Millstatt Abbey, established by Benedictine monks about 1070, is ranked among the most important Romanesque buildings in the state of Carinthia. The abbey prospered during its early years, enjoying special papal protection, again confirmed by Pope Alexander III in an 1177 deed; it was however never officially exempt and remained under the overlordship of the Archbishops of Salzburg. The premises included an adjacent nunnery and a well-known scriptorium, where the Benedictine monks left numerous manuscripts, though the most famous Middle High German Millstatt Manuscript probably did not originate here. The abbey even included a nunnery, which was dissolved in the 15th century. In 1245 the abbot of Millstatt even received the pontifical vestments from the Salzburg Archbishop.
At the same time however, the long decay of the Benedictine monastery began, enhanced through the Great Interregnum in the Holy Roman Empire after the ban of the last Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II and the struggles of the Meinhardiner with the rising Habsburgs, who finally were vested with Carinthia upon the death of Duke Henry VI in 1335.
At this time the monastic community comprised only about ten monks; Emperor Frederick found the morals degenerated, the buildings decayed and the abbot inept. He travelled to Rome and on 1 January 1469 reached a papal bull by Pope Paul II, whereby he established the military order of the Knights of Saint George in order to fight the invading troops of the Ottoman Empire. Against the protest by the Salzburg Archbishop, the order was vested with the buildings and assets of Millstatt Abbey, while the Benedictine monastery was disestablished with the handover ceremony of May 14.
Millstatt was heavily devastated by the Turks on their 1478 campaign, followed by the Hungarian troops of Emperor Frederick's long-time rival Matthias Corvinus in 1487.
In 1598 Archduke Ferdinand II of Inner Austria vested the Society of Jesus at Graz with Millstatt. In the course of the Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits built up a college at the Styrian capital (the present-day University of Graz), that was to be financed with the income of the Millstatt estates. The monks soon became disliked by the local population for their stern measures to lead the subjects back to the Catholic confession and especially for their unyielding enforcement of public charges. In 1737 the displeasure culminated in open revolt, when numerous peasants ganged up and stormed the monastery. Remote valleys remained centres of Crypto-protestantism.
The rule of the Jesuits came to a sudden end, when the order was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. The monks had to leave Millstatt and their estates passed to the public administration of the Habsburg Monarchy.
The monastery building, now parish church of Christ the Savior and All Saints, was erected in the second quarter of the 12th century. It replaced an earlier church from the days of the Carolingian dynasty, of which some cut stone slabs remained in secondary utilization. The westwork with the characteristic twin steeples was attached between 1166 and 1177, the Baroque onion domes about 1670. Underneath the towers the entrance hall has a Romanesque rib vault and a fresco from 1428 showing the Passion of Christ.
Seven arches form the Romanesque portal from about 1170 with a manifold figurative decoration. The nave itself is a Romanesque basilica, while on several piers are frescoes from about 1430 and the Gothic apse as well as the lierne vault with 149 coats of arms date from 1516. The Baroque high altar was manufactured under the Jesuits in 1648, put on the wall to the right is now a large fresco of the Last Judgement from about 1515, which had to be removed from its original place on the outside wall of the westwork. Two chapels at the north and at the south side with the tombstones of the first two Grand Masters of the order of St. George were added between 1490 and 1505.
In the Romanesque cloister south of the church the capitals of some columns date back to the 12th century. It was furnished with a Late Gothic groin vault and frescoes of the Madonna about 1500. The Renaissance monastery buildings with their arcades are situated to the west and the south of the courtyard. From the abbey leads a Way of the Cross up to the Baroque chapel of Calvary hill, a heritage of the Jesuits as well as, in the east of the town, the High Cross monument from the 18th century.
Since 1977 the church is a property of the local parish of the Gurk diocese, while all other buildings of the former abbey belong to the Austrian state and are administrated by the Austrian State Forestry Commission.References:
The Schloßberg is the site of ancient fortress in the centre of the city of Graz, Austria. The hill is now a public park and enjoys extensive views of the city. The fortification of the Schloßberg goes back to at least the 10th century. In the mid-16th century, a 400 m long fortress was constructed by architects from the north of Italy. There are records of a cable-hauled lift being in use between 1528 and 1595 to move construction materials for the fortifications. The castle was never conquered, but it was largely demolished by Napoleonic forces under the Treaty of Schönbrunn of 1809. The clock tower (the Uhrturm) and bell tower (the Glockenturm) were spared after the people of Graz paid a ransom for their preservation.
The remains of the castle were turned into a public park by Ludwig von Welden in 1839. The park contains the Uhrturm, the Glockenturm, a cistern and two bastions from the old castle. The Uhrturm is a recognisable icon for the city, and is unusual in that the clock"s hands have opposite roles to the common notion, with the larger one marking hours while the smaller is for minutes. The Glockenturm contains Liesl, the heaviest bell in Graz.
Near the Uhrturm there is a café with views over the old town. Additionally, on the western side of the Schloßberg, there are two small cafés, one with table service and the other one with self-service. Next to the terminus of the funicular railway there is a hilltop restaurant with views of western Graz. In what was once the cellar of one of the ruined bastions is the Kasemattenbühne, an open-air stage for concerts and performances.
Below the Schloßberg hill is an extensive system of tunnels, which were created during the second world war to protect the civilian population of Graz from aerial bombing. Some of these tunnels are still accessible, including a passage from Schloßbergplatz to Karmeliterplatz, and a grotto railway for children. Also in the tunnel complex is the Dom im Berg, which was expanded in 2000 to provide a venue space for up to 600 people.