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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.