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Anna Reinholdsdotter (Leuhusen)

?1554

Abbess

Anna Reinholdsdotter Leuhusen was the penultimate Abbess at the Convent of St Klara in Stockholm during the early Reformation in Sweden.

Anna Reinholdsdotter was the daughter of Bela, a tailor’s daughter in Stockholm, and Reinhold Leuhusen, a citizen of Stockholm, whose roots were in Mechelen (Malines in modern Belgium). Apart from Anna, the couple had another daughter, Elisabeth, and two sons, of whom one, Winrik, became a Canon in Uppsala and later a Dean in Västerås. The other son, Martin, was a councillor, initially in Söderköping and later in Stockholm.

Anna Reinholdsdotter was consecrated Abbess of the Convent of St Klara in Stockholm in 1508 at the latest. That year she used this title in a letter she sent out. It is reasonable to assume that she had been a nun in the convent for a number of years prior to that.

In her 1508 letter, Anna Reinholdsdotter gives an account of the material problems that had beset the convent. Its buildings were said to be dilapidated, the roof was about to cave in and the tenant farmers were having difficulties in paying their rents. These economic problems were probably connected to the reduction in donations to the convent during the latter part of the 1400s. The war being waged in the region at the time must also have made it hard for the tenant farmers to afford their dues.

Anna Reinholdsdotter’s name is particularly linked to the convent’s actions in the war against the Danish king Kristian II in 1522 and 1523. In a letter from 1523, she describes the convent’s vulnerable situation. According to her, the convent sisters and their chaplain were all in distress and danger for their lives on account of the war. The Abbess in consultation with the sisters had therefore offered their confessor and chaplain Martin Johansson the opportunity of leaving the convent.

After the war, Anna Reinholdsdotter was accused of having engaged in political double-dealing. In a well-known and often-mentioned passage in Peder Svart’s chronicle, written in about 1560, the story is told of how, in connection with the siege of Stockholm in 1522, Swedes slipped out of the town to join mutineers and sought refuge in the convent which was situated outside the city wall. Anna Reinholdsdotter had a signal made to the enemy Danes so that they could enter the convent and kill the escaped Swedes. This signal was a white cloth by day and a burning lantern by night. According to the chronicle, the convent sisters’ behaviour was tantamount to treason against the national interest and that was the reason why the king later had the convent demolished. There are no contemporary sources that can confirm the story in the chronicle, but on the other hand it is obvious that the Swedish government powers during the years after the war considered the convent’s situation outside the city wall to be a problem when the city was besieged. At the Parliament meeting in Västerås in 1527, the decision was made to tear down the building since its position could be exploited by the enemy.

There are several reasons for scepticism towards Peder Svart’s account of Anna Reinholdsdotter’s double-dealing, but it should be emphasised at the same time that it is not completely unlikely. Both her father and her brother Martin displayed political sympathies for union with Denmark. As the chronicle also pointed out, Anna Reinholdsdotter’s sister Elisabeth was married to Gorius Holste, a Stockholm citizen who was the mayor of the town and who was kindly disposed towards the Danish regime.

Information in the Stockholm town book of minutes early in June 1524 shows that the Convent of St Klara had a special connection with the Danish regime. The convent had apparently been thoroughly searched to find goods that citizens in the town had lost. During this search, “the nun” had admitted that she had received the objects in question and other others taken by the enemy, which she had in keeping. If the Danes chose to deposit stolen objects in the convent, this suggests that the sisters were understood to be loyal to the Danish regime.

Anna Reinholdsdotter remained as Abbess of St Klara at least until 1525 when Elin Thomasdotter used the same title. After the convent building had been pulled down in 1527, the sisters had the opportunity of continuing their life in the order in the former Franciscan Monastery on Gråmunkeholmen (now Riddarholmen). Their activities changed according to a royal decree when the convent was formally turned into a hospital in 1531. Twenty years later, this hospital was moved to Danviken, a short distance outside town. Despite the change in external activities, the sisters in the order seem to have been able to retain their internal community as a group of unmarried women under the leadership of an Abbess.

According to some sources, Anna Reinholdsdotter returned to her secular life in the Stockholm upper class after this. This is uncertain information and is contradicted by a source from 1554, the year that Anna Reinholdsdotter probably died. In documents from Uppland there is a post that year in a list of money that had been willed to the hospital. There it states that “Söster anna Reinholstdotter j Closterit” had willed 63 coins. The fact that she had donated her estate to the convent and was besides given the title of “sister” belonging to the “Closterit” indicates that at her death she was still a member of the community in Danviken.

Anna Reinholdsdotter is linked with the so-called Leuhusenska gold chain preserved in the Gold Room at the Historiska Museum in Stockholm. The gold chain consists of 97 links with so-called filigree work and has been deposited along with a rosary with 55 beads made of silver and gold, as well as some other jewellery, all of it coming from the Leuhusen family. One tradition, that can be traced and confirmed back to the 1600s, states that the gold chain had its origins in the Convent of St Klara and that every Abbess since Rikissa Magnusdotter (d. 1348), had worn it until Anna Reinholdsdotter broke with that tradition and turned the gold chain into a family heirloom. Carl Ramsell af Ugglas and Aron Andersson have dismissed this theory of a link as far back as Rikissa on art historical grounds, but on the other hand they are of the opinion that the objects have belonged to Anna Reinholdsdotter. The gold chain, according to their assessment, was made in the early 1500s, and was intended to be used as a belt or belt ornament.

Anna Reinholdsdotter probably died in 1554.


Martin Berntson
(Translated by Margaret Myers)


Published 2021-11-14



You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Anna Reinholdsdotter (Leuhusen), www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/AnnaReinholdsdotterLeuhusen, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Martin Berntson), retrieved 2022-05-25.




Other Names

    Alternate name: Leuhausen


Family Relationships

Civil Status: Unmarried
  • Mother: Bela
  • Father: Reinhold Leuhausen
  • Sister: Elisabeth
more ...


Activities

  • Profession: Ordenssyster, S:ta Klaras konvent
  • Profession: Abbedissa, S:ta Klaras konvent


Contacts

  • Relative: Gorius Holste, svåger
  • Colleague: Martin Johansson


Residences

  • Birthplace: Stockholm
  • Stockholm
  • Place of death: Stockholm


Sources

Literature