The Reflective Peace of Maulbronn



Although the Cloister at Maulbronn has a "commercial" feel to it, with shops located on the grounds of the old monastery complex, I found the place to be quite peaceful and contemplative. Tucked away from the much busier, and more public, open space where the visitors come to see the fountain, the main buildings, and of course, the church, is this section. Here, you can see the buildings and the garden used to grow specialty plants and things like that. This is a place where they raise and grow a great deal of different things. The hillside above this complex is a highly organized and terraced growing area; the reservoirs are very impressive.

Here is the UNESCO description of the site:

The architectural ensemble reflects developments within the Cistercian 0rder in the 12th-16th centuries, and the effect of secularization and conversion to Protestant use. It is clearly defined and separated from the town by its fortifications and its location on the outskirts of the town. The church is typical of first-generation Cistercian architecture: a two-storey Romanesque nave and a low chevet leading to a transept with three rectangular chapels opening off each arm. A stone screen separated the monks from the lay brethren. The Gothic vaulting of 1424 that replaced the original wooden beams modified the rigorous spatial divisions practised during the lifetime of St Bernard of Clairvaux, incorporating the Romanesque traditions of the Hirsau region into the Cistercian requirements of austerity and renunciation. 
The fortifications consist of a wall and an inner wall, with a ward between the two. They attained their present form between the 13th and 15th centuries. The outbuildings of the former monastery comprise both stone and timber-framed buildings; the latter are mostly from the 16th-18th centuries, although often incorporating substantial remains of the medieval buildings that they replaced. 
The basic medieval layout and structure of the central complex, which is typical of the Cistercian tradition, is virtually complete. The 13th-century buildings, in the transitional style of the Master of the Paradise, provided a decisive stimulus for the development of Gothic architecture in Germany. Only the monks' refectory and the lay brethren's dormitories have undergone transformations since the Reformation, in order to adapt them for use as a Protestant seminary. There are several post-monastic buildings within the nominated area, mostly in plastered stone. They include the former hunting lodge of Ludwig, Duke of Württemberg, and the ducal stables, which have Renaissance elements in their design and decoration. 
The Cistercian Order was notable for its innovations in the field of hydraulic engineering, and this is admirably illustrated in the Maulbronn monastery complex. There is an elaborate system of reservoirs, irrigation canals, and drains, used to provide water for the use of the community, for fish farming, and for irrigating its extensive agricultural holdings. It was only after the secularization of the monastery's land-holdings in the 19th century that this was significantly changed, with the drainage of several of the reservoirs, and also the expansion of the town of Maulbronn.
All of these elements are very much present, and the site is exceptionally well preserved. In contrast, the Abbey of Hirsau is a much more pronounced ruin and much of that site was reduced to rubble.