Maulbronn Monastery, pilasters in the Paradise

Masterpiece of an unknown master builderParadise

The entrance hall to the monastery church, also known as Paradise (Paradies), is a masterpiece. However, the name of the master builder who brought the Early Gothic style 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 one of a kind.

Maulbronn Monastery, pilasters in the Paradise

Collection of pilasters in the Paradise.

Perfect early Gothic design

The Paradise is among the most beautiful of Early Gothic designs and one of the most significant architectural records in Maulbronn. Since the master builder's name is unknown, he was given the name “Paradise Master”. Circa 1220, his studio created the spacious entrance hall with its cross-ribbed vaults. The compact pilasters from the Romantic Age already appear in an individual arrangement, influenced by the Early Gothic style of northern France. Remnants of color dating back to circa 1430 have also been preserved.

Maulbronn Monastery, crescent moon motif at a stone console

This puzzling motif also adorns other monasteries

The crescent moon motif

The motif of two crescent moons facing away from each other can be seen on the stone corbels. The motif can also be interpreted as metal pliers. It appears in several places in Maulbronn and elsewhere, for example in the Alpirsbach Monastery, the Walkenried Abbey and in the Magdeburg Cathedral. It could be a master builder's mark, but the frequency with which the motif appears would suggest otherwise. Equally unclear is whether this is a recurring mark from the same studio.

Maulbronn Monastery, main church portal

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 of pine, is part of the original church and dates back to 1178. It features artistically worked decorative wrought iron armatures. Remnants of the parchment covering made of whole animal hides have been found stuck to both leaves, which were originally painted red. The single-leaf south portal has door armatures in a stylized bird design.

Why is the church narthex called "Paradise"? The name comes from the tradition of painting this church space with the biblical story of the Fall of Man, when Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise.