Maulbronn Monastery

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Maulbronn Monastery
German: Kloster Maulbronn
Courtyard facade - Maulbronn Monastery.jpg
Maulbronn Abbey, circa 2017
Location in Germany
Location in Germany
Maulbronn Monastery
Location in Germany
49°0′4″N 8°48′46″E / 49.00111°N 8.81278°E / 49.00111; 8.81278Coordinates: 49°0′4″N 8°48′46″E / 49.00111°N 8.81278°E / 49.00111; 8.81278
Location Maulbronn, Baden-Württemberg
Country Germany
Denomination Pre-Reformation church
Previous denomination Catholic Church
Churchmanship High church
Founded 1147[1]
Dedication Mary
Associated people Arnold, Bishop of Speyer
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg
Franz von Sickingen
Emperor Charles V
Christoph, Duke of Württemberg
Gustavus Adolphus
Johannes Kepler
Ezéchiel du Mas, Comte de Mélac
Frederick I of Württemberg
Hermann Hesse
Status Abbey
Functional status Preserved
Architectural type Monastery
Style Romanesque
Groundbreaking 1147[1]
Closed 1534
Demolished 1519 (burned by Franz von Sickingen)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official name Maulbronn Monastery Complex
Criteria Cultural: (ii), (iv)
Reference 546rev
Inscription 1993 (17th Session)
Imperial Monastery of Maulbronn
Reichskloster Maulbronn
Imperial Abbey
Layout of the Maulbronn Monastery
Capital Maulbronn Abbey
Government Theocracy
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Founded as Imperial abbey 1147
 •  Placed under Imperial
    protection by Barbarossa

 •  Seized by Württemberg 1504
 •  Monastery alternates between
    Protestantism and Cistercians

 •  Peace of Westphalia settles
    monastery to Protestantism

 •  Secularised to Württemberg 1806
 •  Seminary merged with
    that of Bebenhausen

Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bishopric of Speyer
Kingdom of Württemberg
Today part of  Germany

Maulbronn Monastery (German: Kloster Maulbronn) is a former Roman Catholic Cistercian Abbey and Protestant seminary at Maulbronn, Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg.[2] The 850 year old, mostly Romanesque monastery complex, one of the best preserved examples of its kind in Europe,[3] is one of the very first buildings in Germany to use the Gothic style.[4] In 1993, the abbey was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[1]

The complex, surrounded by turreted walls and a tower gate, today houses the Maulbronn town hall and other administrative offices, a police station, and several restaurants. The monastery itself contains an Evangelical seminary in the Württemberger tradition and a boarding school.


Maulbronn Monastery complex is located at 49°0′4″N 8°48′46″E / 49.00111°N 8.81278°E / 49.00111; 8.81278 in Maulbronn, Germany, on the southwestern edge of the Stromberg, which is located in the Kraichgau region that is to the south of the Odenwald and to the north of the Black Forest.



Under the auspices of the Saint Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, the Cistercians began major expansion into southern Germany. A knight named Walter von Lomersheim donated his inheritance, the town of Eckenweiler, to the founding of a new monastery, which he planned to join as a lay brother. To this end, the Neubourg Abbey in Alsace sent 12 monks, headed by Abbot Dieter of Morimond, who arrived at the site 24 March 1138. However, the site did not meet the needs of a Cistercian monastery, most notably the lack of abundant water. By 1146, the presiding Bishop of Speyer, Günther von Henneberg, took control of the matter. He declared the initial site unsuitable, and donated his own fiefdom of Mulenbrunnen, a remote forested valley, and had likely completed the move in 1147.


From 1156, the monastery was a Vogtei of the Holy Roman Empire, and was confirmed in 1332. However, the abbey continued chose to be under the protection of the Bishop of Speyer, who awarded the title as a sub-Vogt to his minister Heinrich von Enzberg, who would from 1236 appear in documentation as the protector of the abbey. Over the following decades, Maulbronn monastery would struggle, sometimes violently, with the von Enzbergs who tried to use their protection of the monastery to expand their own power base. From 1325 onward the Rhenish Palatine Counts were entrusted with the Vogt title.

In 1504, Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg laid siege to Maulbronn and captured it after seven days during the War of the Succession of Landshut.

In 1525, during the German Peasants' War, the monastery was looted by rebel forces. Their leader, Jäcklein Rohrbach, stayed at Maulbronn for a time and complained to Hans Wunderer of the disorganization of the peasant force who were unable to decide whether to demolish or ransom the abbey. Due to Rohrbach's intercession, Maulbronn Abbey still exists today.

Because the Duchy of Württemberg became Protestant, the monks of the abbey were no longer tolerated by the political authority of the state. The monastery was at first intended to be a collection monastery (German: Sammelkloster) for retired monks from all the remaining monasteries in Württemberg. In 1537, the abbot and the convent moved to Pairis Abbey in Alsace, the abbot died 1547 in Einsiedeln. After the defeat of the Schmalkaldic League, Ulrich had to return the monastery to the Cistercians in 1546-47.

The Peace of Augsburg gave the Duke the right to decide on the faith of his subjects. In 1556 he issued the Württemberger Klosterordnung, a decree that would form the basis for a regulated education system in all the remaining monasteries for men in Württemberg. The conversion of the monastery into a school remained legally disputed for a long time, the Emperor trying twice to reverse this development. During the Interims from 1548–1555 and 1630–1649 due to the Imperial restitution edicts, monks could return to the monastery due to the temporary political situation of the time.

The possessions of the Abbey grew first and foremost through donations and endowments. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the abbey's possessions were realigned via purchase so as to make its boundaries more compact. At the end of this development, the monastery's possessions included 20 villages, called Klosterflecken. Besides the income provided by the abbey's immediate surroundings, there were also cottage industries in Illingen, Knittlingen, and Unteröwisheim and 6000 acres of forest, spread out over 25 villages, that were administered by the abbey. Land privileges were loaned out for additional income in addition to the tithe, giving the abbey enormous income as a result, illustrated by the size of the abbey's granary. To manage this income, the abbey had seven Pfleghöfe, located in Illingen, Kirchheim am Neckar, Knittlingen, Ötisheim, Speyer, Unteröwisheim and Wiernsheim.

After the Reformation began in the year 1517, Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg built his hunting lodge and stables here. The monastery was pillaged repeatedly: first by the knights under Franz von Sickingen in 1519, then again during the German Peasants' War six years later. In 1534, Duke Ulrich secularized the monastery, but the Cistercians regained control — and Imperial recognition — under Charles V's Augsburg Interim. In 1556, Christoph, Duke of Württemberg, built a Protestant seminary, with Valentin Vannius becoming the first abbot two years later although the Reformation banned religious orders and abbots; Johannes Kepler studied there 1586–89.

In 1630, the abbey was returned to the Cistercians by force of arms, with Christoph Schaller von Sennheim becoming abbot. This restoration was short-lived, however, as Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden forced the monks to leave again two years later, with a Protestant abbot returning in 1633; the seminary reopened the following year, however the Cistercians under Schaller also returned in 1634. Under the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, the confession of the monastery was settled in favor of Protestantism; with abbot Buchinger withdrawing in process. A Protestant abbacy was re-established in 1651, with the seminary reopening five years later. In 1692, the seminarians were removed to safety when Ezéchiel du Mas, Comte de Mélac, torched the school, which remained closed for a decade.

The monastery was secularized by King Frederick I of Württemberg, in the course of the German Mediatisation in 1807, forever removing its political quasi-independence; the seminary merged with that of Bebenhausen the following year, now known as the Evangelical Seminaries of Maulbronn and Blaubeuren.

The monastery, which features prominently in Hermann Hesse's novel Beneath the Wheel, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993. The justification for the inscription was as follows: "The Maulbronn complex is the most complete survival of a Cistercian monastic establishment in Europe, in particular because of the survival of its extensive water-management system of reservoirs and channels". Hesse himself attended the seminary before fleeing in 1891 after a suicide attempt, and a failed attempt to save Hesse from his personal religious crisis by a well-known theologian and faith healer.[5]

To represent Baden-Württemberg, an image of the Abbey appears on the obverse of the German 2013 €2 commemorative coin.[6]


View over the court




  1. ^ a b c UNESCO World Heritage: Maulbronn Monastery Complex (in English)
  2. ^ Dorling 2001, p. 288.
  3. ^ Dorling 2001, p. 190.
  4. ^ Official Website (English): Home
  5. ^ Hermann Hesse: Background, childhood and youth (1877–95)
  6. ^ "Official Journal of the European Union" (PDF). European Union. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 


External links[edit]

Media related to Maulbronn Monastery complex at Wikimedia Commons

  • "Maulbronn Monastery". Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten in Baden-Württemberg. State of Baden-Württemberg. 
  • "Maulbronn Monastery". Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten in Baden-Württemberg (in German). State of Baden-Württemberg. 
  • "Maulbronn Monastery Complex". UNESCO World Heritage. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.