Wilhering Abbey, re-constructed in the 18th century, are known for their spectacular Rococo decoration. The monastery was founded by Ulrich and Kolo of Wilhering, who donated their family's old castle for the purpose in 1146. The abbey almost came to an end during the Protestant Reformation, when Abbot Erasmus Mayer absconded with its funds to Nuremberg, where he married. By 1585, there were no monks left at the abbey, which was only saved by the efforts of Abbot Alexander a Lacu, who was installed by the Emperor during the Counter-Reformation.
The abbey buildings were almost entirely destroyed by fire on 6 March 1733. Of the previous buildings, only a Romanesque doorway, parts of the Gothic cloister and two tombs remained. Abbot Johann Baptist Hinterhölzl (1734-1750) made emergency repairs to the church using the remnants of the walls. The church was later completely rebuilt in the Rococo style by Johann Haslinger of Linz. The ceiling and altar paintings are by Martino Altomonte and his son Bartolomeo, while the richly coloured stucco work is by Johann Michael Feichtmayr and Johann Georg Ueblherr. The result is now one of the most significant Rococo buildings in the German-speaking world.
In 1940, Wilhering Abbey was expropriated by the Nazis, and the monks were expelled; some were arrested and sent to concentration camps, while others were forced into military service. The abbot, Dr. Bernhard Burgstaller, was imprisoned and died of starvation in 1941. The buildings were used at first to accommodate the seminary from Linz, and then from 1944 for displaced Germans from Bessarabia and as a military hospital. In 1945, American troops took over the premises. The monks returned in the same year to resume monastic life and to reopen the school. As of 2007, the monastic community numbered 28.
Today the abbey's business enterprises—mainly forestry, farming, and greenhouses—provide a sound economic basis for the monastery. There is also a school for about 450 children.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.