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, leaving Rein as the oldest extant Cistercian monastery in the world. The abbey has remained a Cistercian community ever since on the same site, except for the temporary exile of a few years during World War II when the premises were confiscated by the Nazis and the monks were evicted until they were able to return in 1945.
On 19 September 1276 the abbey was the scene of the Rein Oath, when the Styrian and Carinthian nobility pledged allegiance to Rudolf of Habsburg, King of the Romans, thus furthering the establishment of the Habsburgs as rulers of Austria and the end of the rule of King Ottokar II of Bohemia.
From 1950 to 1990 the community at Rein also accommodated the exiled Cistercians of Hohenfurt Abbey in the former Czechoslovakia, and during that time was known as Rein-Hohenfurt Abbey, until the Czech monks were eventually able to return to the reopened monastery in the present Czech Republic, now Vyssí Brod Abbey.
The abbey church and conventual buildings are of Romanesque origin. At the beginning of the 17th century an upsurge in numbers required the expansion of the conventual buildings. The alterations, which involved the redevelopment of the old cloisters, were carried out between 1629 and 1632 by the architect Bartholomäus di Bosio, who constructed the Neues Konvent with its courtyard and Renaissance arcading.
Under Abbot Placidus Mailly (1710-1745) it was decided to refurbish the church in Baroque style. The work, by the court builder Johann Georg Stengg from Graz, was completed between 1738 and 1747. The frescoes, dating from 1766, were by Josef Adam von Mölk, and the painting on the high altar (of the Adoration of the Shepherds) of 1779, by Martin Johann Schmidt. Since 1786 the abbey church has also been the parish church. It was elevated to a basilica minor by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
In the summer of 2006 during restoration work in the Baroque choir chapel archaeological excavations were carried out by a team from the University of Graz, and the foundations of the former Romanesque chapter house were discovered, as well as a number of graves, including that of the founder, Margrave Leopold I of Styria. The former Baroque sacristy was dedicated by the abbot as a Lady chapel on 4 February 2007, since when the abbey's oldest madonna has been placed here.
The Gothic Chapel of the Cross, built 1406-1409, commemorates Saint Eberhard of Salzburg, who died at Rein on 22 June 1164.
Other features of note include the abbots' gallery, containing portraits of all the abbots from 1129 onwards, St. Ulrich's church, the tomb of Margrave Ottakar III of Styria (son of the founder), and the monument of Ernest, Duke of Austria (d. 1424).
The abbey library, comprising more than 100,000 items, contains inter alia 390 manuscripts and 150 incunabula, of which the best known is a 13th-century fragment of Parzival.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.