This is the only building I could not see during my visit to the Abbey, as there was a reception going on inside. But from the pictures on the Abbey’s website, it must be another special room of gorgeous simple architecture.
It is said that the dormitory was the biggest secular room built during the Middle Age in Germany.
Today, concerts are held here as well, and it is rented as room for any occasion. Some companies celebrate special birthdays or anniversaries here. However, you have to have something in your wallet for this, the daily rental fee is 3000 Euro (yes, three thousand).
My pictures here only show it from the outside, also the beautiful portal to the west.
A wall encloses the abbey, more than 1 km in length, and partly 5 m in height. This wall is still the original one of 12th century.
The abbey ground's major entrances are eastward, among them a beautiful baroque main portal. It is equipped with the most important patrons of the abbey, namely St. Mary in the middle, Bernhard of Clairvaux (right) and St. John the Baptist (left).
Below St. Mary is the ever present coat of arms of Eberbach Abbey: the boar (right), a fish (bottom) and Cistercian symbol (left), surrounded by the Latin inscription svaviter et fortiter, which means "flexible in handling – firm in the principles".
If you walk through this portal, you can either go to your right (north) to the abbey, garden and its main buildings (visitor entrance and ticket office, church, "clausur", lay buildings, cloister), or you walk straight ahead to get to accommodation and feeding area.
After you got your tickets at the abbey office, you will first get into the abbey's garden and cloister. I don't know in which order the self-guided audio tours will lead you (I took a tour guide), but I assume, it is the same or similar to the one, our guide brought us to. So I'll explain her one.
As mentioned in my intro, I will also explain Cistercian life and philosophy (which leads to their architectural style) in detail – but in my "general tips". If you prefer to read these first, maybe you will better understand the virtual tour. (I still have to do this!)
The original cloister was of Romanesque style, which you can see on the western walls (directly opposite of the entrance, the wall with the little adjacent tower). In this western wall, the formerly only entrance to the abbey and the "clausur" was located. The cloister was modified in gothic style in 14th century, which you can see in the arches (very early gothic).
On the northern wall you can see the fountain, which originally belonged to the (no longer present) fountain house, which was a kind of bathhouse for the monks. The fountain itself is also not the original one; it was assembled with fragments in 1961 (but according to the original style).
On the eastern wall, you'll see the stairs to the monks' dormitory (right side of the entrance), and the Chapterhouse [="Kapitelhaus" in German. Thanks Sarah for telling me the correct word :) ].
On the south, the church is located.
When you walk around in the cloister, you will surely notice that only half of it is left roofed. It was destroyed during the wars early 19th century. However, beautiful early gothic vaults are left on north and west (pic. 1) with very simple leaf decoration in the vaults middle (pic. 2). Remains of Romanesque architecture can only be seen in the abbey's museum.
On the south and east, where the roof is gone, you can still see the original vault brackets of mid 13th (south) and 14th (east) century, carved in sandstone and showing important figures or scenes of the monks life: angels, women, a Cistercian praying to St. Mary, a writer, prophets of Old Testament and others (pic 4).
At the entrance to the church you will see an "open" wall tomb (pic. 5), which is also characteristic for Cistercians. It is the outer part of the abbots' graves, the sarcophaguses being in the transept(s) and meant to daily animate the monks for living according to their destined life.
In Eberbach Abbey, the first 3 abbots had their grave here: Ruthard, Eberhard and Erhard.
Each monastery or abbey had a hall where the important things of daily life were discussed, together with bible and the communities' rulebook readings. It is called "Kapitel-Saal", Chapterhouse. Remember that the monks' life otherwise was silentium – silence - so this was the only place where they could talk.
This hall here in Eberbach Abbey was built quite early during the construction days (before 1186), but later (around 1345) modified in Gothic style. That’s what you still see today – one single pillar in the middle, which forms a beautiful stellar vault.
Watch out for the wonderful and delicate paintings, flowers and grapevine leaves, which give this hall a very much romantic atmosphere.
It is said that this hall is an exceptional example for Cistercian architecture of high gothic style.
And don’t miss to look through the Romanesque windows (better arcade windows), they make nice frames for picture shots into the cloister garden.
BTW: in the movie, the scene of inquisition was shot here :-)
The monks’ refectory, or monks’ dining room, is the “newest” room within the abbey ground, restored in 1738 (after the destructions), as the decoration says. There must be a door to the kitchen nextroom, but we could not go inside (maybe as there was a reception in another room, so they still use the kitchen as catering room).
After all the plainness of the other abbey rooms I saw so far, I was a bit shocked to see this dining room so overdecorated in baroque style (well, overdecorated for me!). The walls are not the usual plain stone walls, but wood covered, and the ceiling is done in stucco type, with putti all over. The wall edges do have additional putti with symbols for the four seasons – of course one with grapes to show autumn and vintage, hihi.
At least on one wall there is a sign to remind that this abbey is Cistercian – the coat of arms with the simple bar of rectangles , see pic. 3 (in the coloured version they would be red and green).
An interesting wooden book cabinet dominates the room on the western wall. Our guide showed us the special form of the Abbey’s coat of arms (maybe for the ones who drunk too much, to clearly read where they are - lool): see pic. 4, and read the symbols from top to bottom: Monastery – boar – stream, which means Kloster Eber-Bach.
Today, this room is used for representation of Hesse State Government, and other banquets or parties. Haha, even Michael Schumacher musthave been here some time ago, as our guide told us.
The sun was on the wrong side, so it was almost impossible to take good pictures, but you can check the Abbey’s excellent website to see more of this room.
Ahhh, a fantastic room, for some in our group the most exciting one. It smells just like a wine cellar must smell, and tons of wine barrels are stored here now (remember, the Abbey is still the biggest wine producer of Germany).
Originally, this room was built around 1250 to be a Fraternei (frater means brethren in Latin). It was the room where the monks worked, according to their principle ora et labora – pray and work. Here they did their writing (in the Skriptorium – scriptory), and here they processed their wine in later years.
It’s interesting how and where from established words or terms derive. The term for wine type “Kabinett” (don’t know if there is an English translation) derives from Eberbach Abbey. The monks have called their wine cellar Cabinet (or treasure chamber), as they have stored their best and most valuable wines here. Now Kabinett stands for a high quality standard of German wine.
If you walk around in the cellar, not the black spots on walls and vaults. Our guide told us that this is a kind of black fungus prominent in dark and humid cellars and shows the good climatic conditions favourable for wine.
BTW: the wine cellar has been setting of the herbalist’s Dispensarium (pharmacy with herbals) in the movie.
My most favourite room in Eberbach Abbey – simplicity at it’s best, symmetry and harmony. The monks’ dormitory, built around 1270, a beautiful perfect two-aisle hall with cross-ribbed vaults and the most impressive middle age architectural constuction. According to Cistercian architecture, the dormitory is connected with a church by a door.
The dormitory is 72 m long, and around 100–150 monks did sleep here. On the northern end, it has an interesting architectural “illusion”. The room’s level increases from south to north by around 50 cm. That’s why the pillar shafts at the northern end are shorter, which gives you the illusion that the room is bigger than it actually is. It might be even visibly in my picture (pic 1 and 2). The pillars are all the same type, except the one which is directly close to the entrance to the church. This one is octagonal in shape and richer decorated than the other ones.
Now imagine this room in the middle age, the monks slept in their habit (clothes), shoes on their feet, and only a simple bag (like for storage of potatos) to cover them. There were no glasses in the windows and it must have been quite uncomfortable in wet or stormy or snowy weather. But around 1500, cells were installed, which later have been removed (during the partial destruction of the Abbey). The supporting brackets are still visible (pic 3).
If you are on a guided tour, try and go there again later, and try to go after the other groups leave. Then you’ll have the room for your own, and can step back in time, breath in it’s holy and grand atmosphere and might feel sudden peace in you. I usually have moments like that only out in the nature, but here it captured me as well, and I could not avoid some moving tears.
BTW: the dormitory was most probably the room where most of the scenes of The Name of the Rose were shot – it served as the scriptory. The door, leading to their secret library, is the door leading to the chuch. Out of space reasons, I have added more dormitory pictures into a travellog.
As soon as you enter the church, you will be captured by the simplicity and the greatness of this building. Try to enter it from the western end – then you can walk up to the choir, which is definitely more impressive (in my opinion).
Eberbach Abbey’s church was built around 1160 in a three-aisle Romanesque style. Most remarkable but typical for Cistercian architecture is the rectangular (rather than half-round) chancel, which lacks any overdecoration.
The original architecture, lacking in any kind of paintings, decorations, carvings, was meant to provide a "room" for the monks to pray and not be distracted by anything else but their dialog with God.
Gothic side chapels in the transept have been added later (around 1340). Also the windows, as we see them today, have been constructed during this period, and on sunny days they fill the church’s interior with an almost out-of-this-world atmosphere. Maybe my pictures can communicate this (I had the perfect weather for a visit).
Same as for the monk’s dormitory: try to visit the church when the guided tours have left, as only then you will be surrounded by this puristic grand atmosphere, it emanates.
Today, concerts are given in the church, often Gregorian chants and other concerts.
The event calendar can be downloaded, but is available unfortunately only in German:
Eberbach Abbey, calendar of events
The strict rule of pureness and no decorations has been a bit released mid 13th century. That’s why today, you can see several tombs of relevance inside of the church.
In the chancel you can see a beautiful tombstone for two archbishops of Mainz, Gerlach and Adolf II of Nassau; Mainz always protected Eberbach Abbey’s philosophy (stupid me did not take a picture, but you can see it on the Abbey’s website, given below).
But also non-church or non-monastery related persons got their recognition here: Dukes of Katzenelnbogen (haha, translates into dukes of cat’s elbows). They have provided the monks with free travels to sell their wine, so the monks did not have to pay the quite high customs toll. As a countermove, the dukes got their tombs erected in the church, which made their souls travel freely to heaven (well, they believed so).
Make sure you have closer looks to the floor tiles in between the pillars: they are still the old and original ones of 13th century: floral motives come in groups of four.
As mentioned in my intro, the monastery could only function with a lot of lay brethrens, assisting the monks in their daily work in the vineyards.
But rule forbid the lays to disturb the monks’ daily praying circle, so they have been separated from each other. Similar as the monks, they lays also had their dormitory and dining rooms.
The so-called Abbey lane between the Klausur buildings for the monks (“Klausur” derives from Latin “claudere” = to close or “clausus” = closed) and the buildings for the lays characterizes this separation.
The door (or arch) from this lane into the cloister was the only access to the monks’ area those days (picture 1). The lays could access the church as well, but only from the back side (picture 2).
Pictures 3 and 4 are close-ups of the so-called Swedish building, where in the old days the library was located in the upper floor.
As mentioned before, the monks had assistance in their daily work by lay brethrens during the abbey’s heydays. But these lays have not been allowed to mix with the monks during their daily rhythm of life. That’s why additional rooms have been built in the west, separated from the monks’ Klausur by the Abbey lane.
The lay building (consisting of refectory and dormitory) was built around 1200, but expanded over the years. When a third floor was added, the original static did not hold the additional weight, that’s why the pillars in the refectory had been jacketed with concrete. The only pillar which is still of original style is in the room’s south, close by the most beautiful window of this building.
The refectory is a two-aisle hall with cross-ribbed vaults, now decorated with historical wine presses of old Cistercian days. They give the room a quite dark and mystic appearance, and the light falling through the windows adds to this atmosphere.
Please have a look at my travellog Light , here you can see this special impressions with the light.
The bathhouse does no longer exist, it was destroyed after the wars and the occupations. But it was carefully restored, in an interesting way. The fountain was rebuilt in 1961 by using several fragments. The big hexadecagonal basin definitely was of this style.
A bathhouse was the room where the monks washed their hands before going into the dining room. Of course it was (is) located close to the dining room. My first picture shows the fountain; I stood on the stairs to the dormitory whilst taking it.
If you want to see how such a bathhouse looked like, check the website I have posted below. It is of Maulbronn Abbey, another Cistercian monastery, southeast of Heidelberg.