Stairs of Kloster Maulbronn
Image © by infactoweb
The stairs of the monastery were built in 1147 under the auspices of the first Cistercian pope, Eugenius III.
The main church stairs were built in a style transitional from Romanesque to Gothic. The church was consecrated in 1178 by Arnold, Bishop of Speyer. A number of other buildings infirmary, refectory, cellar, auditorium, porch, south cloister, hall, another refectory, forge, inn, cooperage, mill, and chapel. followed in the course of the 13th century. The west, east and north cloisters date back to the 14th century, as do most fortifications to the stairs of the church and the stairways.
After the Reformation broke out, Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg, seized the monastery in 1504, later building his hunting lodge and stables there. The monastery was pillaged repeatedly: first by the knights under Franz von Sickingen in 1519, then again during the German Peasants’ War six years later. In 1534, Duke Ulrich secularised the monastery, but the Cistercians regained control — and Imperial recognition — under Charles V’s Augsburg Interim. In 1556, Christoph, Duke of Württemberg, built a Protestant seminary, with Valentin Vannius becoming the first abbot two years later; Johannes Kepler studied there 1586–89.
In 1630, the abbey was returned to the Cistercians by force of arms, with Christoph Schaller von Sennheim becoming abbot. This restoration was short-lived, however, as Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden forced the monks to leave again two years later, with a Protestant abbot returning in 1633; the seminary reopened the following year, however the Cistercians under Schaller also returned in 1634. Under the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, the confession of the monastery was settled in favour of Protestantism; with abbot Buchinger withdrawing in process. A Protestant abbacy was re-established in 1651, with the seminary reopening five years later. In 1692, the seminarians were removed to safety when Ezéchiel du Mas, Comte de Mélac, torched the school, which remained closed for a decade.
The abbey was secularised by Frederick I, King of Württemberg, in the course of the German Mediatisation in 1807, forever removing its political quasi-independence; the seminary merged with that of Bebenhausen the following year, now known as the Evangelical Seminaries of Maulbronn and Blaubeuren.
The monastery, which features prominently in Hermann Hesse’s novel Beneath the Wheel, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993. The justification for the inscription was as follows: “The Maulbronn complex is the most complete survival of a Cistercian monastic establishment in Europe, in particular because of the survival of its extensive water-management system of reservoirs and channels”. Hesse himself attended the monastery before fleeing in 1891 after a suicide attempt, and a failed attempt to save Hesse from his personal religious crisis by a well-known theologian and faith healer.
The stairs of Kloster Maulbronn follow the style of German Catholic Gothic art. The stairs are actually carved out of stone and then laid down on stone blocks.