Monasteries of Lower Austria & Vienna - Part III
Part III: Dürnstein - Göttweig - Herzogenburg
Stift Dürnstein: Heart of the Wachau
In the scenic Medieval, but touristy city of Dürnstein (http://stift.duernstein.at/), the most prominent features are the ruined castle Aggstein and the former Augustian Dürnstein abbey. Being in at the core of Medieval Austria, Dürnstein played an important role as a city for a long time.
In 1289, a nunnery was founded at the site of the abbey. It was later supplemented by a collegiate convent, but only in the early 15th century, this convent became a monastery maintained by Augustian monks. The nunnery was dissolved in the 16th century, and its possessions went to the abbey.
In the first half of the 18th century, Abbot Hieronymus Übelbacher refurbished the monastery and added a unique, very playful face to the buildings: late Baroque architecture with lots of statues and putts (angle statuettes). By the late 18th century, most of the few remaining monks were very old and the abbey neglected.
In 1787, the last abbot died - then Emperor Joseph II decided to close the abbey. Its library went to the "Hofbibliothek" (the imperial "Court Library") and the monks either retired or left for other monasteries. The now refurbished church of the former monastery is used as a parish church since then and is the landmark of Dürnstein.
Stift Göttweig: Architectural splendour in Lower Austria
Following the Danube downstream towards Vienna, the next abbey after Dürnstein is Göttweig (http://www.stiftgoettweig.or.at/). It was originally founded as an Augustian monastery by Bishop Altmann of Passau in 1081, but changed to a Benedictine one in 1094. Medieval chronicles from Göttweig written in the 12th century are considered to be significant sources for Medievalists.
Like many other monasteries, Göttweig struggled in the late Middle Ages and the days of the reformation with dropping morals, criticism and open warfare. Only in the days of the Habsburg′s Catholic counter-reformation, the monastery rose again to its former glory.
Most of today′s abbey dates back to the period of Abbot Herrlich (1564 to 1604) and Abbot Bessel (1714 to 1749). Especially the latter one built extensively with the aid of the architect Lukas von Hildebrandt, but the spiritual palace they have had in mind remained incomplete. Nevertheless, Göttweig is famous for its Baroque staircase, frescos, Prince′s Apartments, representative halls and the church with a Classicist façade. The library holds some 70,000 volumes. The monastery also owns the biggest private collection of graphical artworks of Austria.
The origin of the monastery of Herzogenburg (http://www.stift-herzogenburg.at/) lies with the small abbey of „St. Georgen" that was founded nearby the current site in 1112. In 1244, the Augustian monks transferred to Herzogenburg, were they built their new abbey originally in Romanesque-Gothic style.
The architectural face was complemented and widely changed to Baroque by the architects Prandtauer and Munggengast between 1714 and 1750. The tower got a roof in 1767. Sights are the late-Baroque church with its frescos, stucco work and Gothic altar; and the exhibition of the monastery′s treasury.
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