THE HISTORY OF...

VEMMETOFTE KLOSTER
and
TRADITIONS of the KLOSTER

Contents: The earliest history of Vemmetofte - Vemmetofte as a Cloister -
The Cloister Church - A walk in the Cloister garden and the surrounding area.
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 The earliest history of Vemmetofte....

Once upon a time. Thus begin all good, old fairy tales - also the fairy  tale about Vemmetofte.

In the early Viking Age, a man called Wærmund drew attention to himself among the farmers that settled in Stevns, where they cleared the fields and built homes. The name Vemmetofte means literally Wærmund's fenced area.

The first simple farms developed into manor farms and in the middle ages, Vemmetofte was strongly fortified by a circular wall, two moats and drawbridges. This was necessary because of the numerous raids by the Wends and the internal strife in Denmark. The only remains of that old castle are two vaulted cellars with four and eight intersecting vaults respectively.

For many years, Vemmetofte was a home for the nobility, owned by members of the most distinguished lineage in Denmark. For over 250 years it was owned by the Brok family from Gammel Estrup, with the court advisor Eske Brok (died 1625) being one of the most well known, pleasant characters. In 1694 the manor estate was bought by Christian V's queen, Charlotte Amalie, as part of a large buying up of estates in the area. The Queen considered establishing a cloister for noblemen's daughters at Vemmetofte, but she died in 1714 before the plan could be realized.

Her son Prince Carl inherited Vemmetofte and Højstrup, he immediately began rebuilding the greatly neglected manor farm. Prince Carl can be regarded as the creator of the present Vemmetofte. Not only because he rebuilt the manor farm itself, but also because he erected the surrounding buildings - the so called "hamlet" along the present Vemmetoftevej, the large cattle house in the barnyard, stables, timbered houses for the tenant farmers and other employees, bridges over the moats as well as establishing a garden.

It took nine years to complete all these projects and from then on, in place of the old manor, a distinguished, four-winged baroque manor emerged.

Prince Carl

Princess Sophie Hedevig

In 1721 the brother Frederik IV promoted his morganatic wife, Anna Sofie Reventlow, to queen. Prince Carl and his sister, Sophie Hedevig showed their disapproval by turning their backs on the court in the capital and take up permanent residence in Vemmetofte. They died in, respectively, 1729 and 1735, but before Sophie Hedevig died, she had drawn up detailed plans for establishing a cloister for noblemen's daughters. Vemmetofte Cloister for Noblemen's Daughters was founded on 10th June 1735.

 Vemmetofte as a cloister...

The leadership of the cloister was, according to the regulations, delegated to two trustees, in co-operation with the prioress, and the cloister's first trustee became the brother and sister's chamberlain, Carl Adolf von Plessen. Only thanks to his enormous involvement and self-sacrifice, the cloister survived the first economically difficult years. The number of residents at the cloister varied, but it was eventually fixed at eleven.

Prince Carl and Princess Sofie Hedevig had been deeply moved by the pietistic currents of that time. Because of this, the need for charity was realized through the foundation of schools and through charity shown to the orphans, old people, the sick and the poor.

The foundation is also characterized by these intentions. With the introduction of absolute monarchy, the power and influence of the nobles was reduced, and a fitting provision for the nobles' unmarried daughters became a problem. The charity from the different cloisters helped to solve this. This was the cloister's chief purpose, but charity to those who were badly off continued to be important.

In 1976, the former noble's manor, the royal castle, and the cloister for nobles' daughters started a new phase of its existence. The name was changed to Vemmetofte Cloister. Admission requirements were changed radically and with thorough alterations, a framework was created for, so to speak, ordinary citizens to be able to experience a life similar to the conditions in a commune. At the same time the charitable and humane goals that the cloister has always stood for, continued to be honored. Single people as well as couples can start a new chapter of their lives in security and live in inspiring and beautiful surroundings both inside and out.

 The Cloister Church...

Vemmetofte's church was originally a servants' hall, but in 1630 it was converted to a chapel for the present master and mistress: Tyge Brahe and Berete Brok. It is not a large room, but it is well proportioned with intersecting vaulting on two square piers.

The beautiful pulpit has been preserved from Tyge Brahe's time. It is late renaissance, but there are elegant baroque carvings in the decoration. The archway squares are decorated with pictures of the four evangelists. The coats of arms of the Brahe, Hardenberg and Viffert families can be found on the old seat boxes. From the time when it was a public room, built into the east side, there is a very narrow and steep hidden staircase that has led up to Fruerstuen on the first floor.

The remaining church equipment originates essentially from Prince Carl. Of these a richly carved baptism table, a Judgment Day altarpiece in a gilded, carved framework, carved by Jacob Roege.

What gives the room its special character is, however, a collection of paintings by the court artist Henrik Krock. The collection, which shows the Passion of Jesus, was originally placed in the prayer room in Prince Carl's castle "Blågård" near Copenhagen, but it fits in perfectly with the intimate atmosphere of the church.

From 1735 there were two priests - a Danish- and a German-speaking priest! The most well-known of the cloister's priests through the ages, is probably the poet Christian Richardt. Today, Vemmetofte functions as a normal parish church.

 A walk in the Cloister gardens and surroundings...

Vemmetofte lies an hour's drive from Copenhagen. The roads become narrower and narrower as the journey to Vemmetofte progresses- but they also become more beautiful. With the cloister on the left-hand side, drive through Vemmetofte to the central car park. There is free admission to the cloister gardens between 8.00 to 16.00.

The garden is not large, but one can still feel the atmosphere of the old manor farm. Walk down the 300- year-old Lime tree avenue past the thatched tea house, visit the ice house (for food storage) just outside the fence - catch a glimpse of the carp in the cloister moat - follow the winding Kilde stream - look at the garden - or take a walk in Dyrehaven to the beautifully situated churchyard, where Princess Sophie Hedevig had her garden with peacocks.

The cloister is the natural meeting place for a town, but one searches in vain for a village with farms. It was there once, but in 1696 Queen Charlotte Amalie received permission to close down the thirteen farms and the same fate befell eight farms under Prince Carl Snekkelstrup in 1717. In return, the cloister raised several new buildings to cater for special requirements and have still preserved the old names corresponding to their trade: The carpenter's house - the cooper's house - the bakery - the cantor's house - the pharmacy etc.

With the relief scheme for the poor from 1708, it was established that under even the poorest circumstances, no children should be hindered from going to school. Inspired by this, Prince Carl built a school in Lund in 1719. Shortly after this, he established five more. One in Store Torøje, can still be found. This school is Denmark's oldest preserved country school.

Around Vemmetofte village is Vemmetofte manor farm's land, with 800 hectares of highly productive arable farming.

The surrounding forests invite you to take a walk. The area of Vemmetofte Cloister's forest is approximately 1400 hectares and it is important to combine productive forestry with beautiful surroundings. Dyrehaven lies north and east of the cloister with its mighty, ancient oak trees. Both here and in Vesterskov, west of the cloister, as well as Strandskoven along Faxe Bay, one can find not only extensive beech and oak forests, but also great variations of nature in the fruitful soil. There are old and young plantations, woodland areas, bogs, and grazing meadows.

The walk can end, possibly, at Vemmetofte Beach, where there is a camping site and a restaurant. On a lovely summers day you must not cheat yourself of the sandy beach with clean water that is perfect for children.

The beach also offers fairy tales about trolls. On the beach lies a large stone, which is called Mussestenen (the Mouse Stone). A legend tells that the Norwegian "Dovregubbe" wanted his son to marry the cliff king's daughter. When the king of the cliff opposed it, Dovregubben became so angry that he broke a piece of the mountain off and hurled it over to kill the king. Whether he killed the king or not - the stone fell down onto Vemmetofte beach. Another legend tells, however, that a female troll once became angry with the Vemmetofte residents. She took a large stone, put it in her garter and slung it from Møn's Cliff over towards the building - but luckily it didn't hit. The stone fell on the beach and lies there still.

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