Former noted Benedictine Abbey in Westphalia, Germany, founded in 815; suppressed in 1803
Liesborn, a former noted Benedictine Abbey in Westphalia, Germany, founded in 815; suppressed in 1803. It was situated near Beckum, in the southeastern part of the district of Munster. According to an old tradition the monastery was established in 785 by Charlemagne. More probably, however, it was built in 815 by two laymen, Bozo and Bardo, whom the register of deaths of Liesborn names as the founders. At first Liesborn was a convent for women. As time passed on the nuns grew more and more worldly so that in 1131 Bishop Egbert of Munster expelled them, and installed Benedictine monks in their place. It was several times besieged by enemies, and from the thirteenth century ascetic life steadily declined as the abbey increased in wealth. The monastery became a kind of secular foundation, into which the nobility gained admittance through influence. In 1298 the property of the abbey was divided into separate prebends, twenty-two of them full prebends, and six for boys. The Bursfeld Union successfully worked here also (1465) for the restoration of discipline. To the Union was due the flourishing condition of Liesborn in the period of the excellent abbots Heinrich of Cleves (1464-90), and Johann Smalebecker (1490-1522), who restored the buildings and greatly improved the economic condition of the abbey. Monastic life, art, and study flourished again. The zeal of Liesborn influenced other Benedictine abbeys, and it succeeded in reestablishing discipline and the cloister in several convents for women. The beautiful altar-paintings with which Abbot Heinrich adorned the church became famous, but under French administration (1807) they sold for a mere song. The artist is unknown, and the best pictures are now in the National Gallery, London.
The pious Bernard Witte, a warm friend of Humanistic learning, was a monk at Liesborn (1490 to about 1534). He wrote a history of Westphalia and a chronicle of the abbey. The period of prosperity, however, did not last long. Abbot Anton Kalthoff (1522-32) adopted the doctrines of the Anabaptists and was deposed; Gerlach Weethof (1554-82) favored the Protestants and involved the monastery heavily in debt; under Johann Rodde (1582-1601) immorality and economic decay again increased. Conditions were still worse during the disorders caused by the wars of the seventeenth century. It was not until the Peace of Westphalia (1648) that any improvement appeared, and then it was only for a short time, for the wars of the eighteenth century also laid waste Liesborn so that at the time of the suppression there were still several thousand thalers of debt. The abbey was suppressed May 2, 1803, and was declared the property of the Prussian Crown. The Gothic church, rebuilt 1499-1506, and several monastic buildings, are still standing.