Detail of the entrance to the Schöntal monastery church with a Knittel verse

A master of architecture and poetryThe “Knittel verses”

Abbot Benedikt Knittel (1650–1732) is not only responsible for building the Baroque Schöntal Monastery, he was also an industrious poet. Whether on portals, on the exterior facade, or on the staircase, his verses can be found almost everywhere in the monastery.

Portrait of Abbot Knittel, Schöntal Monastery

Abbot Knittel, author of the verses.

A poet with a sense of humor

Benedikt Knittel's term spanned nearly five decades. The abbot distinguished himself by building the Baroque monastery on the Jagst river. But his humorous and instructive verses, which he spread throughout the monastery, hold a special place in European literary history.

Entrance to the Schöntal monastery church with a Knittel verse

Knittel's doggerels can be found throughout the monastery.

Verses in the monastery

Benedikt Knittel used every opportunity, and every corner of the monastery, to immortalize his verses. Not only did the abbot place his verses on wine jugs, on holy figures, or in the rectory, he also included them in the registry or the chronicle. His verses are characterized by light language and cheerful piety. In Latin and German, Knittel dedicated himself to both theology and ancient mythology, such as Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry.

Knittel verses, or doggerels, from the 15th century

“Knittel verses” are not named after Abbot Knittel himself. Rather, “knittel” or “knüttel” are verses in a German meter that was used predominantly in the 15th to 17th century. They are named after a doggerel rhythm, reminiscent of a falling cudgel. The fact that the abbot had the same name is pure coincidence. His word play, however, influenced the style.

Funerary monument for Benedikt Knittel in the Schöntal monastery church, after 1732

Abbot Knittel had a special style.

Abbot Knittel's art

His special stylistic device is the chronogram: a sentence, aphorism or inscription, usually in Latin. All of the highlighted letters, which double as Roman numerals (i.e. I, V, X, L, C, D and M), can be added up. The resulting sum is the year of the event to which the chronogram makes reference. For example, if read as numbers, the large Latin letters in a verse by Abbot Knittel on the archive tower, equal the year in which it was built: 1697.

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