Unesco World Heritage Site

Maulbronn Monastery

Jugendaufnahme Hermann Hesses; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
"IN ALL BEGINNINGS DWELLS A MAGIC FORCE"

Hermann Hesse

The writer, painter and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), is without a doubt the most prominent former student of Maulbronn. His prose works "Steppenwolf", "Siddhartha" or "The Glass Bead Game" afforded him worldwide fame.

Ruins of the former presbytery at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Ruins of the presbytery: Hesse witnessed the fire.

WHAT WERE HESSE'S MEMORIES OF MAULBRONN?

Hermann Hesse, who came from a Christian missionary family, first arrived at Maulbronn in September 1891. Countless letters from Hesse's school years convey a vivid pictures of the daily routines within the seminary. In the beginning, Hesse found the monastery "great", but did not enjoy gym class. "I would rather study Cicero for two or three hours than endure one hour of gym." He also described events that stood out, such as the spectacular burning of the presbytery.

IN WHAT WAY DID MAULBRONN INFLUENCE HIS WRITING?

Later letters suggest that the young Hesse experienced mood swings. The strenuous school day and deprivations resulted in deep depression in Hesse after only a year at the seminary, and finally in his flight. His brief stay, however, made a strong impression on Hesse. Some of his works deal with this period, including, "Beneath the Wheel", "Narcissus and Goldmund" and "The Glass Bead Game".

Door knocker on gate tower at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Hesse followed in his grandfather's footsteps.

WAS HIS FAMILY CONNECTED TO MAULBRONN?

Hesse's enrollment at Maulbronn seems predestined: even his grandfather, Hermann Gundert, began his theological training at the evangelical seminary. He later spent 23 years in South India. In addition to his missionary work, Gundert made a name for himself as a linguist. The unusual life of Hesse's grandfather must have inspired Hesse, who showed a remarkable aptitude for languages at a young age.

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