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Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Bell tower in the monastery church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
TWO TOWERS WERE PLANNED

THE BELL TOWER

The bell tower of the Alpirsbach Monastery church is visible from a distance. Many don't know: It's highly likely that two towers were planned for this church. It is also hard to tell that the tower was actually under construction for 450 years.

Monastery church with bell tower. Image: Alpirsbach Tourist Info

The tower stands on the choir's north flank.

LOTHRINGEN INFLUENCES

The monastery church bell tower is called a choir-flanking tower, meaning that it is located to the east, on the choir's north flank. This layout seems unusual at first and was inspired by Lothringen, where this type is more common. It is highly likely that two towers were planned for this church, which would have presented a more balanced appearance.

Monastery church with bell tower. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Growing one story at a time.

ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURAL ORNAMENTATION ADORNS THE TOWER

The tower is bricked to the east side of the church and its first construction phase ended when it was level with the eaves of the church. Shortly thereafter, in the mid-12th century, the first open story was added to the tower. Architectural style and ornamentation—carefully carved ashlars, the corner pilaster strips, or pillared border strips, and the beautifully executed arched frieze—correspond to the Romanesque period. Upper Rhine and Alsace influences are evident.

Bell tower at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

The stepped gable, added circa 1550, completes the tower.

AN INTENTIONALLY OLD-FASHIONED STYLE

The next two stories were added at the start of the 15th century. They were visually matched to the first open story, which is why Gothic influences are not readily identifiable in the exterior. A modern style was deliberately avoided for the benefit of a unified appearance. This addition also required conversions in the interior. For example, the side choir made way for a buttress reinforcement to the basement.

CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED IN THE MID-16TH CENTURY

Remnants of a Gothic belfry can still be seen in the interior of the tower, dating back to approximately 1360. Like the belfry in the church, it is an excellent example of highly skilled Medieval carpentry. The belfry also proves that the first bells were hung in Alpirsbach as early as the mid-14th century. Not until the 1550s did the tower receive its final bell story and gabled roof, between the stair gables; a typical Renaissance roof termination. After its completion, it measured 43.5 meters tall.

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