A historically significant abbey in scenic surroundings

Hirsau Monastery

Owl Tower and other building ruins at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Geissler
BENEDICTINE ARCHITECTURE

THE BUILDINGS

Benedictines controlled life in Hirsau for more than 500 years. Their influence in the northern Black Forest is still evidenced by architecturally significant ruins: east of the Nagold lie the ruins of the Aurelius Monastery; west of the river, the St. Peter and Paul Monastery.

Church of St. Aurelius at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Calw Tourist Information

The first monastery was dedicated to St. Aurelius.

AURELIUS MONASTERY IN THE ROMANESQUE STYLE

There was probably a monastery in Hirsau as early as 830, likely dedicated to St. Aurelius. Instigated by his uncle, Pope Leo IX, Count Adelbert II von Calw had the dilapidated complex rebuilt in the Romanesque style in the mid-11th century. It consisted of the Church of St. Aurelius, parts of which are still preserved today, and two adjacent chapels to the north as well as a small conclave to the south. The entire monastery was enclosed by a wall and was accessible through three gates.

Ruins of the St. Peter and Paul Monastery in Hirsau. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

The new monastery was dedicated to St. Peter and Paul.

A NEW MONASTERY WITH A LARGE CHURCH

The new monastery, built by Abbot Wilhelm von Hirsau and his successor Gebhard von Urach, is located on the opposite side of the Nagold river. The largest portion of the conclave included the monastery church, consecrated in 1091, whose length of 97 meters makes it one of the most imposing examples of German Romanesque architecture. Its outline can still be seen on the grounds today. Its western boundary is a representative two-tower facade, of which the Owl Tower has survived intact.

CONCLAVE WITH CHAPEL OF ST. MARY

The rest of the Gothic cloister connects to the south side of the former monastery church. From here, monks could access the chapter house to the east as well as the summer refectory—the dining hall—and the fountain house south of the conclave. The former monastery kitchen and the winter refectory were located to the west. The Chapel of St. Mary has survived in its entirety and is located northeast of the conclave. It served as a chapel for the sick and as a library.

Gothic window in the former cloister at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Calw Tourist Information
View from the cloister toward the Chapel of St. Mary at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
Gothic window in the former cloister at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Calw Tourist Information

The cloister connected the individual rooms of the monastery.

Visitors at the hunting lodge at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

The only evidence of former courtly splendor.

DUCAL HUNTING LODGE

South of the former conclave are the ruins of what was once a hunting lodge for the dukes of Württemberg. The Renaissance structure, built by the two court architects Georg Beer (1527–1600) and Heinrich Schickhardt (1558–1635), was destroyed in 1692 during the Nine Years' War. All that remains are the western gate tower, the west wing, which was later converted into a cold storage space for fruit, and parts of the representative east wing.

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