March 10, 2014

1029 AUSTRIA (Lower Austria) - Heiligenkreuz Abbey (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)


Located in the southern part of the Vienna woods, at about 13 km north-west of Baden, Stift Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross Abbey) is the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world. It was founded in 1133 by Margrave St. Leopold III of Austria, at the request of his son Otto, and in 1188 Leopold V presented the abbey with a relic of the True Cross, a present from Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem. This relic still can be seen, and since 1983 is exhibited in the chapel of the Holy Cross. Actually Heiligenkreuz was richly endowed by the founder's family, the Babenberg dynasty, and was active in the foundation of many daughter-houses.

The abbey church combines two styles of architecture. The façade, naves and the transept are Romanesque, while the choir is Gothic. The 13th century window paintings in the choir are some of the most beautiful remnants of medieval art. Entrance to the abbey is through a large inner court in the centre of which stands a Baroque Holy Trinity Column, designed by Giovanni Giuliani and completed in 1739. The façade, as in most Cistercian churches, shows three windows as a symbol for the Trinity. Typically Cistercian, the church originally lacked a bell-tower, but one was added during the Baroque era.

During the 15th and 16th centuries the abbey was often endangered by epidemics, floods, and fires, and suffered severely during the Turkish wars of 1529 and 1683. It was spared dissolution under Emperor Joseph II, and also under the Third Reich. It has been also an important centre for music for more than 800 years, many manuscripts being found at this monastery. In 1802 an institute for philosophical and theological studies was established there, which became a Hochschule in 1976. Stift Heiligenkreuz is known today as one of the most vibrant monasteries in central Europe.

About the stamp
The stamp, depicting Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz (0.70€), is part of a definite series dedicated to the modern austrian architecture, obout which I wrote here.

References
Heiligenkreuz Abbey - Wikipedia
Heiligenkreuz Abbey - UNESCO official website

sender: Ana
sent from Salzburg (Austria) on 10.08.2012

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