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Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Column pedestal in the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
BOUND TO ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURAL TRADITIONS

HISTORY OF DESIGN

Romanesque architecture and Gothic multiformity characterize Alpirsbach Monastery today. Only a few traces remain of the Renaissance period. The 19th-century changes were reversed and are now only visible in old images.

Tympanum with Christ within the mandorla above the main portal to the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Impressive iconography on the main portal.

ROMANESQUE

The monastery church is true to the Romanesque architectural style. The flat-roofed, three-aisled and cleanly arranged columned basilica is laid out like a Latin cross. The crossing determines the dimensions for the rooms. The tympanum—a decorative wall surface over an entrance—on the main portal is an important architectural feature and one of the most impressive Romanesque images created in southern Germany.

Visitors in the cloister at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert

Ribbed vaults in the cloister.

GOTHIC

In the late Gothic period, between 1480 and 1494, the monastery's cloister was extensively renovated. In addition to adding a story, it was also outfitted with a richly decorated ribbed vault and splendid keystones. Elaborate tracery windows and artistically framed portals rounded out the Gothic appearance. The representational rooms were also renovated at this time, and ribbed vaults and keystones adorned with angels still decorate the ceiling of the abbot's quarters today.

RENAISSANCE

There were no significant renovations or new additions at Alpirsbach Monastery during the Renaissance. However, features typical of the time are preserved in the dormitory cells. Remnants of murals with Renaissance motifs decorate the otherwise blank walls. Foreshortened illusionistic artwork and two-dimensional plant tendrils can likely be traced back to efforts on the part of former inhabitants to immortalize themselves. Monastery students supplemented these murals with their initials, dates and sayings.

Graffiti on the walls of the monks' cells at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
Graffiti on the walls of the monks' cells at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Wall art: coats-of-arms, decorations and sayings.

Historic paintings in the church. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

History in the church's wall decor.

19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES

Between 1878 and 1881, during a comprehensive restoration, the monastery church interior was covered in decorative, stenciled paintings. This was intended to lend the interior a Medieval appearance again. This state is only known today because of old images. In the 1960s the interior was overworked with the aim of restoring the Romanesque church structure as authentically as possible and the 19th-century enhancements were considered too imaginative and not worth saving.

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