Unesco World Heritage Site

Maulbronn Monastery

Masterpiece of an unknown master builder

The Paradise

The entrance hall to the monastery church, also known as the Paradise, is a masterpiece. However, the name of the master builder who brought the early Gothic of northern France to Maulbronn around 1220 remains a mystery to this day. Incidentally: the almost 900-year-old portal doors to the monastery church are unique.

Maulbronn Monastery, pilasters in the Paradies;  photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, copyright unknown

Collection of pilasters in the Paradies.

Perfect early Gothic design

The Paradies is among the most beautiful of early Gothic designs and one of the most significant architectural testimonies in Maulbronn. Since the name of the master builder is not known, he was given the title “Paradise Master.” Around 1220 his workshop created the spacious entrance hall with its cross-ribbed vaults. The compact pilasters from the Romantic Age already appear here in an individual arrangement, influenced by the early Gothic of northern France. Remnants of colour dating back to around 1430 have been preserved.

Maulbronn Monastery, half-moon motif at a stone console; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

This puzzling motif also adorns other monasteries.

The half-moon motif

The motif of two half-moons facing away from each other can be seen on the stone corbels. The motif can also be interpreted as some sort of metal pliers. It appears in several places in Maulbronn and elsewhere, for example in the Alpirsbach, Walkenried and in Magdeburg cathedrals. It could be a master builder's sign, but the frequency with which the motif appears would suggest otherwise. Equally unclear is whether this is always a recurrent sign from the same workshop.

Maulbronn Monastery, main portal of the church; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The double-leaf main portal.

Unique originals: Romanesque church doors

The main portal and the south portal of the Maulbronn monastery church are the oldest datable doors in Germany. The double-leaf main portal made from pine is part of the original church and dates back to 1178. It features artistically worked decorative wrought iron armatures. Remains of the parchment covering made from whole animal hides have been found stuck on both leaves – they were originally painted red. The single-leaf south portal has door armatures in a stylised bird design.

Other highlights of Maulbronn Monastery