Partway along the eastern flank of the Hondsrug ridge in the green zone between Groningen and Haren, you will come across the quiet, secluded hamlet of Essen. For a period of almost 400 years (1215–1594), Essen was home to the Cistercian convent of Yesse. This was the second largest monastery in the province of Groningen and one of the largest convents in the medieval Netherlands. It owned no less than 850 hectares of land and was granted special status as a pilgrimage site because of the miracles that had taken place there.
The more than thirty monasteries that existed in medieval Groningen have left us various clues. Sometimes there is an old geographical map showing where a monastery once stood, or we have books that we know were made in a particular monastery. In most cases, though, our knowledge is very limited. Often, we are not even sure of a monastery’s exact location, how large it was or what it looked like. It is therefore vital that we treasure every remaining trace as a valuable witness of the area’s rich past.
As you can read in the seven stories that make up the digital exhibition Yesse and traces of a rich heritage, the University of Groningen Library is home to a number of the most precious of these remnants. The exhibition also boasts an interactive digital map of the area, with Yesse and other medieval monasteries in the province of Groningen.
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