The Romanesque basilica sports six towers and has been beautifully well preserved. As you approach the church, you will enter through the colonnaded west porch, known at The Paradise, which was added to the church in 1225. From this vantage point you can look at the inner courtyard with a lion fountain that was added about 90 years ago in 1928. However, the true artistic treasures in this area are the capitals to the columns, which are carved with some interesting creatures, both human and mythical.
Once inside the monastery (photos not allowed), the tomb of the abbey’s founder Heinrich II (from 1270) rests on the west end of the nave. The effigy of Heinrich is colorfully painted as it lies atop the tomb. The mosaics in the apse are beautifully done in gold and other colors, but they are later additions from the early 1900s, as are the stained glass windows.
Overall, the church is very fine. If you are interested in Romanesque architecture, this is one of the best preserved Romanesque churches in Germany.
I recommend that visitors to the abbey take the time to watch the introductory movie at the visitor center before seeing the church. It is informative and talks not only about the history of the abbey but it talks about the distinguishing features of the structure itself. Therefore you walk away with a greater understanding of what you are actually looking at.
The video is available in several languages (German, English, French, and Dutch). We were hoping to see the English version and the monk on duty in the information center quickly set us up in a room (other rooms had different language versions playing). He was very kind and answered all the questioned we had about the abbey.
The movie is free as is visiting the abbey. Information Hall is open weekdays from 1430-1645 and on Sundays/Holidays from 1315-1645.
The monastery manages the church, the Information Hall, and the garden shop. There are monks available to assist and answer questions in the Information Hall. However, the grounds where the monks live are not open to the public. It is located beside the church so visitors can look at the outside and the walk in the entrance way, but the doors are shut, allowing the monks the privacy they seek upon entering the order.
Situated in the Vulkaneifel, we visited the beautiful Benedictine Abbey, Maria Laach. This Romanesque abbey was founded in 1093 on the banks of the Laacher lake (the crater of an extinct volcano) and is still home to 60 Benedictine monks today. Their Gregorian chanting can be heard several times a day. Check the website for more details of its long history and for tickets and times of performances.
of the inner court and the Lions fountain building up to the underground crypt, also known as Paradise, which has similarity to Granada.
when you have the chance for a visit, do it in warmer season, the Basilika is freezing cold in the wintertime.
although I have very fond memories over the Christmas period and the choirs performances
Kloster Maria Laach is a Benedictine Abbey that is set alongside the Laacher See in the Eifel region. It is about 80 km’s south of the city of Cologne or 25 km's north of Koblenz.
This beautiful ancient Abbey is dominated by the two tall towers of the Klosterkirche and is reputed to be one of the most beautiful Romanesque buildings in Germany.
Maria Laach Benedictine Abbey
56653 Maria Laach
(Vulkaneifel) Phone: 02652/59-0
Location / Drive: 80 km south of Cologne in the »Vulkaneifel«;
ca. 80 min. by car, ca 70 min.by train Inter Regio from central station
Visit: Opening hours:
Easter - All Saints' Day:
Sun.: 1 p.m. - 4.30 p.m.
Mon.-Fri. : 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.; 1 p.m. - 4.30 p.m.
All Saints' Day - Easter:
Sun.: 1 p.m. - 3.30 p.m.
Mon. -Fri. :10 a.m. - 11 a.m. ; 2.30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
The crypt is a large chamber, supported by many heavy columns, below the eastern part of the church. It is of the 12C. The columns have plain block capitals. The columns are of limestone and the capitals of tuff. There is a well tended altar and prayer books behind the seats, so it undoubtedly used for devotions.
There is a path along the lake for walking (and maybe for biking). We chose to use our car along L113 North for about 2 km where we found a parking area across the road from the lake. Walking past a miniture golf course we came to a put-in and docks where there was a great deal of small sailboating activity and of course views of the lake
The church has been decorated with many old and recent things. Some of the Brothers appear to be quite talented. Among the ancient monuments are a Merovingian tombstone (?) and an ancient font near the entrance door(3). In the West transept on a pier is a mural of St. Benedict (about 1500)(4). By far the most interesting is the tomb of the founder(1280) Count Palatine Henry II (d.1095). The idealized painted effigy on top is of wood. The sarcophagus is of stone and is carved and painted (1&2). A fine recent mosaic is of the Good Shepherd in the floor of the NE apse(5).
The church follows a basilican plan with 2 apses and transepts. There is a tall nave with an aisle at each side and vaulting(2). There are clerestory window above the nave arcades. The supports are heavy piers with applied columns and pilasters with ornamented capitals(3). The east end altar conch has a 20 C mosaic patterned after the Romanesque model of Monreale. The altar is covered by a 13C baldachin that is elaborately decorated(1). There are 20C stained glass windows in the central apse and more mosaic in the other two eastern apses and on the floor(4). To the S. side at the W. end there is a chapel with a votive 15C painted wood-carved Pieta(5).
In 1220, after the church was completed, it was decided to make it fancier. A portico was added called the Paradise. It must have served as a cloister because its 3 sides look like one.It is in complete harmony with the exterior. At this same period the nave and aisles were vaulted. Porticos of this sort and vaulting were being added to a few other Benedictine churches in Sicily and S. Italy at this time but where did they get this cloister-like idea? (It is unique; there is no evidence that the Emperor at the time, FrederickII (Stupor Mundi) was in contact with the monastery), But there it stands: graceful , double columned(4), with carved foliated capitals(5), enclosing a bare central court around the apse, recently graced with an Alhambra-like Lion Fountain(3) made by one of the Brothers(1956). The most interesting part of the Paradise is the outer Entry. It is round-arched, 5-banded, with columns and pilasters and carved capitals(2), some of which are figured (the left ones). At the corner are the "hair-pullers" (haarraufer) demons, followed by a demon inscribing a book of sinners, and then 2 dragons(1).Only a few capitals are figured in the rest of the church. There is no advanced carving because such masons were in short supply, working away fervently in more southern climes.
The shaping of the grounds makes it hard to examine the church from all angles and so the symmetry and gracefulness are not easy to appreciate.There are two taller towers at the East transept and two rounded towers at the West. (Two transept churches were not unusual in the Romanesque period). Between the East towers is a square based octagonal tower covering the crossing. Between the West towers is a similar taller square central tower with a projecting West end apse.Six towers in all (1). There is no west facade (since this is a two-ended church). From the west, where you approach over a parvis, the rhythm of the blind arcades, roofs, windows and varied colors of the tuff-stone and basalt(3) is soothing like a geometric stone waterfall (2)(the greatest Romanesque quality). The front entry, hidden in the portico, is simple(4). The only place you can find a view of all of the towers is down by the lake. (We did not try that).
Though some of the substructures of the Abbey buildings adjoining the church go back to the time of the foundation, very little of their original character has been preserved. The buildings were modified from the early 20th century.
Arcades on the three sides provide delightful glimpse both of the inner courtyard with the Lion Fountain. The origin of the Portico is mainly to countries South of the Alps so this is a unique addition to the monastery
Count Palatine’s monument is a freestanding tomb of the late 13th century. It is a stone sarcophagus with a carved wooden lid, the Count Palatine an idealized youth full figure clad in princely robes and seemingly still alive as he rests on the cover. The tomb contains the founder’s remains.