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 famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.
The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.
In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.
During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.