Excursion destinations in Styria - Rein Monastery and Maria Straßengel
These are excursion destinations in the Styria, whose history goes back to the 12th century, is our goal: Rein Monastery. Next Stift Heiligenkreuz and Stift Lilienfeld it is one of the Cistercian monasteries in Austria. When we visit the monastery and the pilgrimage church Maria Straßengel, we get an insight into the beginnings of Styria. And not only that! There is a lot to discover in and around Rein Monastery.
Rein Abbey - the oldest Cistercian monastery in the world
I look in awe at the rough stones and mortar that date back to the 12th century. We are in the yard of Stift Rein, one of Styria's excursion destinations with a lot of history. Here we are in the oldest part of the monastery. You can see that from him. The cloister of the abbey was once located here. Nothing of that can be seen today. Rather, it has disappeared under earth deposits that have accumulated over centuries. We can only see a few architectural references to the long history of the monastery. In addition to a round arch from the Romanesque period, we recognize a pointed arch from the Gothic period. However, we can no longer use these doors. They disappear into over a meter of earth that blocks access.
The monastery is considered the oldest Cistercian monastery in the world. I wonder. Because Robert de Molesme founded the order in 1075 in the monastery of the same name in France. Robert de Molesme originally belonged to the Benedictine order. However, the splendor in Cluny Abbey went too far for him. His ideal of monastic life was a simple life isolated from the world. This went so far that even life in Molesme was too expensive for him. So he moved on to the Citeaux region, where he founded a new monastery. The order owes its name to this.
The landscape around Rein Abbey is shaped by the Cistercians
If you look deeper, it turns out that Rein Monastery was the 38th monastery of the monastic order. However, the first 37 Cistercian monasteries have been dissolved or abandoned over the centuries. This makes the Stift am Ulrichsberg in Styria the oldest Cistercian monastery in the world today. Margrave Leopold the Strong from Steyr brought Cistercian monks from Ebrach Abbey in Franconia to Styria. The pen is still remote in nature. With its surroundings, it is one of the destinations in Styria that guarantee a pleasant stay. A hike on the prelate path gives you an impression of the seclusion of the abbey.
A tunnel through the Ulrichsberg proves how successfully the monks used the landscape. The pen lies at the intersection of two valleys. The water in the Kehrerbach turned out to be too weak to drive the water wheel of the pin mill. The monks then pierced the mountain that separates the stream from the longer Mühlgraben valley. They diverted the water through this tunnel and were able to use their mill successfully. The use of their monastery lands still plays a role in Rein Monastery. This is shown by the hiking trails, which are available for every condition. For example, what do you think of a hike on the barefoot path through the Mühlbach Valley?
You need this for a hike at Rein Monastery
Baroque abbey architecture in Rein Abbey
The homage hall
The highlight of a visit to the Rein Abbey are the baroque buildings and paintings. Our hosts, P. August Janisch and P. Prior Martin Höfler welcome us with a snack in the homage hall. The ceiling and wall paintings by Josef Amonte take my breath away. That was also the purpose of this magnificent hall. It should impress guests and visitors. Here the abbot received clerks and his subjects.
The collegiate church
A Romanesque church originally stood in its place. Of this, only the entrance area is preserved. Today's collegiate church goes back to Abbot Placidus Mally, who had the new baroque church built in 1738 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the monastery. It has been a minor basilica since 1979. Josef Adam Mölk painted the frescoes in 1766. The ceiling paintings show episodes from the life of St. Benedict, St. Bernhard von Clairvaux and the Holy Family.
The Marienkapelle and the summer choir
We follow P. August on his tour of the monastery to the Marienkapelle. There he shows us the grave of the founding founder Margrave Leopold von Steyr. It was he who brought 1129 monks from Ebrach Monastery to Styria. His grave was only discovered during restoration work in recent years. Examinations of his bones show that this man has spent a lot of time on horseback in the course of his life. At the same time, his shoulder bones indicate that he had put a lot of strain on them. Knight games? Or even in battle? Science agrees that the skeleton that can be seen in the Marienkapelle is Margrave Leopold.
We reach the summer choir via a steep staircase that shows their age. The monks of the monastery meet here every day at midday for the midday shore. With these prayers they interrupt the daily work routine. These are times of reflection in the spirit of the Benedictine rule "Ora et labora" (pray and work).
The Abbey Library
The Abbey Abbey library is well worth seeing. This is the youngest building of the baroque abbey. The monastery holds 80.000 books in it. The frescoes on the ceiling date from 1753 and were painted by Josef Amonte. In a display case, we see writings that the monks once created by hand in the scriptorium of the abbey. Some of them are badly damaged by time. Others have been bound in wood and leather covers. Visitors can become book sponsors and donate to receive a book.
Other treasures of the Abbey Library are the calendar by Johannes Kepler, who worked as a landscape mathematician in Graz from 1594 to 1600. He created the Julian and Gregorian calendars, which are at the center of the library. Also worth seeing is a chorale book from 1420, which was written in the scriptorium of the abbey. The "antiphonal" is well preserved. You can see how skillful the writing monks were when they created their works.
Mercy key in the monastery shop of Stift Rein
In addition to the products of the monastery, we discover something surprising in the monastery shop. There the monks sell "Mercy Keys". I have never encountered this term on our monastery visits. Father August explains to us. In the past, the faithful were only allowed to enter the collegiate church on the key Sunday. It was the first Sunday after Easter. The Pope had given the church many indulgences that benefited its visitors on the consecration day. From 1479, Pope Sixtus IV allowed the faithful to visit the Church on Mercy Sunday. The festival was later postponed to the first Sunday after Easter. Only on this day the believers were allowed to enter the monastery and church. The confessors were given special powers for this special day. In memory of their visit, visitors were given small silver keys, the "mercy keys". When the collegiate church became the parish church in 1786, this custom was abandoned. Only a few years ago, "Mercy Keys" were minted again.
Enjoyment in the Abbey of Stift Rein
After visiting the abbey, we visit the abbey tavern. We enjoy lunch under old deciduous trees in the beer garden of the abbey inn. Pork medallions with mushroom cream sauce and spaetzle and a baked trout taste particularly good after so much culture and history.
Pilgrimage church Maria Strassengel - high Gothic in Austria
It is only a few minutes by car from Rein Monastery to the Maria Straßengel pilgrimage church. This lies on a rock spur above the village of Gratwein-Straßengel. I had never heard of this pilgrimage church before our visit. I was all the more surprised when I saw the high Gothic buildings towering over the valley. What a sight! No wonder pilgrims were drawn to this place. The church is particularly impressive, with its 48-meter tower it is a prime example of high Gothic.
Maria Straßengel founded
Maria Straßengel is one of the most important sacred buildings of high Gothic in Austria. The current church dates back to 1346, when Abbot Hartwig von Rein laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Gothic church. There was already a chapel at this point, which the Rein Monastery probably had built in 1157. The reason for this was that Margrave Otakar III. gave the monastery a portrait of Mary. He brought this with him from a pilgrimage from Palestine. It is said to be a copy of an image of St. Mary by Evangelist Luke. A story in the side chapel of the church shows this story.
Whether the image of Mary actually came from Palestine is controversial. Today, however, you won't find it in Maria Straßengel, because it was stolen in 1976. The picture that adorns the high altar today is a copy of Gottfried Höfler, the father of P. Martin Höfler, the prior of Stift Rein.
The Root Cross by Maria Strassengel
There is another reason why pilgrims are drawn to Maria Straßengel. In 1255 a shepherd saw some cattle behaving strangely under a fir tree. When he checked, he discovered a root that looks like Jesus crucified. Beard, face and hair are clearly visible. Likewise the body and the feet, which are on top of each other. Plant physiologists found that the figure is not carved but grew out of the root. I'm always very skeptical about such things, but the cross is one of the reasons why people still make pilgrimages to Maria Straßengel today.
Gothic stained glass window
Also worth seeing are the Gothic stained glass windows, which are located behind the main altar. This is no longer original. This has to do with the fact that Emperor Josef II (1780-1790) had pilgrimages banned. In Maria Strassengel this even went so far as to demolish the church. The altar fell victim to this period. It was not until the 700th anniversary of the church that things turned around. If it had almost fallen into disrepair by then, you can now see it again, at least in part, in its old splendor. Pilgrims come to Maria Straßengel to this day.
Gothic reliefs above the church entrances
What I like best is Maria Straßengel from the outside. Two Gothic reliefs above the entrances are very well preserved. The church run is particularly impressive, with its openwork top reminiscent of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. It is therefore popularly called "little Steffel".
The Probstei and the Rauchkuchl
The Probsteig building dates from 1494. Today it houses the parish office. The Rauchkuchl, which is located in this building, is worth seeing. Abbot P. Philipp Helm shows us that the chimney extends over several floors. The walls are charred by the smoke with which the Prostei chefs have smoked and preserved their food for centuries. There is a tavern opposite the provost. However, it was closed during our visit. After visiting the pilgrimage church, you can still enjoy the view of the surroundings.
Two excursion destinations in Styria for a weekend
Our tip: Rein Monastery, the hiking trails in the area and the pilgrimage church Maria Straßengel are perfect for a weekend trip. Here you can feel the history that this landscape, the monastery and the pilgrimage church created. With a little leisure time, you can step back in time and immerse yourself in the life of monks, knights and shepherds. Rein Abbey and the pilgrimage church Maria Straßengel took us back in time.
The nearest airport is in Graz (15 km). Rein Abbey is 15 km away and easy to reach by car.
The most comfortable way is by car. You can book a rental car * here.
Accommodation in and around Rein Monastery * you can find under this link.
Guided tours in Stift Rein:
Daily tours at 10:30 a.m. and 13:30 p.m. and for groups daily between 9:00 a.m. and 17:00 p.m. with registration.
Other destinations in Styria
Source Stift Rein and Maria Straßengel - Excursion destinations in Styria: Research on site at the invitation of Monastery empire. Our opinion remains unaffected.
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the publishers of the Trips to Savor and Slow Travel Blog TravelWorldOnline Traveler , They have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline is online since 2001.
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Monika Fuchs has been working in tourism since 1990. She has been a tour guide on four continents for 17 years and has accompanied high-class trips through North and Central America, Australia, southern Africa and Europe. Since 2001 she has been a writer and photographer for TravelWorldOnline and writes as a freelance journalist for DIE ZEIT Online and travel magazines such as 360 ° Medien, TRIVAGO, Expedia, travador, etc. She also writes travel guides about destinations and enjoyment destinations all over the world. Your guide about Canada's east was released in 2020. Petar Fuchs produced the videos on this blog as well YouTube.
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