Monastaries of Styria - Part IV
Part IV: Pöllau - Bertholdstein
The former Augustian abbey of Pöllau (http://www.steiermark.at/cms/beitrag/10001332/87878/) was founded in 1504. It ruled over the market of Pöllau and the entire town was part of the endowment. In the Habsburg′s efforts of the counter-reformation in Styria, the monastery played an important role and many of the monks held important positions among Austrian intellectuals. Abbot Peter Muchitsch was the head of Vienna University three for three times.
He and his successors also proved to be busy builders and in the late 17th and early 18th century, the monastery was constantly extended, re-furbished and decorated in elaborate Baroque style. In 1785, Emperor Joseph II dissolved the abbey and the buildings were first let, later sold. In 1834, the counts of Lamberg bought the property, in 1938 it was sold to the town of Pöllau which is still the owner.
Today, the church is open for visitors, whereas the monastery′s other buildings are now considered a castle and part of the "Road of the Castles", a collaboration of historical buildings, castles and fortresses in Styria and the Burgenland. There is some more information on Pöllau in the article about this group of castles.
A somewhat reversed history to Stift Pöllau, Bertholdstein (http://www.benediktiner-orden.de/Gabriel.htm) was a castle rather than a monastery for most of its history. Originally built in the 12th century to secure the areas against Hungarians and Turks, it became a romantic, trendily "medieval" summer residence for the Hungarian count Ladislaus Koszielsky in 1871. The eccentric count had served the Sultan of Turkey for many years and equipped the castle with oriental decorations, including rich ornaments - and a minaret.
Ideal circumstances for a nunnery, as after the death of the count, the castle decayed. In 1918, Benedictine nuns from the nunnery of St. Gabriel in Prague purchased Bertholdstein. After the collapse of the empire, they had to leave Prague and settled in Styria. In 1941, the Nazis dissolved the nunnery with its impressive 112 nuns. However, shortly after the war, they re-constituted the nunnery in 1946.
The library and archives of St. Gabriel, however, were lost. The services in the church are open to the public, but most of the monastery′s renovated buildings are not accessible. There are, however, courses mostly in fine arts and traditional painting that are held within the nunnery.
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