Bypass Repeated Content

An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Der heilige Bernhard von Clairvaux, Schlussstein im Kreuzgang von Kloster Maulbronn; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Austerity and strict rules

THE CISTERCIANS

The Cistercians were basically medieval reformers, created as a countermodel to the worldly Benedictine orders. Slowly, through isolation from society and a simple lifestyle, they became a leading order of the Catholic church within only a few decades.

Detail of the tiled stove in Salem Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Salem local administration

Salem Monastery: The Cistercians were self-sufficient.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

With the goal of strictly following the original rules of the Benedictine order, a group of monks founded Cîteaux Monastery in 1098. The order endorsed strict austerity and did not want to live off of leasing to farmers. Instead, the monks worked their own lands. When Bernhard von Clairvaux entered the monastery in 1113, the order began experiencing an enormous revival. Because of his sermons and his works, he may be considered the true founder of the order.

Chapter house in Bebenhausen Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Bebenhausen Monastery: Daily readings took place in the chapter house.

Strictly controlled daily life

The daily life of the Cistercians was strictly regulated. At five in the morning, the day began with a doxology. Distributed throughout the day, several additional prayers in the monastery church and readings in the chapter house determined the structure of daily life. In the morning and afternoon, several hours were devoted to working the fields. Yet, due to their swiftly increasing numbers, the monks soon could no longer work their own lands. Lay brothers therefore took on caring for the cattle and fields.

Aerial view of Heiligkreuztal Monastery. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Sven Grenzemann

Heiligkreuztal Monastery: farm and management buildings in the monastery complex.

CENTURIES OF PROSPERITY

By 1300, the order had already proliferated throughout Europe and had about 700 houses. The order's female house also grew quickly. Organized farming and cattle breeding, in particular, turned monasteries whose monks had originally lived in poverty and seclusion into important economic and trade powerhouses. The Cistercians played an important role in the economic boom of the Middle Ages. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the order experienced another increase in prosperity.

Cistercians building a monastery church, image on the founders panel of Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Maulbronn Monastery: Cistercians building a monastery church.

FAITH BUILT IN STONE: THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE CISTERCIANS

Bernhard von Clairvaux also reformed the architecture of the monastery. According to the "Bernhardian Plan", the monastery churches were built to be narrow and without towers. A complete lack of any architectural sculpture or decorations was particularly important. The reduction of decor, in combination with the monumental size of the churches, still creates a strong effect today. With the Cistercians, Gothic architecture spread throughout all of Europe.

Kloster Schöntal; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jaeger
Luftaufnahme von Kloster und Schloss Salem; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth
Heiligkreuztal Monastery, exterior view. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Sven Grenzemann
Kloster Maulbronn; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Eberhard Spaeth
Luftaufnahme von Kloster Bebenhausen; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

Our Cistercian monasteries: Schöntal Monastery, Salem Monastery and Palace, Heiligkreuztal Monastery, Maulbronn Monastery, Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace.