Maulbronn Monastery Complex
Maulbronn Monastery Complex, Maulbronn, Germany
The central buildings at Maulbronn Monastery surround a square that connects the main church with the living quarters of the monks. Standing inside the square, with its neat garden and impressive covered fountain, you can rotate and look in each direction towards the rooms beyond the cloisters that make up this old house of worship. But it would be a mistake to think that this is all there is. One of the most significant things about Maulbronn is what is beyond the monastery buildings themselves.
This is, in fact, a whole complex – a mini town built within strong protective walls. The collection of structures over the years has provided for agriculture, trade, production and relaxation. The first church was founded on this site in 1147 and the centuries to come afterwards were not always friendly ones. The monastery needed to protect itself and be self-sufficient, if necessary.
The Maulbronn Monastery Complex is the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastic complex in northern Europe. Different parts are from different periods of time but they stretch from the 12th to the 18th century, showing the transformation in styles of the religious order. Most of the core central buildings are from between the 12th to the 14th century.
The rooms of these main monastery buildings are both grand and understated. They are not elaborately decorated in a way that makes them feel ostentatious – yet the symmetry, height, vaulting, columns, and windows all combine to produce a sense of art.
They also offer an insight into the way of life of the residents of the monastery over the centuries, with the layout barely changed in meeting areas, dining rooms and chapels.
The church itself was originally completed in 1178 with a stone screen separating the monks from the lay brethren. The divide is still clear today. Gothic vaulting was installed in 1424 and replaced the original wooden beams but the style is still very much faithful to the Cistercian design principles.
What is particularly interesting about the whole Maulbronn Monastery Complex is the engineering skills that are demonstrated. It’s hard to see much evidence of it today but there was an elaborate system of reservoirs, irrigation canals and drains within the fortified walls and in agricultural areas outside. The monks and the workers used these to provide water to the buildings, to grow crops and for fish farms.
Visiting Maulbronn Monastery Complex
The complex is not particularly large in terms of area but it is big enough that some of the buildings within the complex are now part of the town and are used as shops, restaurants or offices (and even a police station and the town hall). It is worth having a look inside some of them – or having a meal or a drink.
The main monastery complex is the highlight, though. You can go into the public part of the church for free and it is still used for regular services and special events. However, to access the monks’ side of the church you’ll need to buy a ticket for the monastery. This will also give you access to the main buildings at the core of the complex, including the small museum.
Guided tours are also available and taking one of them would be a good idea if you’re interesting in finding out more about some of the detail of the rooms and the complex.
Cloister 5, Maulbronn, 75433, Germany.
You can see it on a map here.
March – October: 0900 – 1730
November – February: 0930 – 1700
Tickets to go inside the monastery are: