View of the gables of Schöntal Monastery

From flourishing monastery to modern educational centerMilestones

The Cistercian monastery in Schöntal experienced a fateful rise and fall: from its start in the mid 12th century to the crises during the Peasants' War and the Reformation, from its revival in the Baroque period to its end in the early 19th century.

Exterior of Schöntal Monastery

Along the river: a strategic advantage.

The move to Schöntal

Although the order originally founded their monastery in Neusaß above the Jagst river in the 12th century, shortly thereafter they relocated down to the river valley for strategic reasons. The river ensured a constant water supply and, in addition to forestry, milling and livestock farming, fish farming was increased. The Cistercian order rules also required settlement in valleys traversed by a body of water.

Detail of a lithograph of Schöntal monastery by Ambros Ganz, circa 1821

Abbot Knittel took Schöntal into a new bloom.

Bloom in the 18th century

During the Thirty Years' War, Schöntal was occupied by Sweden and the monks had to flee. Afterward, the monastery consolidated under the leadership of Abbot Christoph Haan. He purchased the manor Aschhausen and had the pilgrimage chapel in Neusaß expanded. Between 1683 and 1732, the abbey experienced a renewed bloom under Abbot Benedikt Knittel and his grand construction projects. The projects were financed by investments or earnings from the Schöntal viticulture. The period that followed, leading up to secularization, was characterized by disputes between abbots and monks.

A change in ownership

In 1802, over the course of secularization, the monastery was assigned to the Duchy of Württemberg and dissolved a year later. At the time, the convent consisted of 35 monks and two lay brothers. The buildings were in very good condition and their income was estimated at 80,000 guilders. The Duke of Württemberg had a large portion of the library transported to Stuttgart, along with other monastery treasures. Of more than 10,000 volumes, only 1,500 manuscripts are known to exist today.

Aerial view of Schöntal Monastery

Temporarily a school, today an educational center.

New uses

At the start of the 19th century, Schöntal Monastery was in possession of over 6,000 acres of forest and vineyards. Roughly 3,000 subjects were in the service of the monastery. After secularization, many of the outbuildings in and around the monastery lost their former function. From 1810 to 1975, Schöntal housed a Protestant theological seminary for young men from Württemberg. Since 1975, the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart has operated a public educational institute in the convent, offering a wide range of continuing education courses.

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