Maulbronn’s magnificent monastery complex

As part of our summer tour of Germany's UNESCO World Heritage sites, we take a look at the gorgeous Maulbronn monastery complex, between Karlsruhe and Heilbronn.

Maulbronn's magnificent monastery complex
Photo: DPA

The monks of Maulbronn took about 400 years, starting in 1147, to construct a remarkable monastery from the local sandstone. It became a distinguishing feature of the surrounding landscape.

They also developed a sophisticated aquatic network around the monastery with trenches, lakes and ponds in order to farm fish, while the vineyards they established are still producing grapes today.

The former Maulbronn Abbey is not only the best surviving example of a medieval monastery complex north of the Alps, it is also a particularly representative piece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Even the window tracery in the cloister has maintained the seemingly limitless forms of expression of stonemasons’ art.

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The excellent state of preservation and integrity of in the complex give visitors a practically unspoilt impression of medieval monastery life. The Romanesque monastery church, a triple-nave basilica, is the oldest building in the complex.

Its fittings include richly decorated oak choir stalls which can accommodate 92 monks. The monastery courtyard is surrounded by the imposing living quarters and outbuildings, towers and a fortified wall approximately one kilometre long.

Duke Christoph of Württemberg, the son of Ulrich, set up a Protestant monastery school in Maulbronn in 1556.

This boarding school was attended by some well-known people including Johannes Kepler, Friedrich Hölderlin and Hermann Hesse, and has now become a grammar school specialising in classical languages. It has been a UNESCO-World Heritage site since 1993.

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