Maulbronn originally a Cistercian convent in the bishopric of Spiers, was founded by bishop Gunther of Spiers, on a tract of land given him by Walther von Lomersheim in 1148, previously infested with robbers. The convent soon became very rich, partly through donations, and partly by the zeal and activity of the monks. It was at first placed under the jurisdiction of the empire, by Frederick I and other emperors, but in the 14th century was placed under that of the Palatinate. In 1504 it was conquered by duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg, and when the Reformation commenced, it was appointed by him for the monks of his province who wished to remain Roman Catholics; duke Christopher, in 1557, took this also from them, appointed an evangelical abbot, and established a school in it. It is yet the seat of one of the four minor theological seminaries. The remaining portions of the building, i.e. the church, cloisters, entrance-hall, and refectory, are considered among the finest specimens of German Gothic architecture.
The place has become renowned in the annals of Protestantism by its connection with two important transactions, the Colloquium Maulbrunnense, in 1564, and the Formula Maulbrunnensis, in 1576.
(1.) The introduction of Calvinism into the Palatinate by duke Frederick III after 1560, and in particular the publication of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563, provoked great opposition on the part of the Lutherans. The authorities, and especially duke Christopher of Wurtemberg, Wolfgang of Psalzneuburg, and margrave Charles of Baden, vainly endeavored to heal the dissension by means of a colloquy held between the theologians of the Palatinate and Wurtemberg at Maulbronn in 1564. The elector of the Palatinate was accompanied by his court preacher, M. Michael Diller, and the theologians Dr. Peter Boquin, Caspar Olevian, Zacharias Ursinus, and Peter Dathenius; also the church counselor Thomas Erastus, chancellor Dr. Eheim, and notary Wilhelm Xylander, professor of Greek at Heidelberg. The representatives of Wurtemberg were Valentin Vannius, abbot of Maulbronn, Johannes Brenz, provost of Stuttgard, Jacob Andrea, provost and chancellor of the University of Tubingen, Dietrich Schnepf; professor at Tubingen, and the court preacher Balthasar Bidembach; also as notary, Lucas Osiander, then preacher at Stuttgard, and as civil counselors chancellor John Fessler and vice-chancellor Jerome Gerhard. The colloquy lasted from April 10th to April 15th. Chancellor Eheim, in his opening speech, invited the theologians, since the object of the conference was to heal their dissensions, to avoid all merely human views and arguments, and to confine themselves to the positive testimony of Scripture on the points of controversy. Yet, instead of treating of the doctrine of the Eucharist, which was their chief point of difference, the theologians at once launched into arguments concerning the ubiquity, or, as Andrea termed it, the majestas nullo loco circumscripta, of the body of Christ. Thus all possibility of harmony was at once destroyed. During eight sessions this same question was discussed without either party coming any nearer to the views of the other. The theologians of the Palatinate, and in particular Boquin, Olevian, and Ursin, partly denied the importance of the doctrine of the ubiquity of the body of Christ, and partly refuted their opponents by the Scriptures, the articles of faith, and by an expose of the errors into which these principles must lead. Those of Wirtemberg tried especially to defend the idea of the ubiquity of Christ's body from misapprehension and misrepresentation, and treated it as a necessary consequence of unio personalis and the communicatio idiomatum; they rejected the accusation of mixing up the two natures, and accused their opponents of making a mere man of Christ. As the others asked whether, in this view, the body of Christ was considered as omnipresent even in the womb, Andrea, who was spokesman of the Wurtemberg party, drew a distinction between the possession and the use of the attribute, and asserted that Christ could not have been omnipresent in the womb, but only became so actually after his ascension — a view which the Heidelberg theologians rejected as contrary to reason and unsupported by Scripture.
At the last two sittings, finally, the question of the Eucharist was discussed, as the princes wished that the two parties should seek to arrive at some understanding concerning this important point, leaving aside all Christological questions. Yet, after a very few speeches, the question of ubiquity was again started, this time by the Reformed theologians, and the discussion receded to its original ground. The colloquy now came to a close. The protocols were compared and signed, and the two parties separated, each holding as firmly to its own views as previous to the meeting, and considering itself as having obtained the advantage. In spite of the promise of secrecy, the Heidelberg theologians boasted of having silenced their opponents, claiming even that duke Christopher himself was now more inclined to their doctrines. The Wurtemberg party would not brook this, and Brenz wrote an account of the colloquy, denying the statements of the Heidelbergians, which was at first circulated privately, and was finally printed in the same year under the title Epitome colloquii Maulbrunnensis inter theologos Heidelbergenses et Wurtembergenses de Cana Domini et Majestate Christi, and also a Wahrhaftiger u. grundlicher Bericht v. d. Gesprach, etc., gestellt durch d. Wurtembergischen Theologen (Frankfort, 1564, 4to); in these works he accused his adversaries of having had recourse to sophistry, and, when they found it impossible longer to defend their views, to have caused the colloquy to be brought to a close. Heidelberg answered by the Epitome colloq. Maulbr. cum responsione Palatinorum ad epit. Wurtemb. (Heidelberg, 1565, 4to), and published at the same time the protocol of the conference, which was followed up by the opposite party with a new edition of the protocols, "without changes or additions;" (Tubing. 1565, 4to). Both parties now accused each other of interpolating the protocols. The theologians of Wittenberg were also drawn into the quarrel, as duke Christopher submitted to them the protocols of Maulbronn and the De Majestate Christi of Andreat and Brenz, both of which they severely condemned. The dispute lasted for several years. It was finally set at rest by the wise and Christian efforts of elector Frederick at the Diet of Augsburg in 1566. See Osiander, Histor. eccl. cent. xvi, 100:59, p. 791; Struve, Pfalz. K. Hist. p. 149 sq.; Hospinian, Hist. sacr. t. ii.; Arnold, Unpart. K. Hist. cent. xvi, § 17, p. 14; Sattler, Gesch. d. Herzogth. Wurtemberg, 4:207 sq.; Planck, Geschichte d. Prot. Lehrbegr. vol. v, pt. ii, p. 487 sq.; Heppe, Gesch. des deutsch. Protest. 2:71 sq.; Klunzinger, D. Religionsgesprach zu M. (Zeitschr. f. histor. Theolog. 1849, 1:166 sq.); Leben u. ausgewahlte Schrift. d. Vater, etc., d. reform. Kirche (Elberfeld, 1857, p. 260).
(2.) Another conference, held twelve years later at Maulbronn, between theologians from Wurtemberg, Baden, and Henneberg, secured a better result. The theologians were L. Osiander, Balthasar, Bidembach, provost of Stuttgard, Abel Scherdinger, court preacher of Henneberg, Peter Strecker, pastor at Suhl, and some others. The object of the conference was to discuss a formula of union drawn up by Osiander and Bidembach.
The meeting took place Jan. 19, 1576, and the formula itself, which may be considered as a forerunner of the Formula Concordiae, received the name of Formula Maulbrunnensis. In the early part of February it was sent, together with an address by count George Ernest of Henneberg, to the lector August of Saxony, who received also about the same time the so- called Suabian and Saxon formula of duke Julius of Brunswick. The elector submitted them both to Andrea, who declared that, in his opinion, the formula of Maulbronn was the most serviceable for the purpose of uniting the different parties. Yet in the conference held at Torgau, May 28, Andrea consented to use nominally the other formula as a basis, but took good care to include all the principal points of the Maulbronn formula into the so-called Book of Torgau. See Hutter, Concord. conc. p. 305 sq.; Osiander, Hist. Eccl. cent. 16, lib. 4, pt. 3, p. 866; Planck, Gesch. d. protest. Lehrbegr. 6:428; Heppe, Gesch. d. luth. Concordienformel, 1858, p. 73 sq.
(3.) In September of the same year (1576), still another meeting was held at Maulbronn, in which Heerbrand, Schnepf, Magirus, Bidembach, L. Osiander, Dietz, Scherdinger, and Strecker took part. Its object was to discuss the Book of Torgau, and it ended in expressing its approbation of it as a whole. See Heppe, Gesch. d. luth. Concordienformel, p. 120 sq. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 9:178 sq. (J. N. P.)