Bebenhausen Abbey was a Cistercian monastery built by Rudolph I, Count Palatine of Tübingen, probably in 1183. Attractively set in a peaceful valley, it is one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys in southern Germany. After the Reformation swept through in 1534, and a boarding school was established in 1560, the number of monks dwindled, until the monastery was finally dissolved in 1648.
The abbey’s idyllic woodland setting also appealed to the kings of Württemberg. Bebenhausen passed into their possession in 1807, when much church property was officially annexed by German states. From 1868, parts of the monastery complex were converted into a royal hunting palace, which became a favourite venue for the monarchs and their entourages.
Today, surrounded by the Schönbuch nature reserve, Bebenhausen vividly conveys the atmosphere of a Medieval Cistercian monastery – offering an experience unmatched anywhere else in southern Germany. Guided tours illuminate the lives of the monks and schoolboys, describe the lavish royal hunting parties and give insights into the buildings’ architectural features. The hunting palace also offers interesting tours.
The church, main monastery building, abbot’s residence, guesthouse and infirmary, surrounded by walls and guarded by towers, are located on a terrace above the Goldersbach valley. The outer precinct of the monastery, with an assortment of buildings, is directly adjacent. The famous Sommerrefektorium (summer refectory), a light and airy hall with two aisles and a fan-vaulted ceiling, demonstrates the mastery of its Gothic architects.
The 19th century interiors, inspired by the Gothic and Renaissance styles, make Bebenhausen an important architectural heritage site. But the Grüne Saal (green room) has a distinct Art Nouveau character. After Württemberg ceased to be a monarchy in 1918, the royal couple, Wilhelm II and Charlotte, were given the right to remain in Bebenhausen for the rest of their lives. The royal bathroom and kitchen are well worth seeing: the luxurious bathroom, dating from 1915, is unusually well preserved. The kitchen also represented the height of modernity when it was installed in 1915 – and still works today.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.