Seitenstetten Abbey was founded in 1112 by Udalschalk, a relative of Bishop Ulrich of Passau, to which he gave all his estates as an endowment. In 1114 the new foundation was settled by monks from Göttweig Abbey. Bishop Ulrich dedicated the church in 1116 and granted the abbey the large parish of Aschbach. In 1142 it also received the large parish of Wolfsbach. Out of these two original parishes were formed the fourteen modern parishes for which the abbey is still responsible.
Despite many setbacks, including two serious fires and many disputes over property, the abbey gradually developed. In 1347 the community had 22 members. After a lengthy period of decline Abbot Benedikt I, formerly prior of the Schottenstift in Vienna, introduced the Melk Reforms at Seitenstetten, thus bringing about a revival in its spiritual and cultural life. This abbot had a chapel built and dedicated in 1440 on the Sonntagberg and so established the Sonntagberger Pilgrimage under the control and protection of the abbey.
Thereafter the abbey was hard hit by the Hungarian disturbances associated with Matthias Corvinus, the Turkish taxes and above all the Reformation; the number of monks declined sharply.
Abbot Christoph Held (1572-1602) started the beginning of spiritual revival with the powerful support of the Imperial Council. Under the abbots that followed, the monastery got its Baroque appearance. After the Thirty Years' War did Abbot Gabriel Sauer (1648-74) finally succeed in stabilising the abbey economically and then in bringing about a true religious renewal.
Abbot Benedikt II Abelzhauser (1687-1717) commissioned Jakob Prandtauer to build the magnificent Pilgrimage Church of the Holy Trinity on the Sonntagberg. The early Gothic abbey church was lavishly refurbished, including work by Franz Joseph Feuchtmayer. Between 1718 and 1747 the Baroque conventual buildings that still stand today were constructed. Ceiling frescoes in the Marble Hall (1735) and the library (1740) were painted by Paul Troger.
After the difficulties of the anti-monastic policies of Emperor Joseph II and of the Napoleonic wars, the abbey gradually regained its strength through the 19th century, until the time of Abbot Theodor Springer (1920-58), who not only brought the abbey safely through the economic crisis after World War I but also through the National Socialist period and World War II without its being dissolved, as so many other monasteries were.
Besides the major works of art and architecture mentioned previously, there are also the Romanesque Knights' Chapel, the picture gallery, and the garden, which contains about 110 different types of rose, mostly historical.References:
Situated in the basement of Metropol Parasol, Antiquarium is a modern, well-presented archaeological museum with sections of ruins visible through glass partitions, and underfoot along walkways.
These Roman and Moorish remains, dating from the first century BC to the 12th century AD, were discovered when the area was being excavated to build a car park in 2003. It was decided to incorporate them into the new Metropol Parasol development, with huge mushroom-shaped shades covering a market, restaurants and concert space.
There are 11 areas of remains: seven houses with mosaic floors, columns and wells; fish salting vats; and various streets. The best is Casa de la Columna (5th century AD), a large house with pillared patio featuring marble pedestals, surrounded by a wonderful mosaic floor – look out for the laurel wreath (used by emperors to symbolise military victory and glory) and diadem (similar meaning, used by athletes), both popular designs in the latter part of the Roman Empire. You can make out where the triclinium (dining room) was, and its smaller, second patio, the Patio de Oceano.
The symbol of the Antiquarium, the kissing birds, can be seen at the centre of a large mosaic which has been reconstructed on the wall of the museum. The other major mosaic is of Medusa, the god with hair of snakes, laid out on the floor. Look out for the elaborate drinking vessel at the corners of the mosaic floor of Casa de Baco (Bacchus’ house, god of wine).