An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Cistercian simplicity and elegance

The monastery church

During the High Gothic period, the monastery's growing fortunes gave rise to renovation and extensions to the monastery church. During the time of the Reformation, Duke Herzog Ulrich I of Württemberg had the nave demolished so that he could use the stones to extend his Hohentübingen Palace.

Interior of Bebenhausen monastery church; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, local administration of Bebenhausen

Unadorned simplicity yet still beautiful.

Clear lines

Initial construction of the monastery church, which the Cistercians began at the end of the 12th century, was soon completed and the Bishop of Constance was able to consecrate the church as early as 1228. Typical of the architecture of the Cistercian Order was a flat-roofed three nave pilaster basilica with inconspicuous transepts and a rectangular choir stall. In common with all Cistercian buildings, the church was consecrated to the order's patron, Maria – and displays unadorned simplicity.

Detail in the monastery church of Bebenhausen; photo:  Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Stephan Kohls

In the 14th century there were some conversions.

Abbots with a love of construction

In the first half of the 14th century, Abbot Konrad von Lustnau ordered the first renovations to the monastery church in the style of Upper Rhine High Gothic. The summer refectory that he created is famous. He also had the monumental choir window added, along with an abbot's burial chapel on the north transept, which has not been preserved. A good 80 years later, Abbot Peter von Gomaringen ordered the elegant crossing tower, which was built by a Cistercian master builder lay monk from Salem monastery.

Visitors in the church of Bebenhausen Monastery; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert

Embellishments can still be admired today.

New adornments

Embellishments were added to the wealthy monastery's church up to the first quarter of the 16th century: Elaborate reticular and stellar vaulting were added to the chancel, crossing and transept. The Reformation was a turning point: Duke Ulrich I von Württemberg found the church far too large and in 1537 had the entire nave demolished as far as the transept. He used the building blocks for other construction projects. Thirty years later, the church assumed the size it has today. The organ and galleries were not added until the 19th century.

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace, panel painting around 1485; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Not much remains from the Middle Ages.

Interior design

Only remains of the mediaeval design have been preserved. Duke Carl Eugen had much of the glazing from the fan tracery window in the chancel removed to Hohenheim Palace in 1781. Therefore, not much of it remains to be seen in Bebenhausen today. The Renaissance pulpit by sculptor Konrad Wagner is impressive in its powerful colorfulness. Epitaphs – tombs – and paintings adorn the side naves and there are Late Renaissance and Baroque-age works of art in the north transept.

Particularly impressive: the cred pulpit in the church.

Other highlights in Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace