Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

View into the church nave at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
TYPICAL OF THE HIRSAU REFORM

THE MONASTERY CHURCH

The monastery was built between 1125 and 1133 in the Romanesque style, and dedicated to St. Nicholas. The church demonstrates a distinct style based on the architecture of Cluny Abbey: a three-aisled columned basilica built on the outline of a Latin cross.

View of Alpirsbach Monastery and narthex from the northwest. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

The narthex, also known as Paradise.

THROUGH PARADISE, INTO THE CHURCH

The monastery church is accessed through the narthex to the west, the so-called Paradise. This provides an example of its Romanesque architecture and original shape. The narthex once housed a chapel on its second floor, which opened upward toward the church interior. At the main portal, two masterfully worked bronze door pulls in the shape of stylized lion heads and the remnants of majestic iron hinges decorate the doors: masterpieces of 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque craftsmanship.

Doorknob on the main portal to the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

Stylized lion head as door pull.

VIVID IMAGERY

The tympanum above the main portal is one of the most important examples of Romanesque architectural sculpture in southwest Germany. At the center, Christ is enthroned as the world's judge, flanked by two angels. To the far left, in a monk's habit, is Adalbert von Zollern, one of the monastery's three benefactors who later joined the monastery. The impressive architectural sculptures continue in the church's interior along the column capitals and bases, as for example the "Pillars of Judgment Day," created circa 1130.

Figural cushion capital on a column in the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Tympanum with Christ within the mandorla above the main entrance to the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer
Grotesque, or mascaron, as corner decoration on a column base in the church at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Impressive architectural sculptures adorn the church, both inside and out.

View over the altar at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Markus Schwerer

A special feature: the two-story choir.

THE INTERIOR: TYPICAL ELEMENTS OF THE HIRSAU ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

Typical of monasteries following the Hirsau reform, many masses were conducted in the church as per the Rule of St. Benedict. The two-story choir in the high and flat-ceilinged columned basilica is a special feature. The hieromonks, or priestmonks, sat at the crossing, the "chorus major"; the old and sick monks sat in the "chorus minor," in front of the center aisle. The now lost choir screen attached to this, separating the lay brothers, or monks who had not received their holy orders, seated in the transept.

Detail of a fresco at Alpirsbach Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

13th-century frescoes.

PRECIOUS DECOR LOST

The church was once decorated with majestic wall hangings, colorful frescoes, altars, tunicles, valuable religious paraphernalia and ornate furniture. Little of it remains today. What survives includes the remainders of frescoes and stained-glass, parts of the choir stalls, the Altar of St. Mary and the very rare choir pews from the mid-14th century. Various tomb slabs, commemorating important abbots, protectors and patrons of the monastery, are stone reminders of that period.

Mehr erfahren

Persönlichkeiten
Monumente & Funktionen
Kunstwerke & Räume
Stilepochen

Please select maximally 5 keywords.