The Baroque Schöntal abbey is adorned with two towers – unusually for a Cistercian monastery, as this form of embellishment goes against the order’s minimalist style. This architectural touch symbolizes the abbey’s power and prosperity.
Founded in 1157 by Cistercian monks from Maulbronn, Schöntal Monastery (Kloster Schöntal) is nestled in a truly idyllic location: on the banks of the winding Jagst River – the Cistercians are known for constructing monasteries in river valleys. The land was donated by the house of Berlichingen in exchange for burial rights in the cloister. To this day, the cloister’s east wing houses the remains of Götz von Berlichingen, also known as Götz of the Iron Hand – the legendary knight and central figure of the eponymous play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
A Baroque landmark
After many prosperous years, the monastery was repeatedly plundered and damaged during the wars in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, it soon experienced a renaissance under Benedikt Knittel, who served as abbot between 1683 and 1732. He played a key role in shaping the monastery’s Baroque appearance. It was under his leadership that Johann Leonhardt Dientzenhofer transformed the Gothic monastery church into the Baroque masterpiece it is today, and the palatial Neue Abtei (new abbey) with its grand Rococo staircase and magnificent banquet hall was constructed. The Ordenssaal (order hall), featuring over 300 paintings of monks and nuns from various orders dressed in their traditional habits, the cloister with Götz von Berlichingen’s place of interment, and the Heilig-Grab-Kapelle (Holy Grave chapel) on Kreuzberg hill are further highlights.
Since 1979, the Neue Abtei (new abbey) has housed the education and training centre of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart together with the Catholic Bildungswerk (Educational Institute) Hohenlohekreis e.V. and the Landpastoral (Regional Pastoral Centre) of the Schöntal Monastery. The Monastery is also home to Schöntal Town Hall and a Waldschulheim (School Nature Camp).