Visiting Heiligenkreuz Abbey: Tracing the history of monasteries and abbeys in Lower Austria.

by Elena

Imagine yourself time-travelling. Travelling to a distant century, in a different rhythm, on a journey before our time. When I stood in the midst of all these ancient books in the “secret library” of Heiligenkreuz Abbey, I suddenly felt like I was somewhere else. Someone else. And completely … one with the book worlds that surrounded me. A strange, yet reassuring feeling.

Having a time-out, perhaps even a short “holiday getaway in a monastery”, is something that is becoming more popular by the day. As peace has fallen on the long cloister corridors, history weighs heavy on the fine pointed arches. Only a few instances away, the collegiate church rises like a mighty bird in all its Romanesque-Gothic splendour, witness to outstanding construction techniques of earlier centuries. Here, too, peace is ubiquitous – unless the monks of the Cistercian abbey Heiligenkreuz call for their famous prayer chants.

 

Eintreten in Stift & Stiftskirche Heiligenkreuz ...

Being welcomed in the heart of the abbey church at Heiligenkreuz …

 

... heißt Platz und Raum für ganz andere Welten schaffen ...

… means making room for worlds so different from the ones we are used to …

 

... wie hier, mit Pater Roman ...

… such as in this room, where Pater Roman explains ancient books as being digitalised and registered …

 

... Pater Sebalds weist uns den Weg ...

… Pater Sebaldus leads the way …

 

... durch den alten Kreuzgang mit Blick auf den schönen, sommerlichen Innenhof ...

… watching the sunny inner courtyard of the old cloister at the abbey …

 

... überhaupt ist es absolut lohnenswert, mit den freundlichen Patres des Stift Heiligenkreuz eine Führung in selbigem zu unternehmen: Ihr seht dabei Stiftskirche, Kreuzgang,

… and yes, I do recommend you to book a guided tour through this mighty abbey, which is the second-oldest Cistercian Abbey in the world, and has seen continuous religious communities live and work here since its founding year back in 1133.

 

Heiligenkreuz Abbey is thus among the oldest Cistercian abbeys in the world. It is almost 900 years old – and popular with the media, too!

This, in part, is also due to the recent efforts in digital PR and marketing: No matter if you check out the abbey’s “YouTube-Stars” with over 1.4 million views of their “Chant – Music for Paradise” video since 2008, or take a peek into their own television studio “1133”: The monastic community, almost 100 monks strong, really has managed to create a strong voice far across the borders. Father John Paul, who takes us into the modern recording studio, also offers to show us the theological college, which is directly affiliated with the monastery. Check this out.

Die theologische Hochschule beherbergt Studenten aus aller Welt ...

The theological college is home to students from all over the world …

 

... really love the recording "Studio 1133"! That's what I call a truly unique workplace in the midst of a unique community! Father John Paul, who is seen here in the reception office, says: "If we want to bring the word of God to the people, to discuss it with people, we have to go with the spirit of the times, so why not use our own messages as effectively and as medially as possible spread?"

… and I must say I really love the recording “Studio 1133”, something I’ve never seen in a monastery before! That’s what I call a truly unique workplace in the midst of a unique community! Father John Paul, who is seen here on screen, says: “If we want to bring the word of God to the people, to discuss it with people, we have to go with the spirit of the times, so why not use the possibilities of our own broadcasting channels as effectively as possible?”

 

Vielen Dank für den überaus interessanten Einblick, Pater Johannes Paul!

Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the “modern work” of a timeless abbey!

 

And if you’re looking for an antidote to all the “virtual noise” around Heiligenkreuz Abbey, you may very well stay at the abbey itself, go for a hike with one of the monks, rest and retreat.

During our time at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, we did all of the above. Had breakfast and dinner with the monks, listened to their prayer sounds at noon, went on a short pilgrimage with them to Mayerling (click here for an experience account of the full five day pilgrimage to Mariazell, which I already completed back in 2014!). Mayerling, only a few kilometres from the abbey, is now home to a very modern, interactive tour museum through the former hunting lodge and the “Mayerling tragedy”: The story about Crown Prince Rudolf and his early suicide moves us in its circumstances, riddles and entanglements to this very day.

Nach der Nächtigung direkt im Stift Heiligenkreuz ...

Spending the night at Heiligenkreuz Abbey in these simple, yet comfortable rooms …

 

... brechen wir auf in das nur wenige Kilometer entfernt liegende Mayerling ...

… we enjoy getting ready for our short hike to Mayerling …

 

... Empfang und Führung ...

… where you may tune in to a big part of Austrian history …

 

... durch das ehemalige Jagdschloss, welches heute eine Nonnengemeinschaft beherbergt, sind jederzeit einen Besuch wert ...

… the forming hunting lodge of Crown Prince Rudolph now home to a community of nuns, as well as a rather modern museum …

 

... und obendrein erwartet uns bei unser Rückkehr in das Stiftrestaurant des Stift Heiligenkreuz das hier: Eine süße Köstlichkeit, die ihresgleichen sucht!

… and back at the abbey, do make a point of treating yourself to one of their delicious desserts !

 

Vielen Dank für den schönen und einprägsamen Besuch, liebes Stift Heiligenkreuz !

Thank you so much for such an inspirational visit !

 

 

Monika & Petar Fuchs, who publish on TravelWorldOnline.de, as well as Angelika Mandler, of WiederUnterwegs.com, have also written about their experience of staying at Lilienfeld Abbey:

 

Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Austrian Association of Monasteries, Abbeys & Convents “Klösterreich” on this trip to Lilienfeld Abby. All opinions are my own.

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