Bebenhausen Monastery in the landscape of Schönbuch

Successful cultivation and lively tradeFarmingwith monks

Through gifted and purchased land, Bebenhausen Monastery was able to acquire adjacent parcels of land. The intensive farming of the Cistercian monks and trade in the cities contributed to making Bebenhausen one of the richest monasteries in southern Germany.

Detailed view of the property map of Bebenhausen Monastery

Properties were given to the abbey as gifts.

Cistercians as farmers

The land that was given to the monastery by Count Palatine Rudolf I of Tübingen and other benefactors was intended to provide for Bebenhausen and make it self-sufficient. In 1199, the rules of the Cistercian order said: "The monks of our order must live from the work of their hands. To work our holdings, we create farms, which are administered by the lay brothers." Farming, animal husbandry, and wine production were among the direct activities of a monastery. In the process, the monks were supported by lay brothers, referred to as conversi.

Exterior view of Bebenhausen Monastery, crossing tower in mist

The monastery's property was expanded.

Development of a major operation

In a first phase, Bebenhausen, as in all monasteries, sought to create a network of large estates, called granges. They were located in places such as Echterdingen, Weil im Schönbuch, Lustnau, or Geisnang, the present-day Ludwigsburg. Through careful purchases and the sale of far-off properties, a closed monastery territory formed over the years. The monastery's property primarily extends to the central Neckar area and the Gäu region.

Detail of Bebenhausen Monastery

The monks maintained a lively agricultural trade.

Economic success

Because the Cistercians were good and effective farmers, they quickly produced more than they needed in the monastery. The monks therefore founded branches of their business in important cities. Bebenhausen Monastery soon had city farms in Esslingen, Markgröningen, Reutlingen, Stuttgart, Tübingen, and Ulm. They had storage rooms for the monastery's trade goods: grain, wool, salt, and wine. At the same time, the monks traded for goods in their city farms that they could not make for themselves. In this way, they could also trade outside of the monastery, and ensure continued prosperity.

The former monastery mill

Some of the former outbuildings still exist today.

Restructuring in the late Middle Ages

In the late Middle Ages, there were fewer and fewer lay monks. However, a monastery like Bebenhausen needed them to work its property as much as ever. Increasingly, these workers were replaced by farmers. Bebenhausen Monastery leased its land for levies and labor. At the same time, the monastery acquired power and judicial rights over entire villages or ownership of surrounding churches and chapels. Their income created the wealth that made Bebenhausen one of the richest monasteries in Württemberg.