[source: Wikimedia Commons]
As it was an imperial abbey, the members of the community and their abbess held a special status. Though it’s first abbesses were princesses by birth, the title actually came with the position. The Abbess of Quedlinburg was considered a princess of the Holy Roman Empire and held the responsibilities of a prince. This gave her a seat at the Reichstag and made her ecclesiastically subject to no one but the Pope. Quedlinburg’s emphasis on learning also meant that these women tended to be highly educated.
[Tombstone of Abbess Adelheid I, source: Wikimedia Commons]
Beatrice I, Adelaide II (both 11th century), and Agnes I (12th century) all provided significant political support to the Holy Roman Emperor during conflicts with the Pope. Agnes II (12th century) was a miniaturist and engraver as well as a patron of the arts. Hedwig (15th century) successfully prevented the town of Quedlinburg from joining the Hanseatic League.
In 1539, Anna II converted the monastery to Lutheranism and decreed that nuns who wished could leave to marry. She also selected her successor. Prior to this, the abbess had been elected by the nuns of the community. The last abbess, Sophia Albertina of Sweden was extremely popular in both the community and the town. Her popularity and her staunch opposition to the monastery’s dissolution, however, could not save the community and it was dissolved in 1803.
McNamara, Jo Ann. Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millenia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Stafford, Pauline. Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: the King’s Wife in the Early Middle Ages. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1983.
Matilda, abbess of Quedlinburg - Epistolae
List of Princess-Abbesses 800-1600 - Guide to Women in Leadership
Quedlinburg Abbey - Wikipedia
List of Princess-Qbbesses of Quedlinburg - Wikipedia
Annals of Quedlinburg - Wikipedia