Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota
One of the reasons we traveled to Bremen, Germany in May was to visit the towns where my mother’s family came from.
My maternal great grandmother’s family came from a town a few miles south of Bremen. The family last name was Cluver, and they came from Verden, a town with about 25,000 people. It was a very important place in the Middle Ages. Charlemagne slaughtered 4500 Saxons there in 782 for sliding back to pagan worship after they had been baptized. I imagine some of them were my relatives. The town was closely connected to the Old Saxon Law courts nearby. The town was considered a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire. A medium size cathedral, built between the 12th and 15th centuries, was home to a Prince Bishop from 1180 on, from whom my Cluver ancestors enjoyed great political patronage. That relationship also caused the eventual downfall of the family.
We have extensive records on the Cluvers. They were very wealthy in the centuries before the Reformation. Northern Germany is flat, low, and swampy, and the Cluvers possessed the knowledge and ability to drain wetland so that it could be used for growing crops. The Cluvers often loaned money to the Prince Bishop of Verden as well as the Prince Archbishop of Bremen. The bishops rewarded the Cluvers with land, allowed them to live on grand estates that they owned, and used their influence to further the Cluver’s business and political aspirations. Things went well until the Reformation and the 30 Years War, when Sweden invaded and occupied the area and the whole region became Protestant. The Prince Bishops were ousted from power.The Cluvers clung tenaciously to the Church and refused to convert, I believe as much out of greed as from religious conviction. They didn’t want to abandon the cash cow that gave them so much prestige and power. I gather that they were pretty annoying and rebellious toward the occupying Swedes, who retaliated by killing as many male Cluvers they could find. Eventually, the family lost most of their wealth and lands, and became small Lutheran farmers like the majority of their neighbors.
It is hard to describe the feelings I had as I walked in the cathedrals of Bremen and Verden and saw the monuments and tombs of my ancestors. There is a quite large and elaborate tablet from 1457 on the wall near the north Tower in the cathedral in Bremen in memory of Segebad Cluver. I wonder how he would feel knowing how things turned out. Greed can be pretty destructive. I also saw acres and acres of good farmland, though, so I suppose the family contributed something to the area that lasted.
What is a a gift or opportunity you’ve come to regret?