Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Student at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert
A BENEDICTINE MONASTERY AND SCHOOL IN THE BLACK FOREST

MILESTONES

Piety and power politics led to the founding of the Benedictine monastery in the late 11th century, a time at which the pope and the emperor were in a battle for power. With the arrival of the Reformation, Alpirsbach became a monastery school. Fascinating insights about daily routines during that period are still present today.

Coats of arms of the founding families. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Three noblemen and their legacy.

THE FOUNDING

On January 16, 1095, in an official ceremony, three noblemen gave their shared legacy, the Alpirsbach estate in the Black Forest, endowing it to St. Benedict. They were Count Alwik von Sulz, Count Adalbert von Zollern and Ruotmann von Neckarhausen. 1101 and 1123 are important years for Alpirsbach, as these are the dates on which first Pope Paschal II and later Emperor Heinrich V confirmed the monastery's founding. In the years that followed, it was mostly young aristocrats from the area who joined the monastery.

St. Benedict of Nursia. Image: Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart

St. Benedict of Nursia.

A REFORM MONASTERY AND ITS IDEALS

Alpirsbach Monastery, like many monasteries in the 11th century, was founded as part of the Hirsau Reform. This reform of Benedictine monks originated at Cluny Abbey in Burgundy and took place against the backdrop of the Investiture Controversy. The reform wanted independence from the noble houses and the ability to freely elect abbots. At the same time, the reform monasteries wanted to return to the monastic ideal: personal poverty, obedience, chastity and silence.

Relief of two figures and coats of arms presenting the bishop's cap, Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

An abbot's coat of arms?

SECULARIZATION AND RENEWED BLOOM

Only a few centuries later, the monastery had lost sight of the ideals of the reform. Monks lived an ever more secular life and divided the monastery property amongst themselves, which resulted in economic decline. In the 15th century, Alpirsbach joined a group of monasteries rededicating themselves to the Rule of St. Benedict. Abbots Georg Schwarz and Hieronymus Hulzing lead the monastery into a new economic boom and commissioned comprehensive construction projects within the conclave.

Visitors to Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert

There is much to discover at Alpirsbach Monastery.

An old board game, now in the Alpirsbach monastery museum. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Werner Hiller-König

Board game belonging to former students.

FROM MONASTERY TO SCHOOL

The Reformation and Peasants' War brought turbulence to Alpirsbach. After the adoption of Protestantism in Württemberg, Duke Christoph permanently dissolved the monastery in 1556 and established a Protestant monastery school. This period is astoundingly authentic thanks to a spectacular find, including paper, pottery, wood, leather and textiles, all on display in the monastery museum. These everyday items bring the monastery students to life again.

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