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An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Late Romanesque vault in the chapter house of Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
A gathering place

The chapter house

After the monastery church, the chapter house was the second most important room in the monastery. This is where the entire monastery met daily to read individual chapters from the rules of the order. In addition, decisions were made, work was distributed, the transgressions of the monks were judged, and the dead were commemorated.

View from the west into the Chapel of St. John in the chapter house of Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

A chapter house was needed urgently.

Urgent construction

Due to the importance of the chapter house for life in the monastery, the construction of this eastern wing of the cloister was—with the exception of the church itself—the most critical construction task. The roof truss was built in 1217, while the chapter house was completed in 1228—the same year in which the church was dedicated. The small Chapel of St. John in the northeast of the chapter house was ready sooner: The altar of St. John was dedicated in 1224.

Capital in the chapter house of Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Decorations and paintings emphasize the importance of the space.

Burial place for abbots and benefactors

The chapter house was the preferred burial place for the abbots of the monastery. Seven medieval tomb slabs can still be seen in the floor, some with images of people. In fact, the rules of the order prohibited people who did not belong to the order from being buried here. However, exceptions were made in Bebenhausen from the very beginning. For example, the benefactors of the abbey, Count Palatine Rudolf I von Tübingen and his wife Mechthild were buried in the chapter house.

Vault in the chapter house of Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Angela Hammer

The stout rib vaults are among the oldest in the region.

Early Gothic

The square chapter house is divided into bays, arranged in three rows of three. The heavy cross ribbed vault rests on four stout round pillars. Supports and vaults were only added after the outside of the building was completed. For all the late Romanesque heaviness of the architecture: the rib vault is among the earliest examples in this region. It can be linked to examples in the Cistercian architecture of northern France and Burgundy.

Column with capital at Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The vault was first painted in 1528.

Flowers and the Passion of Christ

The vault of the chapter house first received the colorful paint we see today in 1528. The decorative flowers and the depictions of the Instruments of the Passion were created during the office of Johann von Fridingen, the last Catholic abbey in Bebenhausen. In the 19th century, they were freshened over the course of the many renovations and modernizations performed in Bebenhausen under King Karl I von Württemberg.

Painted Romanesque ribbed vault, created in 1225, Bebenhausen Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

In focus: the Instruments of the Passion.

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