Maulbronn Monastery is the best preserved Cistercian Monastery in all of Europe. It’s near Stuttgart, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. And it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Maulbronn Monastery is located in Maulbronn, My Favorite City in Germany That You Probably Haven’t Heard Of.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in large part because it’s the best preserved Cistercian medieval monastery in Europe.
At the time of writing, extensive renovations were being done on Maulbronn Monastery. That’s understandable considering that it was founded in the year 1147 under interesting circumstances.
Legend has it that some monks looking for a new location for a monastery. They decided to let their mule out and wherever he stopped for water, that would be a sign from God as to the location for the new monastery.
And so when the mule stopped in Maulbronn, twelve monks starting building their new monastery there.
Walking through the halls of Maulbronn Monastery was very peaceful. However, I also felt a little sad, knowing that the monks had to live in seclusion from the rest of the world.
The monastery was also a very cold place in winter. There was no heating except in one small dark room. It got a lot colder after the Protestant Reformation broke out.
The Duke of Württemberg decided to take out the windows of the monastery. He used them in one of his own castles instead. The monks were left with cold winds blowing through the monastery.
At least the monks had interesting ceilings to look at. I was fascinated by all the murals and hand paintings on the ceilings.
And when the monks tired of looking at the ceilings I can imagine that the courtyard would have been a very welcoming place.
A monk’s life was not easy. The monastery was self-supported through their own hard manual labour. In addition, the monks were required to pray several times a day for a couple of hours at a time.
That also included waking up in the middle of the night to do so. The pews were designed so that the monks would be supported while standing. They weren’t allowed to sit since voices sound better when standing.
For all that holiness, you may be surprised to learn that the chefs at Maulbronn Monastery were creative when it came to getting around the vegetarian rule.
Legend has it that Ravolli, or Maultaschen in German, were invented at Maulbronn Monastery. It was a way of sneaking meat into the monk’s dinner which was supposed to be completely vegetarian.
Maulbronn Monastery was eventually turned into a Protestant Theological College. Much to the monk’s chagrin, I would imagine. One of the most famous students was German poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Herman Hesse.
His time at Maulbronn is illustrated in several of his works, most notably “Beneath the Wheel”. I imagine they’re quite interesting given that he was expelled from the school.
Cistercian monks also had to follow no talking rules and talking was only allowed in one room of the Maulbronn Monastery. I t would have made a terrible monk! How about you?
More info on Maulbronn Monastery
Maulbronn Monastery is located ~35 km NW of Stuttgart, Germany. For more info on opening hours, directions on how to get there see: Maulbronn Monastery Service. Audio tours are available in English for €2 extra, which I would highly recommend. See also Maulbronn, My Favorite City in Germany. If you can’t make it to Germany, watch a virtual tour of Maulbronn Monastery.
Also be sure to watch for Maulbronn Monastery on the 2013 €2 commemorative coin in Germany.
Have you visited Maulbronn Monastery? I’d love to hear about your visit.
See more places to visit in Germany.