Altenburg Abbey was originally founded in 1144 by Countess Hildeburg of Poigen-Rebgau. The monastery was destroyed and reconstructed as a result of numerous attacks. The first was in 1251 by Hermann V von Baden, followed by several by the Cumans between 1304 and 1327 and during the Hussite Wars from 1427 to 1430. It was attacked by Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary in 1448, and by the Turks in 1552. In 1327, some restoration work was carried out by Gertrude, the widow of Heidenreich von Gars. In 1645, the Swedes destroyed the abbey.
Refurbishment took shape after the Thirty Years' War in the 17th and 18th centuries. The abbey took its present form in the Baroque style under the abbots Maurus Boxler and Placidus Much. Work was carried out under the supervision of the architect Josef Munggenast who was assisted by some of Austria's most distinguished artists and craftsmen: Paul Troger for the frescoes, Franz Josef Holzinger for the stucco work, and Johann Georg Hoppl for the marbling. Under Emperor Joseph II in 1793 the abbey was forbidden to accept new novices, but unlike many others in Austria it succeeded in remaining functional. Subsequent to the Revolution of 1848, its debts were cleared by the sale of some of the chapel's major artifacts.
On 12 March 1938, Abbot Ambros Minarz refused to fly the Nazi's Swastika flag at the abbey. from 17 March 1938. For a brief period between 1940–1941 under the National Socialists the abbey was suspended, and in 1941 dissolved. The abbot was placed under arrest and the community dispossessed. From 1945 the premises were used as accommodation by Soviet occupying troops. Under Abbot Maurus Knappek (1947–1968) the buildings were restored and the community re-established.
The abbey displays a fusion of Baroque and Rococo stucco architectural styles in its interiors. During the reconstruction, the library, imperial staircase and marble hall were added. The staircase, abbey church and library are noted for the frescoes painted by Paul Troger. Those in the vestibule leading to the library are the work of his student, Johann Jakob Zeiller.
The library, built in 1740, is of Baroque architectural elegance, an imposing room that rises to three stories in height. The library hall is 48 m long and its ceiling is decorated with frescoes crafted by Paul Troger. Among the many frescoes, the distinctive ones are the Judgment of Solomon, the Wisdom of God and the Light of Faith. Beneath the library is a large crypt which is also decorated with many frescoes by unknown artists; one particular scene which is fierce in appearance is that of the Dance of Death.
The church is oval-shaped and bears a dome. It was renovated in 1730–33 by Joseph Munggenast. The dome is also decorated with Troger frescoes. The main feature of the altarpiece is a painting Assumption of Mary, topped by a representation of the Trinity.
In recent years, a number of well-tended gardens in different styles have been developed around the monastery. They were all planted by the monks themselves with assistance from the Natur im Garten project as well as from nurseries in the area.
Once the abbey park, Der Garten der Religionen (the Garden of Religions) is the largest of the gardens. It was recently used for growing Christmas trees and fruit trees. The garden now consists of five landscaped areas dedicated to the world's five main religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It also has a large natural pond surrounded by a meadow full of wild flowers, a group of trees, and the old plum grove where the local livestock can be seen.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.