Monasteries in Austria

Neuberg Abbey

Neuberg Abbey is one of the few extant set of monastic buildings in Austria to have retained its medieval character to any great extent. The abbey was founded in 1327 as a filial monastery of Stift Heiligenkreuz by the Habsburg Duke Otto the Merry, who died here in 1339. It was suppressed in 1786 by Emperor Joseph II. In 1850, the partly ruined premises were converted for use as a hunting lodge for Emperor Franz Joseph I ...
Founded: 1327 | Location: Neuberg an der Mürz, Austria

Mauerbach Charterhouse

Mauerbach Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery. Founded in 1314 by the Austrian duke Frederick the Fair and rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Baroque monastic complex is one of the most important structures of its kind in Austria. The monastery was plundered and set on fire by Ottoman troops during the 1529 Siege of Vienna and suffered further serious structural damage by the 1590 Neulengbach earthquak ...
Founded: 1314 | Location: Mauerbach, Austria

Ossiach Abbey

In 878 the East Frankish king Carloman of Bavaria dedicated the Treffen estates around Lake Ossiach to the Benedictine monastery of Ötting. In the late 10th century the lands passed to the Bishops of Passau and later to Emperor Henry II, who conferred them to a certain Count Ozi, affiliated with the Styrian Otakar dynasty and father of Patriarch Poppo of Aquileia. A church probably already existed at Ossiach, when Count ...
Founded: 1024 | Location: Ossiach, Austria

Lienz Friary

The Carmelite friary in Lienz was founded in 1349 by the Countess Euphemia of Görz and her two sons. Although it burned down several times in the following centuries, it always received enough in donations to be able to rebuild. In about 1450 a theological college for the Carmelite Order was housed here. In the early 16th century the prior, Lucas Zach, introduced a reform to ensure that the Carmelite rule was better foll ...
Founded: 1349 | Location: Lienz, Austria

Stams Abbey

One of Tirol’s true architectural gems is the splendid Cistercian Abbey of Stams, founded in 1273 by Count Meinhard II of Gorizia-Tyrol. During the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and German Peasants' War the monastic community decayed. In the course of the 1552 rebellion against Emperor Charles V, the premises were plundered by the troops of Elector Maurice of Saxony; even the grave of Maurice' brother Severinus w ...
Founded: 1273 | Location: Stams, Austria

St. Lambrecht's Abbey

St. Lambrecht"s Abbey was founded in 1076 by Count Markward of Eppenstein; it was dissolved from 1786 to 1805. In 1938, the building was seized by the National Socialists. From 1942 to 1945, it was used as an external storage facility of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. The monks returned in 1946. Locally the two churches within the monastic grounds are called the Grosskirche ('big church') and the ...
Founded: 1076 | Location: Sankt Lambrecht, Austria

Göss Abbey

Göss Abbey is a former Benedictine nunnery and former Cathedral in Leoben. The nunnery was founded in 1004 by Adula of Leoben, wife of Count Aribo I, and her son, the future Archbishop of Mainz, on the family"s ancestral lands. It was settled by canonesses from Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg. The first abbess was Kunigunde, sister of Archbishop Aribo. Göss was made an Imperial abbey by Henry IV, Holy Roman Empe ...
Founded: 1004 | Location: Leoben, Austria

Vorau Priory

Vorau Priory was founded in 1163 by Margrave Ottokar III. The monastery quickly became an religious and cultural center of Eastern Styria, but it was badly damaged by fires in 1237 and 1384. Vorau was located on the border to Hungary and therefore repeatedly faced military threats. The monastery was fortified and armed in the 1450s to defend the local population. The monastery was rebuilt into the Baroque style in 17th ...
Founded: 1163 | Location: Vorau, Austria

Kremsmünster Abbey

Kremsmünster Abbey was founded in 777 by Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria. According to the foundation legend, Tassilo founded the monastery on the site where his son, Gunther, had been attacked and killed by a wild boar during a hunting trip. The first colony of monks came from Lower Bavaria, under Fateric, the first abbot. The new foundation received generous endowments from the founder and also from Charlemagne and his su ...
Founded: 777 AD | Location: Kremsmünster, Austria

Herzogenburg Monastery

Herzogenburg is an Augustinian monastery founded in 1112 by Ulrich I, Bishop of Passau, at St. Georgen an der Traisen. In 1244 because of frequent flooding it was moved up-river towards Herzogenburg. From 1714 the buildings were refurbished in the Baroque style by Jakob Prandtauer, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Josef Munggenast. The monastery was able to survive the dissolutions enforced by Emperor Joseph II in t ...
Founded: 1112 | Location: Herzogenburg, Austria

Pernegg Abbey

Pernegg Abbey was founded as a Premonstratensian nunnery in 1153. It was founded by Ekbert and Ulrich, who also founded the Geras Abbey about 10 kilometres from Pernegg. Pernegg became a community of canons in 1584. In 1700 it became an abbey but was dissolved in 1783 under the reforms of Emperor Joseph II. In the mid-19th century the premises were acquired by Geras Abbey. Since 1995 they have been used as a retreat and ...
Founded: 1153 | Location: Pernegg, Austria

Viktring Abbey

Viktring Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery established in 1142 by Cistercian monks from Villers-Bettnach Abbey in the Duchy of Lorraine. Its lands were probably a gift of Count Bernhard of Spanheim-Marburg (Maribor), brother of Duke Engelbert of Carinthia, and his wife Kunigunde, daughter of Margrave Ottokar II of Styria. As early as 13 May in the following year the first abbot, Eberhard, was consecrated. The abbey c ...
Founded: 1142 | Location: Klagenfurt, Austria

Lambach Abbey

A monastery was founded in Lambach in about 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg, changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey in 1056, which it has been since. During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family. Lambach escaped the dissolution of the monasteries of Emperor Joseph II in the 1780s. Adolf ...
Founded: 1040 | Location: Lambach, Austria

Seckau Abbey

Seckau Abbey was endowed in 1140 by Augustinian canons. An already existing community in Sankt Marein bei Knittelfeld was moved to Seckau in 1142. At the request of Archbishop Konrad I of Salzburg, Pope Innocent II instituted the founding of the congregation and the transfer to Seckau on 12 March 1143. The abbey church, a Romanesque basilica, was built from 1143 to 1164. According to an old custom, the canons founded a d ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Seckau, Austria

Gaming Charterhouse

Gaming Charterhouse (Kartause Gaming) is a former Carthusian monastery founded in 1330 by Albert II, Duke of Austria, who intended it as a dynastic burial place. He himself was buried there after his death in 1358, as was his wife Joanna of Pfirt (d. 1351) and daughter-in-law Elisabeth of Bohemia (d. 1373). The first community, from Mauerbach Charterhouse in Vienna, comprised a double complement, under a prior, of 24 monk ...
Founded: 1330 | Location: Gaming, Austria

Rein Abbey

Rein Abbey is a Cistercian monastery in Rein near Gratwein, Styria. Also known as the 'Cradle of Styria', it is the oldest surviving Cistercian community in the world. The monastery was founded in 1129 by Margrave Leopold the Strong of Styria and settled by monks from Ebrach Abbey in Bavaria under the first abbot, Gerlacus. It was the 38th Cistercian monastery to be founded. The previous 37 are all since dissolved, leavin ...
Founded: 1129 | Location: Rein, Austria

Engelszell Abbey

Engelszell Abbey is the only Trappist monastery in Austria. The abbey was founded in 1293 by Bernhard of Prambach, Bishop of Passau, as a Cistercian monastery. It was settled in 1295 by monks from Wilhering Abbey, its mother house, and was of the filiation of Morimond Abbey. It suffered a considerable decline, both spiritual and financial, in the period of the Protestant Reformation, and for a time passed into private own ...
Founded: 1293 | Location: Engelszell, Austria

St. Georgenberg-Fiecht Abbey

St. Georgenberg-Fiecht Abbey is a Benedictine monastery situated since 1708 in Fiecht in the community of Vomp. A pilgrimage church still stands on the original site on the Georgenberg. Founded in 1138, it is the oldest extant monastery in the Tyrol. According to tradition, the site"s first use was as a hermitage in about the middle of the 10th century by Blessed Rathold of Aibling, of the ancient noble family of th ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Vomp, Austria

Reichersberg Abbey

Reichersberg Abbey was founded in the 11th century, when nobleman Wernher von Reichersberg converted his possessions into a monastery. It has been owned by Augustinian Canons since then. The monastery flourished under the guidance of Gerhoh, the third Provost and an eminent theologian. While there, Gerhoh composed his commentary on the Psalms between 1144 and 1148, making much use of the earlier work of Gilbert of Poitie ...
Founded: 1084 | Location: Reichersberg, Austria

Schloss Stainz

Schloss Stainz is a former monastery of the Augustinian Canons in Stainz. Today the Baroque complex belongs to the Counts of Meran and hosts two museum collections from the Universal Museum Joanneum. Stainz Priory was founded by the Augustinian Canons in 1229 when Leutold I von Wildon, lord of the manor of Stainz, allowed a small church with a monastery attached to be established on the mountain where his castle stood. ...
Founded: 1229 | Location: Stainz, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.