Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

View of Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende
BENEDICTINES IN THE BLACK FOREST

THE MONASTERY

An idyllic valley along the Kinzig river in the Black Forest hides the impressive, medieval Alpirsbach Monastery. Constructed in the 11th century by Benedictine monks and following the ideals of the Hirsau reform movement, Alpirsbach Monastery is one of the few remaining monasteries of its kind in southwest Germany.

Aerial view of Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Nestled between forested hills.

A SECLUDED MONASTERY

In 1095, noblemen Alwik von Sulz, Adalbert von Zollern and Ruotmann von Neckarhausen endowed the new monastery. Its location in the middle of the Black Forest was secluded from the start. Then newly founded monastery was situated in a logging area, far from any primary transport routes. Connection to densely populated areas was only possible via the Kinzig and Little Kinzig rivers. The Hirsau reforms, promoting strict adherence to the Rule of St. Benedict, following the lead of Cluny Abbey, were the reason for this secluded location.

View of the tower of the first stone monastery church in Alpirsbach. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

The tower of the first stone monastery church.

THE FIRST STRUCTURES

The original chapel was built of wood, but the first stone monastery church was consecrated as early as 1099. The tower of this small stone church, also called commoner's church, remains as the oldest structural example of the monastery. The former reeves' residence tower, the so-called castle, has also survived. Its high entrance and ashlar corners along the wall are reminiscent of late Romanesque defensive fortifications.

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

Constructed based on Benedictine designs.

ENSEMBLE: MONASTERY CHURCH, CONCLAVE AND CLOISTER

The monastery's layout is based on the Benedictine monastery design and shares characteristic elements with the reform abbey in Cluny. Following that design, the conclave, where the monks worked and lived, attaches to the east-facing church. Grouped around the central cloister, the late Gothic conclave is a well-preserved example of 15th-century architecture. Lingering here is an immersion in the monks' austerity, work and prayer.

Exterior of Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
Exterior of Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Monumental view of Alpirsbach Monastery.

Aerial view of the monastery and immediate surroundings. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Albrecht Brugger

The monastery in the middle of town.

SURROUNDED BY TOWN, STREET AND TRAIN

The monastery in now located in the middle of the town of Alpirsbach. Many former monastery buildings now form the bones of the town's structures, or gave way to the growing town. The enclosing wall no longer exists. Several prominent medieval buildings were torn down in the 19th century to make way for the railroad and highway.

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