Schöntal Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey famous as one of the most impressive pieces of Baroque architecture in northern Württemberg. It was founded in 1153 in Neusass by Wolfram von Bebenburg and was settled by monks from Maulbronn Abbey. The original site proved unsuitable and the new community moved to the present location in Schöntal on the Jagst between 1157 and 1163. The land for the new site was provided by the von Berlichingen family in exchange for rights of burial in the monastery. The monastery was under the protection of the Bishops of Würzburg.
Despite a promising beginning, the abbey found itself in financial difficulties by the early 13th century. Maulbronn Abbey was also in financial trouble and gave Schöntal to Kaisheim Abbey, which settled its debts in 1283.
After this, Schöntal made a recovery, and in 1418 at the Council of Constance was granted the status of Imperial abbey, although it only retained this until 1495. It was plundered several times and suffered severe damage during the German Peasants' War in 1525. Although it survived the Reformation the buildings became uninhabitable and an emergency block had to be constructed in 1617–18, now known as the Alte Abtei ('the old abbey'). The monastery was besieged during the Thirty Years' War and the monks were eventually forced to flee in 1631, abandoning what remained of the buildings to looting and plunder. In 1648 the premises were several times used as soldiers' billets.
The abbey finally experienced a revival under abbot Benedikt Knittel (in office from 1683 to 1732). Under his leadership was built the Baroque abbey church, designed by Leonhard Dientzenhofer, in which Götz von Berlichingen is buried. Abbot Benedikt was also responsible for the palatial claustral buildings with the grand staircase by Balthasar Neumann. Some forty monks lived in the community, besides about thirty conversi or lay brothers, who lived outside the monastery while following a monastic way of life.
The abbey was secularised in 1802, when it was taken over by the Kingdom of Württemberg. The furnishings and contents were removed to Stuttgart, and the buildings used initially for the accommodation of local government administration. From 1810 to 1975, Schöntal Abbey was one of the buildings used for the Evangelical Theological Seminary, now the Evangelical Seminaries of Maulbronn and Blaubeuren.
Today the buildings are used by the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart as a centre for conferences, retreats and training, as well as the town hall of the community of Schöntal.
Most of the Baroque buildings and the monastery gardens have survived.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.