s church was destroyed by the end of World War II. The row of pillars at the southern end of the nave and all vaults and roofing were lost. In 2004/2005, the missing pillars and the eastern gable were reconstructed and new roofing was installed, restoring the silhouette of the church in the city skyline. The vaults, however, were not rebuilt, and the original untouched stonework behind them reflects the changing destinies of the building. The most important remains of the medieval elements are the rood cross and the stained glass windows of the choir. Both were returned to St. Paul’s Monastery after their restoration.

Cloister

South of the church, hidden from the bustle of the city, were the living and working quarters of the convent from the late 13th to the end of the 15th century. Its new use as a hospital and almshouse after the reformation, damage from the war, and its gutting from 1958-67 led to significant losses. Nevertheless, the Brandenburg Dominican cloister is one of the overall best preserved mendicant order cloisters in north-eastern Germany.

The individual wings are arranged around the four-armed, fully preserved quadrangle. The eastern wing, which is the oldest, contains the main rooms of the convent. The ground floor housed the sacristy in the north, leading on to the chapter house, which was accessible from the quadrangle via a richly designed portal, with the “Brothers’ Hall”, a room for work and leisure in the convent, to the south of a passage. Traces on the walls and archaeological findings show that these rooms were originally vaulted and had two naves. Below the southern section lies a well-preserved cellar facility with rib- and barrel-vaulted annexes. The upper floor of the eastern wing was home to the dormitory, lit through three large tracery windows on the southern side of the gable. Originally, wooden dividing walls separated the large room into sleeping and study quarters for the monks. The southern wing included the refectory, which was the dining hall of the cloister. Gothic vaulted rooms were kept in the north end of the western wing. Given the Order’s dedication to study, they were probably used as lecture rooms and a library. This area also included spaces for the cloister to welcome guests and to host the margraves. During the restoration works, remains of medieval steps leading up to the upper floor were found at the northern end of this wing which once partially protruded into the nave of the church.

Library

The new library (“liberey”) added in 1497 is a particularly interesting part of the cloister, an otherwise rare testament to the high value placed on study and sciences among Dominican orders. The two-storey, late-Gothic construction on the west side of the church is linked to the cloister via the gatehouse. While the ground floor housed the Rosary Chapel, the upper floors were used as a spacious, well-lit study library. The even false ceiling added as part of the conversion to a fire station in the 18th century was reproduced in the meantime.

External facilities

The lands of the cloister were separated from the surrounding city by walls. Alongside the church was the churchyard, which citizens of Brandenburg could also use as a burial ground. South of the cloister was the farmyard, including a brewery and kitchen as separate structures that were not preserved. In the southwest corner were the gardens looked after by the monks.


The Brandenburg Dominican cloister is one of the most impressive examples of High Gothic architecture in the Mark region and was important for the expansion of brick construction in the area. Although the site is sparsely furnished in line with the ideals of the Order, its impressive design and large size do make it stand out. Since the refurbishment was finished, St. Paul’s Monastery has reclaimed its place as one of the silhouettes dominating the city skyline.

Author: Marcus Cante

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