Over a period of around 400 years, the monks built a remarkable monastery at Maulbronn, which became a distinguishing feature of the surrounding landscape. Today, this former Cistercian abbey, which is situated between Heidelberg and Stuttgart, is not only the most complete and best-preserved monastic complex north of the Alps, it is also a particularly fine example of medieval architecture and, since 1993, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Particularly impressive is the extent to which the original buildings, and the picture they provide of cloistered life, have been maintained. This a place where you can get a detailed insight into the life and work of the Cistercian order from the 12th to the 16th century. The monastery courtyard is still surrounded by its towers, imposing living quarters and outbuildings and a defensive wall approximately one kilometre long. The cloister, refectory and the beautiful portico from around 1220, known as Paradise, have been largely preserved in their original condition. Maulbronn's construction began in 1147 when, according to legend, a mule discovered a natural spring at the site where the fountain now stands. The triple-naved basilica, the oldest part of the complex, was consecrated in 1178. In the separate monks chancel, the 92 seats of the 15th century choir stalls mark the perimeter of the monastery at that time. The facilities needed to service a monastery of this size can be seen in the grounds with their adjoining agricultural fields and ingenious water-management system which, along with the medieval cloister buildings, have also been preserved intact. During the Reformation, the monastery was closed and the buildings used as a Protestant school. Today it houses a school for classical languages whose past pupils include the astronomer Johannes Kepler, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin and the author Hermann Hesse. Tip for your visit: the three most beautiful medieval monasteries in the northern Black Forest – Maulbronn, Hirsau and Alpirsbach – can be explored as part of a 'monastery route'.
March to October: 9am to 5.30pm daily; last admission: 4.45pm
November to February: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 5pm; last admission: 4.15pm
Maulbronn Monastery marks its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage site(April 2014)
Further information: www.kloster-maulbronn.de