Mike Stuchbery 💀🍷 @MikeStuchbery_ Journalist, Writer, Historian & Disgraced Former Supply Teacher. Oct. 04, 2019 3 min read

Yesterday I went with family to visit a site I've been wanting to visit for ages - Kloster Hirsau, or Hirsau Abbey, on the very edge of the Black Forest, near Calw.

It's an important site in the development of Germany in the medieval period. /1

There's been a monastic foundation at Hirsau since the 800s.

That first monastery was ruined, but we can see what's left of the second monastery in the Aureliuskirche, built in the 11th century.

(Pic courtesy of @Schloesser_BaWu, who administer the site.) /2

The second monastery was built to house the relics of St Aurelius, who is fairly obscure, even by the standards of Catholic Saints.

He's the patron saint of head diseases, I'm told - though what that includes, I cannot say.

(Pic via  http://heiligenlexicon.de ) /3

This second monastery trundled on for around another century until there was a disagreement over standards in the monastery.

Things, well, escalated and the local counts sent in armed men to clear the monks out.

Back to square one. /4

Third time was the charm, & the new monastery, dedicated to St Peter & St Paul would last for centuries.

This monastery was renowned for its reforming under Benedictine rule.

It was also a powerhouse for music & illumination. /5

(3rd & 4th pics via

William of Hirsau, an abbot, made the abbey what it was - he raised standards of behaviour, took the monastery from local nobles, & ensured it's protection.

He's almost been made a saint, & there's a weird statue of him outside town, holding man-babies. /6

(Pic via @Pinterest)

The only part of the monastery church of St Peter & Paul left standing is the 'Owl Tower' - no, were not quite sure why it has that name.

It does boast cool 12th centuries friezes, however, although we're not sure of their significance.

(3rd pic via @Schloesser_BaWu) /7

The abbey's scriptorium (where they illuminated texts) and later chapel survived too, in the form of the Marienkapelle.

Many of the remains of former abbots and local nobles found their way there.

Now it's the Hirsau parish Catholic church. /8

Some abbot's tombstones have been placed in the Marienkapelle for safe keeping, hardier stone memorials are kept in the open air, in the former nave of the church. /9

Speaking of illumination, as I was earlier, the monastery of St Peter & St Paul was home to the Hirsau Bible, a masterpiece of 11th century illumination, gifted to it by King Henry IV of the Germans (later Emperor). /10

(Pic via  http://ReproductionBibles.com )

The monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Hirsau set the standard that many other monasteries across the German lands would follow.

By the time the Reformation arrived, it was vastly powerful and influential. /11

As rich and as powerful as the Abbey was, it couldn't stand up to the winds of change sweeping across Europe.

By 1535 the place was a wreck, and in swooped the Duke of Württemberg. /12

The Dukes of Württemberg turned the monastery into a school, and Duke Ludwig decided that Hirsau's valley, crawling with deer, was the perfect place for a hunting lodge.

A big, impressive, gabled hunting lodge. /13

The Dukes of Württemberg only had a century or so to enjoy their lodge - it was burned by the French during the Nine Year's War in 1692, along with the monastery. /14

You can follow @MikeStuchbery_.


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