Paradise is not as far away as you might think. It is located between vineyards and orchards in the Kraichgau region, in the grounds of Maulbronn Monastery. "Paradise" here is called the porch of the monastery church. That is, of course, not the reason why the monastery Maulbronn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The almost 900-year-old complex is considered unique in the world because it is almost completely preserved. A visit is therefore well worthwhile - especially as Maultaschen are said to have been invented in the sacred kitchens.

Welcome to the Middle Ages

The wind gently strokes through the fine willow branches, which seem to bow before the stone tower. To the right and left of it, thick walls extend once around the monastery complex. Only a few meters away rises a hill lush with fruit trees and vines. It is a reminder of the life of the Cistercian monks, who once grew fruit and vegetables here outside the monastery. 

Not a bad role model

Founded almost 900 years ago, the monastery is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval complexes of its kind north of the Alps. It is a unique case worldwide and is considered a model for many monastery complexes. Experts study the building complex in order to be able to realistically reconstruct destroyed monasteries elsewhere. Why was Maulbronn never destroyed? Possibly because it did not have to be violently taken. At that time, the monastery was besieged by Duke Ulrich of Württemberg and conquered after seven days. The monks packed their things and left - without a fight, of course.

The faded paradise

Of course, the monastery got a little patina anyway. After the siege, it initially stood empty for a few years. It was looted, taken over by rebels and finally used as a school. I wonder if the names carved into the walls come from the rebels or from the monastery students?

And the "Paradise" is also getting on in years. This is the name given to the porch of the monastery church, which was traditionally painted with scenes from the story of the Fall (Adam and Eve's damnation). However, since the last "painting" was soon 500 years ago, the sinful painting can only be guessed at. 

An almost mystical place

The three-shelled fountain is the landmark of the monastery. Surrounded by high windows, it splashes away beautifully in the fountain house. On sunny days, the old windows fan out the light to form diagonals that give the room, along with its fine mist of water, an enchanting atmosphere. It is especially beautiful in spring when the huge magnolia in the cross garden blooms white and pink - through the windows you can also see the splendor from inside. The fountain was not always as magnificent as it looks today. In the beginning - and this is how the monks knew it - it consisted only of the lower bowl, which was more practical. Because that's where the monks washed their hands and cut their hair.

Within the sacred walls

Admittedly, the hall-like rooms with the columns and high arched windows are really impressive. But it's hard to imagine the monastery life of yesteryear without monks and furniture. Fortunately, there are guides like Angelika Braun, for example, who fills the old walls with life during her tour. 

So you are amazed when she tells you in the monastery church about the stonemason who worked for 20 years on a stone cross, only to learn that it should have been made of wood. One makes a careful, reverent bow around the stone slabs in the cloister, for beneath them rest the mortal remains of the abbots. And when you look into the cloister garden, you would not be surprised to see a monk sitting there absorbed in deep prayer. Thanks to Angelika Braun's lecture, one has traveled a long way back in time.

Back to the present

In the monastery courtyard, we are greeted once again by a pleasant hustle and bustle. Families stroll across the large square and disappear into small alleyways. A group of visitors listens to the stories of a monastery guide. The half-timbered houses are also busy. They do not house museums but, for example, the town hall or the Maulbronn police. So the monastery complex is still an integral part of Maulbronn's everyday life. Perhaps that is why the atmosphere is so beautiful.

When God does not look so closely

Finally, a detour into the realm of legends. Maultaschen are said to have been invented in the monastery of Maulbronn. Jakob, a local lay monk, did not want to give up meat during Lent. To conceal the violation, he mixed the minced meat with vegetables and herbs and rolled the mixture into pasta dough. Since God, fortunately for Jacob, only looked at the dumplings but not into them, the delicious sin went unpunished. The Maulbronn noodle pocket, or Maultasche for short, was invented. In the vernacular of Baden-Württemberg, the Maultasche is therefore called "Herrgottsb'scheißerle" to this day.

It is unlikely that the monastery will become a place of pilgrimage for Maultaschen lovers in the future. Nevertheless, it has something great in store for true fans of the delicious dish - you can earn a Maultaschen diploma there. 

Cover photo: The two upper bowls were added only in the 19th century © cmr - Joachim Negwer

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