Zwettl Abbey was founded in 1137 by Hadmar I of Kuenring. The foundation was confirmed by Pope Innocent II (1140) and over the course of time by several other popes and emperors. Several members of the family of the founder were buried here.
The monastery was constructed, as Cistercian houses often were, in a river valley, in this case in a bend of the River Kamp. Extensive buildings were erected, and the church, chapter-room, and dormitory were blessed in 1159, though the entire monastery was not completed until 1218. Zwettl Abbey soon became one of the most important monasteries in the order.
Towards the end of the 14th century, the abbey was repeatedly plundered, especially in 1426, when 4,000 Hussites sacked and burned it down. It was rebuilt under Abbot John (1437–51). Near the end of the fifteenth century, over forty monks lived in Zwettl Abbey. Under the Protestant Reformation the community was reduced to six monks and one secular priest. By an imperial rescript the monastery was forced to sell one quarter of its large possessions. It flourished again under Abbot Erasmus (1512-1545) and his successors during the Baroque period, notwithstanding the Thirty Years' War and the Turkish invasion, during which it was saved from destruction by the friendship of the Count of Thurn for Abbot Siegfried.
During the administrations of Abbot Linck (1646–71), author of the Annales Austrio Claravallenses, and Abbot Melchior (1706-1747), who rebuilt a great part of the abbey and enriched it with many precious vessels and vestments, it reached its zenith. Abbot Melchior encouraged study and opened schools of philosophy, theology and so on in the monastery.
The monastery contains buildings of all architectural styles from Romanesque to Baroque. The modern form of the premises is the result of the Baroque refurbishment in the 18th century, which involved the reconstruction of the principal buildings. Among other parts the western tower was constructed by Josef Munggenast to plans by Matthias Steinl. Only one other tower in Lower Austria is higher than this building's 82 meters. Another part of this construction period is the library, which contains frescoes by Paul Troger.
From 1728 to 1731 Johann Ignaz Egedacher from Passau constructed the famous Egedacher Organ, one of the biggest and most expensive organs of the region of Vienna and Lower Austria.
The abbey's library contains over 60,000 volumes, 500 incunabula, and 420 manuscripts, the most famous of which is the Zwettl Stiftungsbuch ('cartulary').
The community now consists of 23 monks, who have care of fourteen incorporated parishes and four others. The monastery makes its living from a forest of about 2,500 hectares, a fish farm of 90 hectares, a farm of 110 hectares and the vineyards of Schloss Gobelsburg with about 35 hectares.
The monastery buildings now contain a school.References:
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.