Halsted Priory

Halsted Priory was a small Benedictine house located near Nakskov, on the island of Lolland, Denmark.


Halsted Priory was from Viking times crown property. An old granite parish church had been built on the site in the 12th century. A papal recognition of the priory was written in 1177. Halsted is next mentioned by name in Valdemar Sejr's 1231 inventory (Danish: jordebog). Erik Plovpenny's daughter Jutta came into possession of Halsted in 1284 and then unexpectedly died the same year. She willed it to the abbot of the Benedictine priory in Ringsted. The existing church at Halsted was constructed around the earlier church in conjunction with the building of the daughter monastery which was dedicated to St. Samson the Breton. The church became a pilgrimage site for commoners and royals alike for the veneration of St. Samson, because the church had a reliquary with his head in it.

The priory was built in a roughly rectangular shape with space for a dormitory, refectory, kitchens, storage, cellars, and space for lay brothers. No contemporary description of Halsted Priory survives. Given the time period in which it was built, it can safely be said that the buildings were built in Gothic style out of brick as evidenced by the church which still stands today. The interior spaces had vaulted roofs. Halsted was a small house, but to survive must have had at least a few income properties which over the centuries came to the monastery from wills or letters of gift in return for prayers for the souls of the recently departed, though no such letters have survived to the present.

The only historical event known to involve the priory was when Prince Erik, the son of Christoffer II lay at Halsted for 14 days before being moved to his final resting place at Sorø Abbey.

In 1510 the Hanseatic League sacked nearby Nakskov and then sailed up the fjord to Halsted where they set fire to the priory burning the east and west ranges. The priory archives have all been lost except for a single letter of indulgence dated 1517. The priory was restored and was made an abbey, but the winds of change were blowing in Denmark and would within a decade empty the priory permanently.

By the 1520s many Danes were extremely unhappy with the financial burdens the Catholic church imposed on them. In addition to forced payment of tithes and fees for every conceivable service, peasant tenants were also required to work fields and farms owned by the many religious institutions that were a part of everyday life in Denmark at the time. Christian II, Denmark's last Catholic king, was forced from the throne and exiled leaving Frederick I on the throne. Frederik attempted to find a middle ground between the new fervent Lutherans and the fiercely traditional Catholics. Funds used to support small religious houses like Halsted simply evaporated. Being a daughter house, made the priory vulnerable to funding cuts that made it impossible for the small out of the way priory to continue. Denmark became Lutheran in October 1536 under Christian III. Unlike many religious institutions Halsted was permitted to keep its monks until 1537 when it reverted to the crown.

The abbey was owned by a succession of nobles including queens and crown princes until 1721. In 1591 the priory complex was expanded, while in the possession of Queen Sophia, the widow of Frederick II. A new main building including a grand staircase and prison tower were constructed. By 1719 the older buildings were in sad disrepair as noted in a crown inventory. The buildings were put into order by 1721 when the great naval hero Niels Juel Vind was rewarded with Halsted Priory by Frederick V for his service to the crown. Juel renamed the property Juellinge. The modern building called Halsted Priory was constructed in 1847–49 with Gothic elements to recall the original building on the site.

Juellinge was sold by the Juel Vind family in 1921 and the name Halsted Priory was restored to the property. Only the church remains of the old monastery complex, the oldest church on Lolland.

See also


Jorgensen, Ellen. 'Helgendyrkelse i Danmark'. (Worship of Saints in Denmark). (Danish)

Coordinates: 54°50′49″N 11°13′33″E / 54.8470°N 11.2258°E / 54.8470; 11.2258

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