The Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Nicholas has been since its foundation part of the Cistercian monastery in Žďár nad Sázavou. The Cistercian monastery existed after 1250 thanks to magnate of Křižanov whose name was Přibyslav. Early history of the monastery was described in Cronica domus Sarensis by monk Jindřich Řezbář. The chronicle was written in Latin and it is part of the top middle-age literature. The church was elevated to the honour of a Minor basilica on January 5, 2009.
Historical and political situation brought together three very important people of our middle-age history. Those three were husbands of Přibyslav’s daughters. The husband of their daughter Eufemia – Boček of Zbraslav, finished the foundation of the monastery. After his death his brother-in-law, the husband of Eliška, Smil of Lichtenburk took care of the monastery. Přibyslav’s eldest daughter Zdislava left with Havel of Lemberk and she died far away – in Podještědí. She is one of the Czech saints.
The Cistercians with the leading authority of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux pointing towards monastic discipline founded monasteries in the places which were difficult to access since they wanted to come closer to God with their hard work. They chose a border forest between Moravia and Bohemia. The wall painting in the baptismal chapel shows the year 1462 – Pope Pius II allowing abbots of Žďár to use pontifical regalia. The church itself was founded on the life-giving spring and afterwards it was called Fons Beatae Mariae Virginis – the spring of Virgin Mary. Studniční chapel (the Well Chapel) was part of a cloister and the debris of garden of Eden show the period of prosperity and decay of this place. The statue of the Well Virgin Mary is very important for the monastery. It is to be seen on the side altar in southern aisle. This early Gothic masterpiece was brought by monks of Pomuk. They were running away from the Hussite fury.
After the year 1705 when Václav Vejmluva became a head of the religious communities came the time when there was an architectonic and artistic flourish of the monastery. The masterpiece of this period is the altar of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary whose concept was made by Jan Blažej Santini Aichel. The dominant of this is the dualistic picture of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The author of this paiting is Michael Leopold Willmann. The decoration of the monastery was done by very talented Řehoř Theny. This sculptor is the author of the altar in the south chapel of Annuniation of the Virgin Mary (Zvěstování Panny Marie). This sculpture shows the moment when archangel Gabriel annunciated Virgin Mary that she would have a son. The light is falling onto Mary’s face and the repose urges the visitor to stay still for a while. A perfect example of Santini's creative inventiveness is a built-in music stand and Empire dominant organ in the transept of the church. This rare musical instrument comes from the workshop of Jan David Sieber.References:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.