Touring Austria′s Baroque Heritage - Part IV
6.) Baroque Monasteries of Austria
Monasteries played a peculiar role in Austria′s history: They were centres of religious life and scholarship, art and power and - in many cases - wealth. Some abbots of particularly influential monasteries in Austria had the same privileges as princes, until their rights were constrained under Emperor Joseph II at the very late 18th century.
Since many monasteries were looted by Protestant or Turkish troops, they were often re-built between approximately 1700 and 1800, the prime period of Austrian Baroque. This applies in particular to Upper and Lower Austria.
This is also where you will find the most impressive examples: Stift Wilhering, Stift Kremsmünster and Stift St Florian in Upper Austria; and Stift Altenburg, Stift Göttweig, Stift Klosterneuburg and Stift Melk in Lower Austria. Other provinces have important Baroque monasteries, too (such as Admont in Styria).
7.) Small, Baroque Towns
This much about the centres of wealth and power: The monasteries, the bishops, the rich parishes; the noblemen, princes and Emperors. But what about more ordinary people? The Baroque age saw the rise of merchants and an increase in the confidence of burghers. In fact, many small towns in Austria have a wealth of Baroque buildings - and once again Upper and Lower Austria as the country′s heartlands take the lead.
For a truly beaten-off-the-track experience, rent a car and tour these small towns: Braunau, Schärding, Ried and Obernberg in Upper Austria, for example. Or the city centres of Steyr, Waidhofen, Rust: Proud little places with a slower pace than urban hubs. Not a small town, but a remarkable piece of Baroque art is the tomb of Ferdinand II in Graz.
8.) Further viewing
Finally, I would like to finish this article with the references to two movies that I think draw a fairly accurate picture of the Baroque age - which might be a less demanding and more entertaining mean of immersing oneself in this period than reading my elaborate suggestions. The first one is "Amadeus" by Milos Forman, totally rubbish in terms of an accurate biography of Mozart, but firstly a good movie and secondly full of examples for the mannerisms at Austria′s Baroque court.
The second one has a wider approach and is historically probably more accurate: "Barry Lyndon" by Stanley Kubrick. The legendary director had planned to do a movie on the age of Napoleon; but when a similar project was done by somebody else, he re-directed his efforts to this movie.
"Barry Lyndon" gives an overview to Baroque lifestyle and culture all over Europe with a special focus on Britain and Prussia; Austria plays only a small side-role (it is referred to), but various elements of Baroque culture and shown - with the dedication to detail and authenticity that Kubrick is famous for.
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