File:Heiligenkreuz from the air.jpg

Heiligenkreuz Abbey (Stift Heiligenkreuz, Closter Heiligen Creyz or Santa Crux) is a Cistercian monastery in the village of Heiligenkreuz in the southern part of the Vienna woods, eight miles north-west of Baden in Lower Austria. It has existed without interruption since its foundation in 1133 and is thus the second oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world[1]. Pope Benedict XVI visited the abbey during his trip to Austria in September 2007[2]. In 2008 Universal Classics issued an album of the monks singing Gregorian chant: "Chant: Music For Paradise"[3].


Heiligenkreuz Stift1

Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Main Gate

The monastery was founded in 1133 by Margrave Leopold III of Austria, also known as Saint Leopold, at the request of his son Otto, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Morimond in Burgundy and afterwards Bishop of Freising. Its first twelve monks together with their abbot, Gottschalk, came from Morimond at the request of Leopold III. The date of consecration was 11 September 1133. They started by clearing the wood and tilling the land. They introduced the Christian faith into the region. They called their abbey Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) as a sign of their devotion to redemption by the Cross.

On 31 May 1188 Leopold V of Austria presented the abbey with a relic of the True Cross, which is still to be seen and since 1983 is exhibited in the chapel of the Holy Cross. This relic was a present from Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, King of Jerusalem to duke Leopold V in 1182.

Heiligenkreuz was richly endowed by the founder's family, the dukes of Babenberg, and was active in the foundation of many daughter-houses.

The following Cistercian monasteries received their first monks from Heiligenkreuz:

  • Zwettl Abbey in Lower Austria in 1138 (still existing);
  • Czikador in Hungary in 1142 (dissolved in 1526);
  • Baumgartenberg in Upper Austria in 1142 (dissolved in 1784);
  • Marienberg in Hungary in 1194 (dissolved in 1526);
  • Lilienfeld Abbey in Lower Austria in 1206 (still existing);
  • Sancta Corona, nowadays Zlatá Koruna, in Bohemia in 1263 (dissolved in 1785);
  • Neuberg in Styria in 1327 (dissolved in 1785).
  • More recently, in 1988, Heiligenkreuz founded Stiepel Priory at Bochum-Stiepel in the Ruhrgebiet.
  • Furthermore in the 1990s the monastery gave substantial support for re-founding Vyšší Brod Monastery in the Czech Republic.

During the 15th and 16th centuries however the abbey was often endangered by epidemics, floods, and fires, and it suffered severely during the Turkish wars of 1529 and 1683. In the latter, the Turkish hordes burnt down much of the abbey precinct, which was rebuilt on a larger scale in the Baroque style under Abbot Klemens Schäfer.

Heiligenkreuz abbots were often noted for their piety and learning. In 1734 the Abbey of St. Gotthard in Hungary was ceded to Heiligenkreuz by Emperor Charles VI, but was taken away again and united with the Hungarian Zirc Abbey in 1778. In its place the monastery of Neukloster at Wiener-Neustadt was joined to Heiligenkreuz in 1880.

Heiligenkreuz was spared dissolution under Emperor Joseph II.

The abbey was also an important Austrian centre for music for more than 800 years. Many manuscripts have been found at this monastery, most notably those of Alberich Mazak (1609–1661).

Abbey and church

Heiligenkreuz Stift4

Nave of the church

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 simple windows as a symbol for the Trinity. Typically Cistercian, the church originally lacked a bell-tower, but one was added during the Baroque era on the north side of the church, about halfway along.

The church of Heiligenkreuz combines two styles of architecture. The façade, naves and the transept (dedicated 1187) are Romanesque, while the choir (13th century) is Gothic. The austere nave is a rare, and famous, example of Romanesque architecture in Austria. The 13th century window paintings in the choir are some of the most beautiful remnants of medieval art.

The chapter house in the cloisters contains the graves of thirteen members of the House of Babenberg, including Duke Frederick the Quarrelsome, the last Babenberger. The remains of Blessed Otto of Freising are in a small chapel at the south side of the crossing. The Baroness Mary Vetsera is buried at Heiligenkreuz.

Present day

Heiligenkreuz Ecclesia

Heiligenkreuz Abbey Church

In 1802 an institute for philosophical and theological studies was established, which became a Hochschule in 1976. It is now one of the largest establishments for the education of priests in the German-speaking world. In January 2007, Pope Benedict XVI raised the Hochschule to the status of Päpstliche Hochschule, which means the institution may now offer first theological degrees in its own name instead of in the name of other Austrian universities. After five years, the school will be able to apply for the status of Päpstliche Fakultät, which means it will be able to offer the advanced canonical degrees of Licentiate and Doctorate in theology.

Presently there are over 70 monks in the monastic community, the focus of which is the liturgy and Gregorian chant in Latin. Some of the monks also have pastoral duties in the 17 parishes for which the abbey is responsible or serve as professors at the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule. Others serve in caring for the upkeep of the historic abbey.

Heiligenkreuz is also home to the Collegium Leopoldinum (formerly Collegium Rudolphinum), a seminary for men in preparation for the priesthood[4].

Stift Heiligenkreuz is nowadays one of the most vibrant monasteries in central Europe; the current abbot was the President of the Austrian Cistercian Congregation until 2007; one of the monks is the Procurator General of the Order, working in Rome. Many other monasteries send their junior monks to Heiligenkreuz for theological and monastic training.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, nephew of reigning abbot Gregor Henckel Donnersmarck, wrote the screenplay for his film The Lives of Others in a cell at the abbey in November 2003. When Donnersmarck won the Oscar for his film in 2007, he returned for a celebration at Heiligenkreuz abbey with the statue on 28 October[5].

Pope Benedict XVI visited the abbey during his trip to Austria in September 2007[6].

Chant: Music For Paradise

In April 2008, some of the monks from Heiligenkreuz abbey recorded a CD of Gregorian plainsong, which was released on May 19 on Universal Classics under the title Chant: Music For Paradise (titled Chant: Music for the Soul in the United States). A digital single from the album, "Hymnus 'Veni Creator Spiritus'" was released on May 12. The monks signed the deal with Universal Music after the label had advertised their search for sacred singers and the monks submitted their demo via YouTube.

The album quickly went gold in the UK and Germany, platinum in Belgium and Poland, and triple platinum in Austria[7]. In February 2009 the monks were nominated Best Newcomer (International) for the German ECHO Awards (alongside pop-stars like Leona Lewis and Gabriella Cilmi) [8] and the recording was nominated Album of the Year by the Classical Brits 2009[9].

See also

External links

Coordinates: 48°03′19″N 16°07′49″E / 48.05528°N 16.13028°E / 48.05528; 16.13028


  1. "Rein Abbey". Graz Tourismus. Retrieved 23 March 2008. 
  2. Heiligenkreuz webpage, accessed 26 March 2009
  3. The Cistercian monks being groomed for music stardom, The Times, 17 May 2008
  4. Collegium Leopoldinum webpage, accessed 5 January 2010
  5. Heiligenkreuz webpage, accessed 26 March 2009
  6. Heiligenkreuz webpage, accessed 26 March 2009
  7. Strut your monky stuff, The Guardian, 22 December 2008
  8., accessed 5 February 2009
  9. List of nominations for the Classical Brits, accessed 25 March 2009
cs:Klášter Heiligenkreuzhu:Heiligenkreuzi apátság


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