Cistercian church with presbyterium, transept, and crossing tower, Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace. photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Cistercian simplicity and eleganceThe monastery church

In the high Gothic period, the monastery's growing wealth offered the opportunity to renovate and expand the monastery church. During the Reformation, Duke Ulrich I of Württemberg had the nave torn down so that the stones could be used to expand his Hohentübingen Palace.

Church interior from the east to the west, Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Unembellished simplicity, yet still beautiful.

Clear lines

The initial construction of the monastery church, undertaken by the Cistercians at the end of the 12th century, was completed quickly, allowing the Bishop of Constance to dedicate it in 1228. A flat-roofed, three-aisled columned basilica with minimally emphasized transept arms and a choir with a square silhouette, was typical for the architecture of the Cistercian order. Like all Cistercian buildings, the church was dedicated to their Patron Saint Mary, and was simple and without ornamentation.

Abbot Peter von Gomaringen with the crossing tower he had endowed, which he dedicated to Mary, patron saint of the order, detail from Bebenhausen Monastery

In the 14th century, there were some renovations.

Architectural abbots

In the first half of the 14th century, Abbot Konrad von Lustnau commissioned initial renovations to the monastery church in the Upper Rhine high Gothic style. However, it is the summer refectory that was built during his office that has become famous. Konrad also had the monumental choir window built, as well as the sepulchral chapel at the north transept, sadly no longer extant. About 80 years later, Abbot Peter von Gomaringen endowed the elegant crossing tower, built by Brother Georg, a Cistercian architect from Salem Monastery.

Church interior with visitors, Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Astounding: the decorations on the great pulpit.

New decoration

By the first quarter of the 16th century, the church of this wealthy monastery had been decorated: The choir, crossing, and transept received elaborate star and net vaults and 19 richly decorated altars were created. The Reformation meant cuts: Duke Ulrich I von Württemberg found the church too large, and therefore had the entire nave removed down to the transept in 1537. He used the ashlars for other construction projects. 30 years later, the church arrived at its present size. The organ and galleries were first added in the 19th century.

Christ vision by Bernhard von Clairvaux, panel painting circa 1485 in Bebenhausen Monastery

Panel painting as an example of the once rich decor of the monastery church.

Interior furnishings

There are only remnants of the medieval furnishing. The glazing of the tracery window in the choir was largely brought to Hohenheim Palace by Duke Carl Eugen in 1781; very little of it now remains in Bebenhausen. The Renaissance pulpit by sculptor Konrad Wagner impresses visitors with its vivid colors. Epitaphs, tombs, and paintings decorate the aisles and the north transept, works of art from the late Renaissance and the Baroque period.

Visitors in Bebenhausen Monastery
Interior of the church with pulpit by Konrad Wagner, late 16th century, original version with scenes from the Old Testament in Bebenhausen Monastery

Particularly impressive: the colorful pulpit in the church.

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