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 successors.
In the 10th century the abbey was destroyed in a raid by the Hungarians, and its possessions were divided among the Duke of Bavaria and other nobles and the bishops. It was restored, however, and recovered its property, under the emperor Henry II, when Saint Gotthard became abbot. Kremsmünster, in common with other religious houses, then fell into a decline, which was fortunately halted by the action of bishop Altmann of Passau, who brought a community from Gottesau, and introduced the reformed observance of Cluny into the abbey. After this it became known as one of the most flourishing houses in Germany.
The monastic library was famous, and drew eminent scholars to Kremsmünster, where several important historical works were written, including histories of the bishops of Passau and of the dukes of Bavaria, and the chronicles of the abbey itself.
From the Reformation period onwards a succession of able abbots kept the abbey on track. Among the abbots of the 18th century the most prominent and distinguished was Alexander Fixlmillner (1731-1759), who built the great observatory, constructed many roads on the monastic estate, and was a man of edifying life and great charity to the poor.
Towards the end of the 18th century the policy of Emperor Joseph II with regard to the religious houses of his empire threatened to close Kremsmünster, like many others, but it was fortunate enough to escape.
The abbey suffered a great deal during the Napoleonic wars, and was slow in recovering its position. It was not until the abbacy of Thomas Mitterndorfer (1840-1860) that, having recovered its material security, and re-established learning and discipline, it regained its former prestige. One of the most illustrious abbots in the 19th century was Dom Cölestin Ganglbauer (died 1889), who celebrated in 1877 the 1100th anniversary of the foundation, became Archbishop of Vienna in 1881 and was raised to the cardinalate in 1884. In the 20th century Dom Leander Czerny, the distinguished entomologist, was abbot from 1905 to 1929.
From the middle of the 17th century, thanks to an extensive programme of construction largely reusing older building materials, the premises grew so large that in the whole of Austria they were second only to Melk. The architect and builder was Jakob Prandtauer, who was also responsible for the abbey church at Melk.
Kremsmünster reached its greatest extent in the south wing, which is about 290 metres long. The most important rooms were situated here: the refectory, the library and the Emperor's Hall. The wing terminates to the east in the Mathematical Tower, 51 metres high, where the observatory is located. There is an interesting collection of objects of natural history in the lower part of the observatory, which is eight stories high; and a curious feature is the series of fish-tanks decorated with statues and a colonnade.
The main church construction was completed in 1277, in the late Romanesque and early Gothic styles. After 1613 the church was remodelled in the Baroque style. Between 1680 and 1720, the interior of the church was redecorated with splendid Baroque ornamentation to designs by Carlo Antonio Carlone, Giovanni Battista Colomba and Giovanni Battista Barberini.
Of especial note is the Baroque high altar, created by Johann Andreas Wolf in 1712, after twelve years of design and preparation. The angels by Johann Michael Zürn the younger, who kneel and stand at the numerous side-altars, are also impressive examples of the Austrian Baroque.
The magnificent monastery library was built between 1680 and 1689, also by Carlo Antonio Carlone. It is one of the great libraries of Austria and contains about 160,000 volumes, besides 1,700 manuscripts and nearly 2,000 incunabula.
The most valuable book is the 'Codex Millenarius', a Gospel Book written around 800 in Mondsee Abbey. Facsimiles of this codex may be found in the libraries of a number of universities throughout the world.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.