The former Cistercian abbey at Salem is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the Lake Constance region – and one of the most beautiful. Salem Monastery and Palace (Kloster und Schloss Salem) is a singular combination of Gothic solemnity and Baroque splendour.
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Salem is one of the most important monastery complexes – not just in Baden-Württemberg. The largest Cistercian monastery in the Southern German region and for a long time palace of the margraves is today a historical site full of life. Visitor information
Idyllically set amongst meadows, orchards and gardens, Salem comprises an ensemble of majestic buildings. The impressive size of the complex bears witness to the prosperity of the former Cistercian abbey, established in 1134. The imperial abbey – which enjoyed special privileges – played a leading role in the order’s southern German territory in the late Middle Ages. The monastery, located in the settlement of Salemanneswilare, was given the biblical name “Salem”, which means “place of peace”. Accordingly, in artwork, Salem Monastery was invariably depicted as an allegory of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The dramatic contrast between Gothic and Baroque
Salem’s Medieval wealth and power manifests itself in the aweinspiring Gothic church. A towering structure with severe lines, it provides an interesting contrast with the more exuberant style of the Baroque buildings. After extensive additions in the 17th century, the monastery was devastated by a fire in 1697. Within a short time, however, the abbey and main monastery building were reconstructed in Baroque style, complete with magnificent plasterwork and paintings.
In the 18th century, the abbots provides themselves with a fitting residence for the heads of a powerful imperial abbey.
Baroque grandeur and Neoclassical elegance
The monastery underwent a renaissance in the 18th century. Conscious of the need to project Salem’s status as an imperial abbey, its abbots became major patrons of the arts. A small army of painters, sculptors and architects was commissioned to provide the new buildings with an appropriate standard of decoration. The church is the most outstanding monument to the abbots’ discerning taste: built in the late 18th century, the grand alabaster interior, inspired by the French style, is the only one of its kind in southern Germany.
In 1802, when much church property was officially annexed by German states, the monastery passed into the possession of the margraves of Baden. Used as a residence by the margraves’ families, Salem Monastery was renamed Salem Palace. In 1920, Prince Max of Baden and Kurt Hahn founded the world-famous boarding school, Schule Schloss Salem. The house of Baden has also continued the monastery’s tradition of viticulture – its wines are to be found at restaurants across the region.