The Schottenstift or Scottish Abbey (full name: Benediktinerabtei unserer Lieben Frau zu den Schotten, lit. "Benedictine Abbey of Our Dear Lady to the Scots") is a Roman Catholic monastery founded in Vienna in 1155 when Henry II brought Irish monks to Vienna. The monks did not come directly from Ireland, but came instead from St Jakob's, the Irish monastery in Regensburg, Germany. Since 1625, the abbey has been a member of the Austrian Congregation, now within the Benedictine Confederation.
In the early Middle Ages, Irish monks were actively involved in missionary work. Ireland was known in Latin as "Scotia Major"; therefore, in German, Irish monks were called "Schotten" (Scots) or "Iroschotten". The monasteries that they founded were called "Schottenklöster". In the foundation documents of the Schottenstift, Henry II specified that it was to be occupied exclusively by these "Iroschotten" ("Solos elegimus Scottos").
Henry II was elevated from the rank of Margrave (Markgraf) to that of Duke (Graf) in 1156. He moved his residence from Klosterneuburg to Vienna and therefore, required a monastery for his new city. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were not only places for prayer, but also and above all, repositories of knowledge. The foundation of a monastery ensured the ruler practical advice for his administration (for example, for the establishment of schools, which served to educate competent scribes). It also provided a library, a hospice and old-age home, architects, educated men, and priests to conduct service in the new royal city. The "Schotten" were also involved with the University of Vienna, which was founded in 1365.
Henry supplied the new monastery with extensive privileges. Construction of the first cloister started in 1160, and the structure was consecrated in 1200. The monks built their monastery in an area that was at that time outside of the city walls of Vienna. They also constructed a hospice for pilgrams and Crusaders, who often passed through Vienna on their way to Jerusalem.
The first church was a three-aisled Romanesque pillar church with a single apse. Henry II was buried there upon his death in 1177.
A fire in the year 1276 destroyed the cloister and many other buildings in Vienna.
In 1418, Duke Albert V seized the cloister during the Melker Reform, an attempt to revive the original ideals of Benedictine monasticism, and settled a community of Benedictines in their place. These new residents, however, continued to be known as the "Schotten."
The collapse of the tower, struck by a lightning bolt in 1638, was seized as an opportunity to completely rebuild the church, a project undertaken by the architects Andrea d'Allio the Younger and Silvestro Carlone. In the process, the length of the church was somewhat reduced, with the result that the tower no longer stands directly beside the basilica. Joachim von Sandrart provided the church with a new altar-piece, which today is kept in the prelates' hall. After the Turkish siege, the church was restored again. As the baroque west tower was barely higher than the facade itself, its extension has often been discussed, but these plans have never come to fruition.
Around 1700 the great Baroque musician Johann Fux was the organist for the Schottenstift.
In 1773 and 1774, a new priorate, with school, was built by Andreas Zach on the grounds of an open-air cemetery. As it resembled a bureau, it became popularly known as the Schubladkastenhaus ("the chest-of-drawers house"). Directly next door stood the Hotel Römischer Kaiser, where the first public performance of a song by Franz Schubert was held.
In 1807 the Schottengymnasium, an institute for secondary education, was founded by imperial decree.
Around 1830, the auxiliary buildings of the Abbey, in particular those that bordered on the Freyung, were renovated and partially rebuilt by Joseph Kornhäusel.
In the 1880s the church was restored and partially renovated. To this period, date the ceiling paintings by Julius Schmid, and a new high altar, built after sketches by Heinrich von Ferstel, with a mosaic by Michael Rieser.
In the court, there is a Schwarze Muttegottes (a "Black Mother of God"), which was designed in 1825 by Peter Nobile. The fountain, with a statue of Henry II, is the work of Sebastian Wagner.
The museum has been reinstalled twice in recent history, in 1994/95 and in 2004/5. It contains, among other notable items, the Schottenmeisteraltar from ca. 1470, which is not only a significant work of late Gothic art, but also an important historical source, on account of its views of the city.
Open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, Guided Tour on Saturday, 2.30 pm (church, krypta, library and museum).
The Schottenstift is located on the Freyung (Freyung 6, A-1010 Wien) in Vienna, Austria.
This article is substantially based upon its equivalent in the German Wikipedia.
- Heinrich Ferenczy (Text), Christoph Merth (Fotos): Das Schottenstift und seine Kunstwerke. Orac, Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-85368-859-4.
- Franz Goldhann (Hrsg.): Gülten-Buch des Schottenklosters in Wien v. J. 1314–1327. In: Quellen und Forschungen zur vaterländischen Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst. Braumüller, Vienna 1849, S. 163–208 (Digitalisat als PDF).
- Cölestin Roman Rapf: Das Schottenstift. (= Wiener Geschichtsbücher; Bd. 13). Zsolnay, Vienna and Hamburg 1974, ISBN 3-552-02607-X.