Spirituality and Tourism in Barnim and Uckermark ”at Chorin Monastery

Sven Alhelm

Congress | Saturday, 30 nov 2019

Spirituality and Tourism in Barnim and Uckermark ”at Chorin Monastery

Sven Alhelm

Congress | Saturday, 30 nov 2019

Good day,

First of all I would like to show you where I come from.

The former Cistercian monastery Chorin is about 60 km northeast of Berlin.

It is one of the country’s architectural gems

Brandenburg. You didn’t always appreciate that

which is why it fell into ruins over the centuries after the Reformation in 1542.

What can one do with a formerly spiritual place that has lost its original use?

In the middle of the 19th century, Karl-Friedrich Schinkel ensured that the facility was preserved.

The aim was to make the architectural significance of the Chorin Monastery as a “Backsteingotik” (brick Gothic) building accessible to the public which is interested in culture.

The monastery complex has been used for sightseeing and cultural events since around 1900. As can be seen here on a postcard from 1910.

Although the former monastery complex was in state hands during the German Democratic Republic, church events were always held here. Catholic and Protestant church festivals and devotions.

For several years there have been exhibitions on the history of the use and spiritual life, large concerts are organised,

with more than 1500 visitors and couples can get married here, both civilly and in church.

The rooms of the former monastery can be hired for conferences, seminars, etc.

Three years ago the idea arose to make the original spirit of the former monastery more tangible and it was possible to get funding from the European Social Fund and from the Protestant regional church. My job is paid for with this money.

For some time now, offers in the field of soft tourism have been in great demand across Europe. This includes the areas of health, experiencing nature, spirituality and sustainability. People use their free time to recharge themselves spiritually regardless of religion. They want to experience the connection between themselves and something divine, especially in the environment of beautiful nature.

I try to get actors from tourism and providers from the field of spirituality to talk to each other. There have been so far two meetings with lectures on the subject of hospitality, pilgrimages on the Camino de Santiago, feelings of the individual in the community, and many conversations.

The aim of these conferences was to understand each other better, to get food for thought, to exchange experiences and to advertise with one another.

In the Chorin Monastery itself I have developed various offers that complement the tourist, cultural offer: There is one meditative tour , a leporello with some intellectual and spiritual suggestions for certain places in the monastery complex. Guests are invited to relate their own life to monastic life.

The Quiet hour takes place once a month. Here, visitors can spend an hour in silence in the monastery grounds in the evening.

After a brief introduction, some wander through the cloisters, others look for a favourite spot. There are 4 to 40 visitors.

At the series of events Short speech – long sense we combine dinner with special sensual experiences. This idea developed during Lent.

We wanted to offer something that would sharpen the awareness of food as well as awareness of oneself and the community.

Already since a couple of years the Confirmation monastery camp takes place in the Chorin Monastery.

70-100 confirmands from the surrounding region spend 3 days in the monastery and trace the life of the monks. They spend the night spartanously, take part in craft workshops and prepare the hourly prayers. The Evangelical Church District is responsible for this offer.

The parents of the confirmands thought the idea was so good that they wanted to experience something like that too. That is why there is now the event “24 hour monastery – ora et labora” as a similar two day adult project.

The permanent exhibition of the Chorin monastery includes an animated film about the spiritual life of monks in the Middle Ages,

and a digital reconstruction of the monastery complex that can be viewed with an app on the smartphone. This brings the Cistercian heritage closer to visitors.

In the future there are plans to develop the Chorin Monastery into a pilgrimage centre. Together with the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde and the Jakobusgesellschaft Brandenburg- Oderregion eV Work is underway to revive a section of the Way of St. James from Stettin to Berlin. (Which of course also leads past Chorin Monastery.)

Here we see a map from 1500 in which this pilgrimage route is already marked.

A similarity between Chorin and Maastricht, (24) which is also situated on a pilgrimage route.

Even if the Chorin Monastery is no longer a church site and belongs to the state of Brandenburg, the original spirit cannot be completely banished. And even after a long period of secularization, this place can develop new buds of spirituality. The funding of my project by the European Union is a sign that spiritual life is seen as a European heritage that needs to be preserved.

I would like to encourage you to develop new ideas and to hope for the right times for their implementation. Thank you for your attention.

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About the author

Sven Alhelm

Chorin Monastery, State of Brandenburg