Monastaries of Carinthia - Part III

Part I: Stift Millstatt - Stift Ossiach - Stift Maria Wörth

Part II: Stift Maria Saal - Stift Viktring

Part III: Stift St. Paul - Stift Gurk

Stift St. Paul im Lavanttal

Considered to be the biggest and most significant monastery of Carinthia, St Paul im Lavanttal (St Paul in the Lavant Valley - is a Benedictine Abbey was founded relatively late for this area in 1085. After some trouble during the two centuries that followed the reformation with the Thirty Years′ War, St Paul managed to expand its already significant possessions over the course of the 16th and 17th century. Mines, parishes, farms, almost the entire Lavant Valley and taxation privileges made the monastery appear like a little principality within the county of Carinthia.

After a reform in 1809, it lost some of its property in Styria and the Friaul region, but remained powerful. In the same year, a secondary school was founded by the monastery, which remains to be maintained. Many of the parish churches that are associated with the monastery are considered to be worth seeing, such as St Georgen and the church of pilgrimage Maria Himmelfahrt in Pustritz, both with Romanesque cores.

Attractions within the monastery itself are the abbey′s church from the 12th century, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. It contains a tomb with graves of Habsburg family members and a significant collection of art and silver in a treasury. St Paul′s library contains some 45,000 volumes.

Stift Gurk: St Hemma′s legacy

The formerly Benedictine, then Augustinain and now Salvatorian abbey of Gurk ( is not only one of Carinthia′s most elaborately decorated ones, but also among the top-notch attractions of Austria. By 898, the lands around Gurk had been given to the Bishop of Salzburg, whereas Gurk itself went to a local count. The widowed countess Hemma eventually inherited the property and being a devout lady, she decided to use her wealth to found churches (such as Glödnitz, Lieding, St. Radegund, St. Lorenzen) and monasteries (such as Admont and - you guessed it - Gurk).

The church of Our Lady and the associated nunnery were founded after Hemma′s death in 1045. The original inhabitants were nuns from Nonnberg Nunnery in Salzburg. 25 years after Hemma′s death, the Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg eventually got hold of Gurk and dissolved the nunnery due to "illicit behaviours" of the nuns. In turn, the nunnery and church became the cathedra (seat) of an own bishop, assigned by the Archbishop of Salzburg. Hemma was beatified in 1287 and made a saint in 1938.

The history of the dependent Gurk was shaped by constant rivalry with its "master" Salzburg. In the 12th century, Augustinian monks re-established a monastery and later formed a cathedral′s council ("Domkapitel") that should secure the influence of Salzburg on Gurk′s affairs. The bishops of Gurk worked hard on the extension of their autonomy and wealth. In 1179, the troops of Salzburg eventually laid siege on the resistant bishop of Gurk. Rivalry (or rather dominance versus resistance) continued after the reformation, although Salzburg peaked on power in the 17th century.

In 1787, under the rule of Emperor Joseph II, the cathedral′s council was secularised and the monastery dissolved. Shortly afterwards, the bishop was translocated to Klagenfurt. In 1792, Salvatorian nuns from France moved into the vacant site and since then, they were used by several orders. At times, the monastery served as a hospital, school or refugee camp.

Today, it is maintained by Salvatorian nuns again and one of Austria′s most important sites of pilgrimage. This is only in part due to the - rather local - significance of St. Hemma, but also due to the architectural significance of the cathedral. The elaborate building is Romanesque in its core, but also has elements of Gothic style (especially the ceiling of the main nave) and Baroque style (especially in the interiors). It contains the tomb of St. Hemma and is famous for its arches and frescos.

Go to: Part I - Part II - Part III

All Monasteries by Province

Monasteries of Vorarlberg & Tyrol
Monasteries of Salzburg
Monasteries of Upper Austria
Monasteries of Lower Austria & Vienna
Monasteries of Carinthia
Monasteries of Styria

Further Reading

Introduction to the Monasteries of Austria

Wikipedia's list of Austrian Monasteries


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