Bypass Repeated Content

An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Detail of a letter. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain
The power of words

The vernacular

One of the most important achievements of the Reformation was Martin Luther's translation of the Bible into the vernacular. Believers no longer had to read Latin to understand the word of God. However, the language of instruction in monastery schools like Bebenhausen remained Latin.

The monastery church in Bebenhausen. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

Until the Reformation, the service was in Latin.

A language of the faith

For centuries, Latin was the language of the liturgy and of literature. In the time of the Renaissance and of humanism, a shift towards popular speech began. Scholars increasingly wrote their works in the languages of their native countries. Particularly for religion, national languages increased in importance. Sermons began to be held in German, French, Dutch, or Hungarian. The Reformation would not have succeeded without the deliberate use of national languages.

Martin Luther on the wall of a building. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain

He didn't invent the vernacular, but he distributed it widely: Luther

Shaped by Luther

Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible had a huge influence on the German language. Because it had a huge audience, it shaped many metaphors and figures of speech. However, it took three to four centuries before Luther's German was the language of all Germany. It was only gradually that writers, scholars, and priests used this form of German in their texts and children learned to write it in schools. In the 19th century, a common spoken German language also developed, notwithstanding dialects.

Philipp Melanchthon, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

As a Reformer, Melanchthon used and supported the vernacular.

Literacy as a Christian duty

From the viewpoint of Reformers, Christians should be able to read, because the decisive source of faith was the Bible. This triggered a strong push for literacy in Germany. Reformers, such as Phillip Melanchthon, worked to found schools. In Württemberg, the "Great Church Order" of 1559 introduced the obligation to attend school, though this only applied for the male part of the population. In 1645, Johann Valentin Andreae extended mandatory schooling to the general population in Württemberg as was the first country in Europe to do so.

The cloister garden with the fountain house in Bebenhausen. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Rose Hajdu

The monastery school in Bebenhausen was also open to poorer boys.

The foundation of monastery schools

With his "Great Church Order" of 1559, Duke Christoph von Württemberg had monastery schools established in the 13 monasteries of Württemberg, including Bebenhausen Monastery. The schools were intended to train future Protestant pastors for service in schools or churches. For the first time, even boys from poorer families were given a chance at an education. After attending the monastery school, they studied theology at the Protestant seminary in Tübingen.

Instruction in Latin

In monastery schools, the language of instruction was Latin, and it remained so for a long time. The use of Latin was mandatory during the service and in private conversations. Lessons in Latin were part of the schedule and, to improve their Latin, students put on Latin plays. In private letters to their parents, the students of the monastery typically used German.

Bebenhausen Monastery in Schönbuch. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

Latin was also the language of instruction in the monastery school of Bebenhausen.