Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Duke Christoph on a parchment manuscript from the 16th century, artist unknown. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain
FOUNDER OF MONASTERY SCHOOLS

Christoph von

Württemberg

Duke Christoph von Württemberg (1515–1568) took political leadership amongst German Protestants during the Reformation. He permanently dissolved Alpirsbach Monastery and other monasteries in Württemberg and established them as Protestant monastery schools.

Duke Christoph, artwork by Hans Brosamer, 16th century, from Klebeband No. 2 (a form of art preservation in which loose leaves and parchments are pasted into a blank volume) of the Fürstlich Waldeck’sche Hofbibliothek in Bad Arolsen. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

He was educated at the Habsburg court.

WHAT WAS CHRISTOPH'S CHILDHOOD LIKE?

His parents had a scandalous marriage. His mother, Sabina von Bayern, left the country, fleeing her quick-tempered husband, Ulrich von Württemberg. She was forced to leave her children behind—an unparalleled scandal! When Ulrich was banished from Württemberg in 1519, his son came to the Habsburg court. Christoph was related to the powerful Habsburg family and spent his childhood as part of the imperial house's retinue. The Habsburgs were Catholic and resisted the Reformation.

DID CHRISTOPH GET ALONG WITH HIS FATHER?

His father's disastrous politics resulted in the loss of the Duchy of Württemberg to the Habsburgs in 1519. Christoph's future was uncertain and his relationship with his father difficult. Duke Ulrich viewed his son as a competitor in his attempts to regain control in Württemberg. This was not unfounded, since the Habsburgs attempted to secure the Württemberg regency for the Catholic Christoph, thus hoping to prevent the establishment of the Reformation in Württemberg under Duke Ulrich.

Duke Ludwig's family tree from 1585, by Joachim Lederlin, located at the Landesmuseum Württemberg. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

A conciliation between Ulrich and Christoph restored the regular succession.

WHY DID CHRISTOPH BECOME A PROTESTANT?

In 1534, Ulrich succeeded in recapturing his duchy, which he immediately reformed. It was the first time he'd seen his son, Christoph, in 15 years! Their reunion was overshadowed by mistrust and distance. Shortly thereafter, Ulrich sent Christoph out of the country, to the French court. Not until 1542 was there finally at least a political rapprochement between father and son. Per agreement, Christoph's succession was arranged. The condition: Christoph must declare himself for the Reformation. The marriage arranged by Ulrich between Christoph and Anna Maria von Brandenburg-Ansbach, a princess from a Protestant noble house, sealed the change of confession.

Duke Christoph von Württemberg, statue by Paul Müller, 1885, today in Stuttgart. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

Christoph reorganized many of Württemberg's spheres.

WHAT CHARACTERIZED HIS REIGN?

After Ulrich's death in 1550, Christoph ruled for 18 years. His rule launched a period of peace and reshaping for Württemberg. The duke enshrined the Protestant doctrine in Württemberg and declared the Lutheran faith within Württemberg's church. He also reorganized all political and religious administration. His reforms were codified in the Great Church Order of 1559, which found regard in many other countries, even as far as Sweden and Slovenia.

HOW WAS THE DUKE IMPORTANT FOR ALPIRSBACH?

Following Luther's doctrine, monastic life was meaningless, as it was not necessary for a godly existence. Thus it was that reformed princes dissolved the monasteries in their states and found new uses for them. Duke Christoph established monastery schools in Alpirsbach and twelve other Württemberg monasteries. They were intended as places where young men from a variety of backgrounds could study theology and prepare for a career as evangelical pastors.

Part of the find at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Werner Hiller-König
Teacher, caricature by a student at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Werner Hiller-König

Unique found items tell of Alpirsbach's days as a monastery school.

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