Interior of the church of St. Peter and Paul, Lorch Monastery

Chapel and monumentThe monastery church

An economic boom enabled the late Gothic renovation of the Romanesque monastery church at the end of the 15th century. Yet after the Reformation, the monastery church fell into disuse until its rediscovery as a medieval monument and place to honor the House of Staufen in the 19th century.

Aerial view of Lorch Monastery church

The church is built in the shape of a cross.

A mighty impression from the outside

The facade with two towers, the west wing, is visible from miles away. The Romanesque monastery church must have been magnificent to behold. It was built as a typical Romanesque pillar basilica on the outline of a Latin cross. Small round-arched windows allow light to reach the central nave and the aisles. Inside, the Romanesque choir rises up several steps across from the nave. The high altar was dedicated in 1139, at which point most of the church was likely already completed.

View in the choir room of Lorch Monastery church with a crucifix in the foreground

The choir room is placed somewhat higher.

New splendor in the late Gothic period

Abbot Nikolaus Schenk von Arberg was the most important builder of the late Gothic renovations in the cloister and church, which he was able to dedicate in 1469. The two aisles and the transepts, which previously had flat ceilings, were vaulted. The short Romanesque vault was extended past the cloister and received the lovely late Gothic rib vaults. Large tracery windows in Gothic shapes brought light into the transepts and the choir. All of the church furnishings were renovated, from the choir stalls to the altars.

Archives tell of the decor

As was standard in the Middle Ages, the monastery church was richly furnished thanks to numerous donations. Around 1500, twelve altars stood here: in the choir, in front of the crossing, in the aisles, and at almost every pillar of the central nave. They were dedicated to various saints. Many of the altars received new late Gothic altarpieces at the end of the 15th century. They shone with gold leaf and brilliant colors. However, all these riches were eventually scattered to the four winds, and we only know of them from archives.

Tomb in the west part of Lorch Monastery church

West part of the church with tomb.

A monument is saved

In the 19th century, there were dramatic reports about its dilapidation and the awe-inspiring church was almost torn down. However, the idea of historic preservation was beginning to take hold, and Lorch Monastery, as the burial place of the House of Staufen, was deemed an important monument. Between 1833 and 1838, built-in fixtures were removed from the church, including the choir stalls, a gallery in the transept, and the monk's steps in the choir, the connection to the monks' sleeping quarters. The open space inside the church remained, just as visitors experience it today.

A concert in the monastery church is a special experience. The famous Schwäbisch Gmünd choral music days use the impressive church space for their first-class concerts. They are not to be missed!

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