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A former Cistercian abbey in Eichsfeld, founded on 1 August, 1162 by Count Ernst of Tonna. It was first called Albolderode and belonged to the electorate of Mainz. The monks who came from the monastery of Volkerode near Mühlhausen, displayed a brisk economic activity, and in the thirteenth century acquired about fifty estates in the neighbourhood. Little is known of the domestic life of the abbey, even the sequence of the abbots being uncertain. A monk, Heinrich Pfeifer, left Reifenstein in 1521, became a Lutheran, preached rebellion in his native town Mühlhausen, shared the leadership with Thomas Münzer in the Thuringian Peasants' War, and in May, 1525, reduced Reifenstein to ashes. After the battle of Frankenhausen Pfeifer was seized near Eisenach and executed; he died impenitent. In 1524 only six monks were left in Reifenstein, which underwent a complete decline; in 1539 one remained, and the monastery was soon deserted. In 1575 there was a single monk, and in 1579, five or six, but they led so lawless a life that Reifenstein, according to a contemporary report, resembled a robbers' cave. The church was restored in 1582. The exemplary Abbot Philipp Busse (1589-1639) re-established discipline and order. During the Thirty Years' War the monastery was pillaged seven times and almost reduced to ashes, Abbot Philipp was carried off as a prisoner, and six or seven monks were murdered. The other monks sought shelter in caves, and begged bread from the peasants. The revival of the monastery was mainly due to the learned Abbot Wilhelm Streit (1690-1721). In 1738 it had twenty-four members, and survived the distress of the Seven years' War. In 1802 the abbey fell to Prussia, was abolished on 2 March, 1803, and became a royal domain. The last abbot was Antonius Loffler (d. 1823). At present, agriculture and a school of domestic science for young women are carried on at Reifenstein. The imposing church, built in 1743, is used as a shed.
WOLF, Politische Gesch. des Eichsfeldes (Gottingen, 1793), passim; IDEM, Eichsfeldische Kirchengesch. (Gottingen, 1816), passim; DUVAL, Das Eichsfeld (Sondershausen, 1845), 19-120; STURZER, Reifenstein im Eichsfelde in Cistercienser-Chronik, VII (Bregenz, 1896), 1-10, 33-43, 65-74, 102-8; SCHNEIDERWIRTH, Das einstige Cistercienserkloster Reifenstein (Heiligenstadt, 1902); KNIEB, Gesch. der Reformation u. Gegenref. auf dem Eichsfelde (2nd ed., Heiligenstadt, 1909), passim.