Maulbronn Monastery


Maulbronn is the best-preserved medieval monastery complex north of the Alps. The Cistercians began construction in the middle of the 12th century and, over the centuries, a giant monastic city emerged. The monastery has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

Early Gothic narthex at Maulbronn Monastery with ribbed vault

Monastery church narthex, called Paradise.


The monastery church, consecrated in the 12th century, and the hermitage were originally built in the Romanesque style. In the early 13th century, the architect of the Paradise introduced early Gothic elements into the monastery with the construction of the narthex, monks' refectory and the south wing of the cloister. The fountain house, the lay refectory and the hospital corridor are also from that time. The monks also expanded their monastery with numerous impressive outbuildings in the western monastery courtyard.

View into the lay church nave at Maulbronn Monastery

Nave in the lay church at Christmas.


In the 14th and early 15th centuries, the core of the monastery, including the chapter house, cloister and fountain house, were updated in the late Gothic style. At the time, the church was outfitted with large tracery windows, a net vault and new mural paintings. Abbot Albert von Ötisheim had founder chapels built on to the southern nave aisles. In the eastern part of the hermitage, he added a second floor to the hospital and repurposed it as a large guest house, the infirmary. The monastery experienced a new boom during this time.

Maulbronn Monastery, hunting lodge

Duke Ludwig I's former hunting lodge.


The Dukes of Württemberg, who ruled over Maulbronn in the 16th century, established a school here as part of the Reformation. The buildings in the eastern courtyard, in particular, were adapted to the new use. The infirmary became home to an Ephorus, or headmaster. Duke Ludwig I had a hunting lodge built in the Renaissance style as a prestigious residence. Maulbronn continued to grow into an administrative center with the character of a small city.

Three-bowl fountain in the fountain house at Maulbronn Monastery

Three-bowl fountain in the fountain house.


The 19th century saw an increased interest in the art and architecture of previous eras. The Middle Ages, in particular, were rediscovered and subsequently, many castles, monasteries and ruins from that era were declared national monuments, including Maulbronn. In part, the architects went so far as to create completely new structural components in an attempt to "reconstruct" the Middle Ages. Portions of the three-bowl fountain or the upper floor of the lay refectory are examples of this.

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