Bypass Repeated Content

Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

The unusual pants from the Alpirsbach monastery find. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Adi Bachinger
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN

CLOTHING FROM

ALPIRSBACH MONASTERY

In 1958, a varied collection of everyday items was found at Alpirsbach Monastery, all of them nearly 500 years old. Included amongst the found items were articles of clothing showing what people wore in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Age. One of a kind: a pair of men's pants, the only clothing specimen of its kind.

Detail of a woodcut "The Bewitched Groom," by Hans Baldung Grien, pre-1544. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Period artwork also shows a similar clothing style.

THE ALPIRSBACH PANTS

The pants are constructed of coarse linen and are deeply worn by the hard physical labor of their wearer. The most noticeable feature is the codpiece, a type of fixed fly. The cut of the pants also helps date it: Similar tights are seen in illustrations between 1500 and 1520, worn by farmhands, hangmen, farmers and soldiers. This also fits with the wear pattern on the Alpirsbach pants.

Found items in the museum at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Dirk Altenkirch

Fit for farm work but suitable for students.

CLOTHING FOR FARMERS AND MONSTARY STUDENTS

Farmers' work clothes usually included handmade tunics, pants, frocks and drawstring shoes. The monastery students, on the other hand, were outfitted with a doublet and a pair of linen pants every spring. In the fall, they were given pants and a doublet, a coat of dark wool and a hat, and every two years, a new pair of shoes. Because it was important that the boys, as future pastors, make a good impression, a tailor mended their clothing every two months.

The "chambermaid," one of Urach Monastery's tour guides in an authentic costume. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Kiel

Maids were dressed simply.

MORE THAN JUST PROTECTION AGAINST THE COLD

In the Middle Ages, clothing served as protection against cold and weather. Simultaneously, they were a visible demonstration of the social class of its wearer. Farmers' clothing was made of wool or linen, in muted tones, and without embellishments. The clothing of the higher social classes comprised more delicate, and in part very expensive, materials and was quite colorful. Thus, a person's social class could be determined based on the clothing they wore.

The monastery find upon its discovery in 1958. Image: Helga Bessler

Found items shortly after being discovered.

A SENSATIONAL FIND

In 1958, a varied collection of everyday items and clothing from the 15th and 16th centuries was discovered beneath the eves of the dormitory at Alpirsbach, including a pair of men's pants, several children's shirts as well as a total of 17 leather shoes. The find was an important milestone for historians, because until then, samples of medieval clothing were rare and information was generally based on period illustrations. Thanks to the Alpirsbach find, experts can now better understand what clothing of that period looked like.

Doublet from the monastery find. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Werner Hiller-König
Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende
Found items from the monastery school. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Werner Hiller-König

Today, the found items, which span a long period of time, can be viewed in the Alpirsbach monastery museum.