Deaconess Motherhouse "Neuvandsburg"
In the 1930s, the small town of Elbingerode in the Harz Mountains became home to a highly modern building that ranks among the most significant examples of the New Architecture. This came about thanks to the persuasiveness of the young architect Godehard Schwethelm and the open-mindedness of the Deaconess Sisterhood, a community of Protestant nuns. Today, the Deaconess Motherhouse “Neuvandsburg” is still home to 150 nuns who live in the cloister. Its mission remains and its centre for evangelical social welfare work, built from 1932 to 1934, continues to serve residential and charitable nursing functions to this day.
In early June 1934, some 4,000 guests gathered to celebrate the building’s dedication. By employing a modern steel skeleton – then a relatively new construction method – the shell of the building had been completed during just one summer, before the onset of frost. The main part of the complex rises five storeys high, adjoined by a two-storey side wing. Both are clad in pale beige clinker bricks. The façade is kept simple, with rounded accents and discrete areas highlighted with bricks in varying red tones. The entire complex is defined by clear lines and forms, practical solutions and functionality.
The building’s equipment and fixtures were extremely modern for the time. This included a passenger lift, a telephone booth, turbines for power generation, built-in wall cabinets and even a dishwasher that was only replaced during the renovation of 1993–1995. The light-filled dining hall seats 180 people. Due to its open and flexible design, the church hall, with its colourful stained glass windows, can be used in a variety of ways that include more than just religious functions. The seating and pulpit are not permanently installed; the altar and cross are very simple and unpretentious. The dais in the hall is removable, and a projection screen was also installed. A folding door separates the church interior from a winter garden, enlarging the room when pushed to the side.
The building also has one feature that is unique in all of Germany: beneath the church hall is a swimming pool with individual bathing facilities. Offered the choice between using surplus heat from the steam boilers for either a greenhouse or a bathing area, the Mother Superior at the time chose the pool in the interest of healthy living. It is still in use today. Thanks to proper care by the deaconesses and a renovation carried out in the mid-1990s, the entire building is still in very good condition. [KL/DK]
Contact and opening hours
Die Sanierung des Hauses wird gefördert durch das Land Sachsen-Anhalt.