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A historically significant abbey in scenic surroundings

Hirsau Monastery

Former library on the second floor of the Chapel of St. Mary at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
MANUSCRIPTS AND BOOKS STORED IN PLAIN SIGHT

THE HIRSAU LIBRARY

The combination of a ground floor chapel and second floor library was an architectural style invented by Benedictine monasteries in southern Germany. The monks installed cabinets in their library to accommodate their manuscripts and prints. The surviving furniture is from the late Gothic period, a rarity.

AN INTERESTING ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

The library was located on the second floor of the Chapel of St. Mary. This type of construction was common primarily in southern-German Benedictine monasteries in the 15th and 16th centuries, including Weingarten, Blaubeuren, Zwiefalten and Alpirsbach, and likely also Ottobeuren and Wessobrunn. Scholars further accept that monasteries belonging to other orders valued this practical design, for example in Salem, where a Cistercian monastery placed their book vault above the Chapel of Our Lady.

Roof truss on the Chapel of St. Mary at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Stephan Kohls

An example of perfect craftsmanship.

LATE GOTHIC ROOF TRUSS AND FURNISHINGS

Sound carpentry: The library hall's impressive wooden beam ceiling and the chapel's imposing roof truss required massive quantities of wood. The manuscripts and books belonging to the monastery library had been stored in custom cabinets since the early 16th century. The late Gothic furnishings decorated with ornate tracery and flat carvings are extremely rare, and were returned to their place of origin in 2008 following a comprehensive restoration.

HIRSAU'S LIBRARY COLLECTION

Only a few remnants of the former monastery library have survived. Medieval catalogs that could provide information about the original manuscripts and prints are also missing. However, scholars have learned some things about the Hirsau library: The monastery's heydays—the 11th and 12th centuries as well as the 15th and 16th centuries—were high points in monastic book culture. New acquisitions primarily reflected the monks' reform movement.

Former library on the second floor of the Chapel of St. Mary at Hirsau Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

In 2008, valuable cabinets, which had been custom built for this room in the early 16th century, were returned to the library.

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