UNESCO World Heritage Site #217: Maulbronn Monastery Complex

UNESCO World Heritage Site #217: Maulbronn Monastery Complex
UNESCO World Heritage Site #217: Maulbronn Monastery Complex

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Cistercian Maulbronn Monastery is considered the most complete and best preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps. The monastery’s church, mainly in Transitional Gothic style, had a major influence on the spread of Gothic architecture over much of northern and central Europe. The water-management system at Maulbronn, with its elaborate network of drains, irrigation canals, and reservoirs, is of exceptional interest.

After their lack of success in building a new monastery at Eckenweiher, land in the Salzach valley belonging to the Bishop of Speyer was donated to a small community of twelve monks led by Abbot Dieter from the Cistercian abbey of Neubourg (Alsace). Here in 1147 they began building their monastery of Maulbronn, under the protection of the Holy See. Nine years later it was taken under the direct protection of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The church was completed in 1178 and consecrated by Arnold, Bishop of Speyer.

Over the next century the temporary wooden buildings of the community were progressively rebuilt in stone. The Reformation was a time of great turmoil, not least for the Monastery of Maulbronn. It was seized in 1504 by Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg, who reformed and secularized it 30 years later, after it had twice been plundered during periods of unrest. The Emperor Charles V returned it to the Cistercians in 1547, only for it to be reformed again in 1556 by Christoph, Duke of Württemberg, who established a Protestant monastery school there and allowed private owners to acquire some of the buildings. During the Thirty Years’ War it was once again handed back to the Cistercians by the Emperor Maximilian in 1630, but they were to stay only three years, and it finally became a Protestant establishment with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.The entire church property was secularized by King Friedrich I of Württemberg in 1806 and in the following year it became a Protestant theological seminary, which it has remained to the present day.

The Maulbronn Monastery is a picturesque monastery located about an hour from Speyer.

A former Cistercian monastery I found it highly reminiscent of the Poblet Monastery outside of Barcelona, which is also a Cistercian monastery. The layout of the cloister in both sites is highly similar.

In addition to the monastery grounds itself, there are many buildings surrounding the cloister which were also part of the monastery complex and were used by lay members of the order. Today they are used at the town hall, a pharmacy and a restaurant among other things.

During my visit in March 2013 the main church was undergoing renovations, but they expected it to be done by the end of the year.

Since the reformation the facility has been used as a Lutheran seminary. One of its most famous students was the astronomer Johannes Kepler.