Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Dormitory at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
THE MONKS' SLEEPING QUARTERS

THE DORMITORY

Benedictine monks followed the strict rules of their order, which stipulated a set routine of prayer and sleep. Nightly choral prayers were a part of this schedule, which is why the monks' dormitory was directly connected to the church.

Dormitory stairs at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Rose Hajdu

A shortcut between bed and prayer.

SHORTCUT TO THE CHURCH

The sleeping quarters were originally a large dormitory-style room where all monks slept together. As is typical of Benedictine monasteries, the dormitory was located on the second floor of the east wing, near the church. The monks could access the transept directly via the dormitory stairs. This shortcut made it easier to attend nightly choral prayers. Monks' cells are pictured as being small, cold and bare, but this was not always the case, as demonstrated in Alpirsbach Monastery.

View into the hallway between individual cells. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Painted walls and ornate door frames.

A HALL IS CONVERTED INTO CELLS

At the end of the 15th century, the demands of the monastery had also changed with regard to its sleeping quarters; individual cells were now stipulated. The former dormitory-style room was subdivided into individual cells by half-timber walls, with a wide hall leading down the center. As can still be seen in some areas, these walls were once decorated with painted-on brick work. The door frame to each cell is finished with an ornately curved arch, or ogee arch.

MORE SPACE

The addition of a second story to the cloister under Abbot Hieronymus Hulzing created space for more cells. This conversion required opening the exterior wall of the dormitory. The new cells could be accessed through a ogival portal and a few stairs that compensated for the floor height difference. The sleeping cells were spartan, containing just a small wall cabinet and a recessed seat at the window, reflecting the austere, meditative lifestyle of the time.

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

Spartan furnishings.

Detail of Medieval graffiti at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Student sayings and sketches.

MEDIEVAL GRAFFITI

Entering the monks' cells in the dormitory transports visitors to a distant past. Extremely special murals are still visible here today. They were not created by any commissioned artist, rather they are the efforts of former inhabitants to decorate their walls. Initials, dates and sayings with Renaissance motifs: the "graffiti" of former students are amusing remnants from the second half of the 16th century.

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