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An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Johann Valentin Andreae, Kupferstich von Melchior Kusell um 1650; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Robert Bothner
An influential pietist

Valentin Andreae

Theologian Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) had a significant influence on Protestants in Württemberg. After the Thirty Years' War, he rebuilt the school system and issued the order for a general obligation to attend school in Württemberg. He became the headmaster of the monastery school and abbot of Bebenhausen.

Portrait of Johann Valentin Andreae. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Andreae was an enlightened philanthropist.

How did Andreae draw attention to himself?

Born in Herrenberg, Johann Valentin Andreae came to Calw as a special superintendent in 1620, after completely his studies and years of travel. The highly educated Calvinist shaped the history of the city through his social works. Calw, then half the size of Stuttgart, was one of the most economically important cities due to its flourishing wool production. Andreae used his influence for the needy who lived in the shadow of the city's prosperity. He convinced many of the rich traders of Calw to support the poor, infirm, and children in the city.

Detail of the grave of Christian Rosencreutz, depicted as a "mountain of philosophers." Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

"Christianopolis" was truly part of the Utopian tradition.

Andreae as the founder of a secret society?

Andreae's most important work is his utopia, "Christianopolis", in which he presents a Protestant ideal society. Its constitution was based on godliness, instructive plays were put on in the churches, and luxury and lavish clothing were immoral. Andreae is also the creator of the mythos of the Rosicrucian Order and its fictitious founder Christian Rosencreutz. Current research discusses that he may have contributed to the mythos around the Rosicrucian Order, but that the utopia should not be seen as a program. Later, Andreae distanced himself from his work.

A school for girls in the 18th century, oil on canvas by Jan Josef Horemans the Younger. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

The general obligation to attend school resulted in the creation of schools for girls.

What changes did Andreae create in education?

In 1638, Andreae was appointed to the church leadership in Württemberg and named the court preacher of Stuttgart. After the confusion of the Thirty Years' War, he rebuilt the structure of the church and of education in Württemberg. The Great Church Order of 1559 established mandatory schooling, though this only concerned the male part of the population. In 1645, Andreae extended mandatory schooling to the general population in Württemberg, the first state in Europe to do so.

View into the cloister garden of Bebenhausen Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Janna Almeida

A new beginning in the monastery school.

Why did Andreae come to Bebenhausen?

Demoralized by the resistance of the clergy and the nobility against his strict interpretation of Christianity and the social reforms for which he strove, Andreae sought his release from church leadership in 1646, which was granted to him in 1650. In the same year, he took on leadership of the monastery school of Bebenhausen as the general superintendent and abbot of Bebenhausen Monastery. Here, he was entrusted with developing a monastery school for 34 students.

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