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The Abbey in Ystad

Den vackra korsgången. Bild: Lucas Gölén.

Den vackra korsgången. Bild: Lucas Gölén.

The Franciscan monastery was founded in 1267 and is together with Vadstena monastery the best kept monastery in Sweden.

The monastery that was NOT demolished…

…although it was painfully close many times. Wasn’t that a stroke of luck – otherwise you would not be able to visit the oldest medieval monastery in Sweden. Please do! Today the monastery in Ystad is an interesting museum. Apart from presenting the unique history of the monastery it presents several temporary exhibitions with themes that connect to the many different usages of the building over time. The exhibitions can be about food and garden history, architecture and handicraft but also about betrayal and murder, self sacrifice and sudden painful death…

Let’s take it from the beginning…

It was in 1267 that Franciscan monks established their monastery in the Danish city of Ystad. The headquarters were found in Italy. The monks were often called “Grey brothers” due to their often simple, colorless cowls but they were also called beggar brothers due to the fact that they begged for their daily bread.

The monasteries in the North also functioned as news agents, in particular the Franciscan monasteries. News that most certainly spread quickly was when the Queen of the Union Margrethe visited the monastery in Ystad. This has with certainty happened at least once perhaps on several occasions.

For almost three hundred years the brothers built on their enclosed monastery establishment. But on the day before Lady Day Annunciation in 1532 they were driven off under dramatic circumstances due to ideas of the reformation. Quite soon the west and north building lay in ruins. The east building was kept to found an asylum, something between a hospital and an old age home. The ruins after the two demolished buildings are however still there beautifully embedded by roses. The hospital era ended in 1777 after which a distillery was established. After the aquavit distillery the monastery was used as a granary. When the city of Ystad bought the house on auction in 1876 not much remained of its former glory. The ruins of the monastery were a disgrace to the city, people said. It ought to be demolished!

Ystads Fornminnesförening… (Ystads antiquarian association)

…was founded in 1907 and became a source of support for the many powers that eventually emerged victorious from the “Monastery battle”. Between 1909 and 1912 a radical renovation was undertaken. “The old loitering building” once again assumed its monastery shape albeit renovated after the taste of the times. Here was established a museum and library. One could say that the Monastery, “Klostret”, became Ystads first cultural arts centre.

Klosterkyrkan (The Monastery church), hallowed for S:t Petrus among others, was a parish church up until 1960 when it was renovated and donated to the city to be used for boundary breaking cultural activity. Today the church is used for both service and museum activities.

The wonderful gardens of Klostret…

…have become a wonderful meeting place both for Ystads citizens as well as for visitors from around the world. In 2002 the rose garden was set up in the heart of the monastery court yard designed by the artist Maria Björklund. She choose Saint Katarina’s wheel as the starting point since Saint Katarina was one of the Franciscan monks most important saints. She met her martyr death after having been confronted with a barbed wheel. In the center of the rose garden stands a well designed by Camilla Bergman.

The municipality’s park department has since set up a wonderful orchard with seats. Here one can enjoy a picnic surrounded by almond, walnut, elder, mulberry, figs, apples and pears. One can also admire the cabbage garden, herb garden and the latest peony garden, located behind the monastery pond.

A museum shop with high quality…

…attracts many visitors year around. Here you can find an assortment of goods not found elsewhere such as wrought-iron, glass, ceramics, silver and textile which mirror much of the local cultural heritage. In addition there is a well stocked book shelf!