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High above the historic city centre of Solingen-Gräfrath, a village typical for the "Bergisches Land" with market-place, fountain and 18th century houses, there are the buildings of the former abbey and later Augustine ladies’ seminary Gräfrath. Founded in 1185, there lived many of the unmarried daughters of the nobility of the Bergisches Land until it was finally closed in 1803.

The seminary’s buildings with their baroque forms as we see them today originate from the first decades of the 18th century and traces of older buildings do no longer exist. In former times disastrous fires destroyed the Gräfrath city centre more than once and flying sparks did also do damage to the abbey and the church. For example in 1686 almost the whole village including abbey and church burned down. 400 out of 500 inhabitants lost their homes. In July 1717 the rebuilt parts of the abbey were again burned down as they were struck by lightening. Now the whole seminary was again rebuilt, using what was left over of the old building.

After the seminary was closed, the buildings were used in many different ways. From 1820 onwards the Prussian government used them as barracks, at that time one wing of the building was demolished, because originally there was a closed courtyard as is usual for an abbey. Later the buildings were used as a borstal for girls, than as an old people’s home and finally as the city of Solingen’s archive.

In 1990 the former seminary’s interiors were completely rebuilt and redecorated according to the needs of the Deutsches Klingenmuseum. Under the guidance of the famous architect Josef Paul Kleihues clear, cool rooms with carefully planned room axis and lines of vision developed. Despite all modernisation the old building’s character was preserved and the memories of its varied and interesting history still remain. Since 1991 the former ladies’ seminary is the new home of the Deutsches Klingenmuseum.




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