Monasteries of Lower Austria & Vienna - Part IV
Part IV: Lilienfeld - Klosterneuburg
Going off the Danube, you will find the monastery of Lilienfeld (http://www.stift-lilienfeld.at/) south of St. Pölten. The Cistercian abbey was founded in 1202 by the Babenberg duke Leopold VI. The construction of the medieval abbey was finished in 1263.
Lilienfeld was a centre for scholarly traditions in the Middle Ages, later a strong connection with Vienna University was maintained. Large-scale extensions in Baroque style were done between 1650 and 1700. Its wealth and glory was not sufficient to prevent the dissolution of the monastery under Emperor Joseph II in 1789.
Much of Lilienfeld′s treasures and artwork was lost in the following months. However, it was re-activated in 1790. After a fire in 1810, it was re-built in the years to follow and large-scale renovations took place until 1963. The mix of styles make Lilienfeld an attractive destination for tourists: Some of the medieval fortifications are still preserved; the church is the biggest of Lower Austria and its Baroque interiors contain the tomb of Duke Leopold VI.
The large cloisters are sealed with glass windows from the 14th century. The Baroque library contains some 34,000 volumes and there is a small museum dedicated to wood.
Stift Klosterneuburg: A whole Chapter of Austrian History
In 1100, a collegiate convent was founded in Klosterneuburg (http://www.stift-klosterneuburg.at/). In 1113, this convent received an endowment by Leopold III, possibly as a sign of regret for betraying his father. It was surely meant to create a backbone for his endeavours to support the intellectual, religious and cultural life in his county, the "Marcha Orientalis" or Austria. In 1156, Duke Heinrich Jasomirgott transferred his residence from Melk to Vienna, making it the capital of Austria.
After this move, the Augustian abbey Klosterneuburg was very close the political centre of the county and the monastery became the most significant monastery for the Babenberg family. The founder Leopold III is buried here. With such a basis, it quickly became a powerful institution.
Once it had come over the struggles of the reformation and the Turkish wars, Klosterneuburg bloomed again and got its current Baroque face - similar to many other monasteries in Austria. Emperor Karl VI (Charles VI) planned to make Klosterneuburg a "residential monastery" for the Austrian Habsburg family, similar to the Escorial in Madrid.
For this purpose, parts of Klosterneuburg were extensively re-modelled. Around this time, the monastery earned the privilege to wear heraldic symbols of the Habsburgs: The crown of the Holy Roman Empire and the Archduke′s hat of Austria. Today, its location near Vienna and its impressive buildings make the monastery a popular tourist destination. Klosterneuburg is also a church of pilgrimage, since Leopold III became a saint and is the patron of Lower Austria.
The monastery is famous for the Verdun Altar from 1181, its rich collection of Medieval and Early Modern artworks (particularly paintings and devotionalia), the interiors of the church, and the State Apartments built in the 18th century. Its library holds impressive 170,000 volumes and a rich collection of medieval manuscripts. There is a museum associated with the abbey and the treasury is accessible in wide parts. For a fascinating piece of Austrian history, you should not miss out on Klosterneuburg.
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