Already in the early Middle Ages, a monastery was founded in Hirsau in the northern Black Forest, which housed the relics of Saint Aurelius. In the course of time, however, the Aurelius Monastery fell into disrepair and was not rebuilt until the second half of the 11th century. Under Abbot Wilhelm (around 1030-1091), the first heyday of the Hirsau monastery began in 1069. The monastery, which had adopted the way of life of the monastery of Cluny in Burgundy, was very popular in the last third of the 11th century and many people of different estates joined the convent. Thus, the Aurelius Monastery soon became too small and the new monastery of St. Peter and Paul began to be built.


Debt and decay from the 12th century onwards

However, the popularity of the monastery did not last long. Already in the 12th century, the reform movement stagnated and the monastery increasingly lost its importance. Throughout the 13th century, there were disposals of Hirsau property. The convent shrank and secular habits spread among the monks. Donations to the monastery decreased and by the 14th century it was heavily in debt.


The second period of prosperity

From the beginning of the 15th century, under the abbots Frederick and Wolfram Meiser, reform efforts were made to overcome the internal crisis of the monastery and to improve the desolate economic situation. Around 1458 the monastery joined the Bursfeld Union. It was a union of Benedictine monasteries and originated from the monastery of Bursfeld in Lower Saxony. The aim of the Bursfeld Union was to re-establish the rule of the order in its old purity and strictness.

Under Abbot Bernhard von Gernsbach, Hirsau Monastery finally experienced a spiritual renewal of monastic life in the second half of the 15th century. Economic conditions also improved and new buildings were erected in the complex. Thus, Abbot Blasius had the entire monastery complex rebuilt in late Gothic style at the end of the 15th century. The monks also expanded the library and set up their own bookbinding workshop for the manuscripts produced in the monastery. Finally, at the beginning of the 16th century, the Lady Chapel was built. Today it is one of the few intact buildings and is now the parish church of the Protestant parish.


Reformation and secularization

But the second wedding in the history of Hirsau Monastery did not last long either, as Duke Ulrich of Württemberg reformed in 1534 and had most of the Württemberg monasteries dissolved in 1535. A few years later, by order of the Duke of Württemberg, a Protestant monastic school was established in Hirsau to prepare its students for Protestant theological studies.

However, the dukes of Württemberg also used the monastery complex themselves: Between 1589 and 1593, Duke Ludwig had a hunting lodge built there, which he and his family used for hunting trips, spa and bathing stays. The ruins of the castle can still be seen today.


Fire during the Palatinate War of Succession

The Protestant monastery school in Hirsau existed until 1692. Then French troops set fire to the monastery buildings and the ducal hunting lodge during the Palatinate War of Succession. Only the Lady Chapel and the owl tower remained unscathed. From the middle of the 19th century, the ruins began to be secured and archaeological excavations were carried out. The ruins can be visited today.


(D. F.)