Nestled in a relatively isolated valley, 33km northwest of Stuttgart, the small town of MAULBRONN is famous for the medieval Kloster Maulbronn, which is so well preserved it still exudes monastic contemplation and labour. Founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1140, it was dissolved during the sixteenth century after which it became a Protestant school: fans of former pupil Hermann Hesse may recognize it as the semi-fictional Mariabronn in his book Narziss und Goldmund. Parts still serve as a school but only for around fifty pupils.

Initially the most striking feature of the monastery is the wall that encircles it and other defensive fortifications, dating from an era when the region was wild and fairly lawless. Within the compound a tidy collection of Gothic half-timbered buildings reveal themselves, looking much as they would have done five hundred years ago.

You can wander the compound free of charge, and there’s a useful information board showing the layout and original uses of the buildings outside the visitor centre, which sells entry tickets to the church and refectory, and rents out moderately useful audio-guides.

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