The Maulbronn Monastery is situated along the Waldensian & Huguenots cultural route in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In June of this year we followed the trail in reverse-chronological order, beginning in Oberderdingen and finishing in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, though the trail extends into Italy and France.
The Maulbronn Monastery is an impressive stop of historical significance along the trail and definitely worth checking out, whether you’re following the cultural route in its entirety or just checking out Stuttgart, as it’s also a possible day trip from there.
The monastery was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 thanks to its impressive architecture, sheer size, and the fact that it is the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastery complex in Europe.
Situated just outside of the town of Maulbronn, the monastery truly is a must-see for those who love history, culture, and Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The interior is full of groin and rib vaults, in addition to a large and impressive, though clean and refined church in keeping with the architecture style.
The main buildings of the complex were originally erected in 1147 under the auspices of the first Cistercian pope, Eugenius III, and later consecrated in 1178 by Arnold, Bishop of Speyer. Additional buildings were added onto the main church into the 13th century. The complex is massive with many long cooridors, groin and rib vaults, and and impressive church.
The monastery changed hands and control, was pillaged, and secularized and then consecrated several times into the 1800s. It survived several wars and, given that, it's a wonder it has remained so well-preserved through the centuries.
Maulbronn Monastery was also the place of celebration for the 250th anniversary of the Waldensian emigration to Germany, contributing to its significance as a site to visit along the Waldensian & Huguenot cultural route.
Though the Huguenots tend to receive more attention than the Waldensians did given the higher numbers of religious refugees, the similar story of Waldensians immigrants seeking freedom is worth learing about as well. They were an industrious people of meager means with a high skill level in textiles, especially silk and merino wool, as well as their legacy of wine and tobacco. Their legacy is evident all over Baden-Württemberg, including the monastery and surrounding towns and villages.
These days, the monastery receives daily visitors for €9 per person, as well as hosting classical music festivals from time to time. Groups come to the monastery for yoga sessions in and around the grounds as well.
On the outskirts of the monastery, a forest runs along the outer walls and leads to lakes that allow swimming, fields of wheat, and several walking and biking trails. There are several farms that border the montastery as well as horse riding trails. For the active traveler, and especially photographers, it's an ideal place to spend a few hours.
It's easiest to visit with a car, but possible to access via train from Stuttgart and is a possible day trip from the city if that's your jumping off point. If you don't have a car, check out the cultural train (Kulturbahn).
It's possible to take a guided tour or to purchase an audio guide for €2 in English and several other languages. If listening to everything it says, it takes about an hour and a half to get through the monastery. Despite its status as a UNESCO Site, it's location thankfully helps to cut down on crowds.
Travel tip shared by Kristin for Travel Dudes.