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Saxony purchases library from St. Marienthal monastery

View of the St. Mariental monastery in Ostritz / Photo: Pawel Sosnowski/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa
View of the St. Mariental monastery in Ostritz / Photo: Pawel Sosnowski/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

The St. Marienthal Psalter is considered the most important work from the library of the monastery of the same name and dates back to the first quarter of the 13th century. Now the bibliophile holdings from St. Marienthal have a new owner.

Saxony has acquired the historically valuable library of the St. Marienthal monastery in Ostritz (district of Görlitz). "The Free State was thus able to preserve this unique Saxon cultural heritage in its entirety, secure it for science and research and preserve it permanently for the public and future generations," the Saxon State and University Library (SLUB) announced on Wednesday. The Free State and the monastery had agreed on a purchase price of 5.5 million euros. The purchase was made possible with the financial support of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation.

"The monastery library of St. Marienthal is of great cultural-historical and scientific importance to the Free State of Saxony. It is a testimony to the foundations of Christianity and an outstanding landmark in Saxony's history. When the possible sale of the library became public, we agreed that we had to secure this cultural heritage for our homeland," said Culture Minister Barbara Klepsch (CDU).

"The purchase allows the public a new insight into Saxony's early history," emphasized Martin Hoernes, Secretary General of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, which has been supporting public collections in the acquisition of valuable works of art since 1983.

St. Marienthal Monastery is located directly on the Neisse River and was founded in 1234. It is the oldest surviving monastery of the female branch of the Cistercian order in Germany. According to the SLUB, the monastery's library is of exceptional value to science. It is a closed collection of monastic educational culture and outstanding historical sources that has grown since the late Middle Ages.

According to its Director General Katrin Stump, the State Library will work together with the Manuscript Center of Leipzig University Library to maintain the holdings. "In addition to providing the best possible support for research, we are particularly keen to communicate the historical significance of the monastery library to the general public. Following the current presentation of two manuscripts, we are planning a large exhibition in 2025 with many different items from the collection."

The historical monastery library of St. Marienthal comprises more than 2,700 titles from the 12th to 19th centuries, including medieval manuscripts, incunabula, old prints and historical documents, which became the property of the Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library with the purchase. The St. Marienthal Psalter - a manuscript from the 13th century - is considered the most magnificent piece in the library. Some of the historical printed works will remain on loan in the baroque library hall of the monastery.

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