Das Kloster bei Sendomir

Das Kloster bei Sendomir; The Monastery near Sandomierz (1828)

Like many German-language novellas, this story has a frame narrative. Two knights arrive at a monastery outside Sandomierz in south-eastern Poland. They ask a monk about the history of the monastery. The monk tells them it was built thirty years ago. When they ask him who founded the monastery, the monk bursts into mocking laughter. The monk asks them if they come from Warsaw; when they say no, he agrees to sit with them and tell them about the monastery’s founder, Count Starschensky.

This story within the story begins when Starschensky meets a woman called Elga. She is the daughter of the Starost of Laschek, whose sons have been exiled for causing political unrest. Starschensky arranges for Elga’s brothers to be pardoned, and he also rescues the family estate from bankruptcy. The two brothers return from exile with their friend Oginsky, and start spending Starschensky’s money. Starschensky marries Elga and stops financing the brothers’ excesses. Starschensky and Elga have a daughter and they go and live on Starschensky’s family estate. One day Starschensky’s steward warns him that one of his brother-in-laws’ friends is visiting the castle in secret at night. When Starschensky investigates these mysterious visits, the consequences are tragic.

The story was later dramatised by Gerhart Hauptmann: Elga (written 1896, published 1905).

Further Reading

Richard Allen, ‘The Fine Art of Concealment in Grillparzer’s “Das Kloster bei Sendomir”’, Michigan Germanic Studies 1 (1975), 181-88