Unesco World Heritage Site

Maulbronn Monastery

View into the monastery church at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown
CISTERCIAN ARCHITECTURE

THE MONASTERY CHURCH

The path to the monastery church is indicated by the unusually tall ridge turret and belfry. A Cistercian church was not allowed additional towers. The Romanesque church, which was consecrated in 1178, after roughly 30 years of construction, was expanded and converted to the Gothic style, and is full of treasures.

Gothic net vault in the church nave at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Decorative ceilings in the nave.

ARTFUL UNION OF ROMANESQUE AND GOTHIC

Despite the Gothic transformation, the monastery church interior still reflects the simple and austere design of the Cistercian order. The Romanesque nave, originally with a flat timber beam ceiling, was altered in the 15th century by Abbott Albert von Ötisheim, who added a Gothic net vault and Gothic founder chapels. The westernmost chapel is worth visiting for the demon figure on its corbel and the full-wall murals of columbine—known as a healing plant in the Middle Ages.

Door of the dead in the south transept at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Door of the dead in the south transept.

THE PATHS OF THE MONKS

Romanesque choir screens separated the church into the monks' choir and the lay church, as per monastic rules. When it was time for their nightly song and prayers, the monks could reach their section of the church directly from their upper-floor dormitory via a flight of stairs. A door led directly from the cloister to their work, study and common areas. The deceptively named door of the dead in the south transept led to an annexed vestry.

MEDIEVAL ART TREASURES

Of the many art treasures found in the monastery church, the elaborately carved reliefs on the high altar and the choir stalls, as well as the central stone crucifix in front of the Romanesque choir screen, are particularly worth noting. The cross and the body of Christ are carved from a single block of stone. Murals on the north and south walls depict the founding of the monastery and biblical scenes, such as the Adoration of the Magi.

Detail on the choir stalls in the monks' choir at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
Detail on the choir stalls in the monks' choir at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
Detail on the choir stalls in the monks' choir at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Worth a closer look: delicately carved reliefs adorn various sections of the monastery church.

Pedestal of the northern ciborium in the church at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Pedestal of the northern ciborium with skulls.

WORTH A CLOSER LOOK

Two ciborium altars—altars covered by stone canopies—immediately catch the eye. Spooky toads, lizards and skulls decorate the column bases of the northern ciborium altar. In the south altar niche: Madonna with child. It was created just before 1400 and is reminiscent of the reliefs on the high altar also created at that time. The inspiration, however, was the work of a famous architect and sculptor family by the name of Parler.