The Art Collections (The Museum)

Some of the things called objects of art today were originally gadgets used in everyday life for celebrating the monks´ liturgy (e.g. the Easter candlestick in the Romanesque style dating from approx. 1150; books and altar devices), for prayer in the monks´ choir (psalters and antiphonaries), for monastic life and for representation.
Since the monastery is situated on the old pilgrims´ itinerary to Mariazell, suitable rooms in the Southern, Western and Northern parts of the building were used to house the souvereign twice a year, when he participated in the pilgrimage to Mariazell. In the Middle Ages „incognito“ travelling had not yet been thought of and therefore each of the souvereign´s pilgrimages was considered a kind of state affair. So it was necessary to provide rooms furnished according to the social position of the high ranking guests in order to accommodate them. In these days the duty of representation documated the social status of the abbey and secured the esteem of the people connected with it. The meeting of two important institutions of public life (sovereign and abbey – represented by the abbot) was not just left to coincidence. The ceremony was carefullly worked out in advance and made approriate rooms necessary ( Emperor`s Hall – Kaisersaal)
During the reign of Abbot Clemens Schäfer (1658 – 1693) the building of the new library was begun and finished by his successor Abbot Marian Schirmer (1693 – 1705). In the 19th century Abbot Xaver Seidemann (1824 – 1841) had the socalled „garden hall“ -which had been used as a reception hall for the abbot (residing in Vienna) and other high ranking guests of the abbey – changed into an additional room for the library. Next to it – as usual in these days – there was a study called „Museum Fratrum“. This was open to the young monks for studying purposes.
In 1683 the monks were able to save parts of their collection before the Ottoman army besieged the abbey. All the immovable cultural property, however, was lost.
The first abbot to start planned acquisitions for the art collection was Abbot Robert Leeb, who established an art and natural history cabinet and an armoury in 1731.
Today the art collection, which is not open to the public, comprises a lot of paintings dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, among them altar pieces and sacral paintings by Rottmayr, Altomonte, Troger and Mildorfer; still lives by Anton van der Baren, Franz Werner Damm and Christoph Paudiß. We also find trompe-l´oeil- pictures and landscapes by Anton Faistenberger, Joseph Orient and Christian Brand. Jan Fyt, Philipp Peter Roos, called Rosa da Tivoli, and Johann Georg Hamilton painted various animal pieces. There are also genre- and kitchen pieces by Johann Lauterer and Martin Dichtl. So we can say that our monastic collection is among the most important art collections in Austria. One of the most cherished sacral treasures of the abbey is the Holy Cross particle which was brought from Jerusalem to Austria (in 1182) by Duke Leopold V. , who doned it to the abbey in 1188. It is one of the largest Holy Cross particles north of the Alps and has been venerated by the people ever since. Around 1750 a silver, fire gilded reliquary was made. This Cross of Lorrain surrounded by rays holds a container for the relic.
At approximately the same time Abbot Robert Leeb acquired many new paintings for the two anterooms of the abbot´s chambers. In 1802 the collection was completely rearranges after rooms of the convent had been prepared. Later a picture gallery in the Emperor´s Hall as well as the first inventory of all the paintings were begun. Most of the paintings and sculptures go back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Among all the objects of art which we keep, there is a glass organ called „Glasharmonika“from 1808 made by Franz Ferdinand Pohl from Kreibitz (today Chribska).
There used to be a socalled Baroque Museum from 1948 to 1970 which held the most precious objects- among them Martino Altamonte (paintings) and Giovanni Giuliani (sculptures, bozzetti made of clay). In 1970 Abbot Franz Gaumannmüller initiated the rearrangement of the collection. Restoration and inventory work were resumed. This work was directed by Prof. Werner Richter in a competent and resposible way.
P.Mag. Raphael Wilfried Statt Ocist is a master of the fine arts. Since 2006 he has been working as an architect and sculptor in our monastery and in this way he has been rendering his contribution to the arts in our days.

Collections of manuscripts and incunabula

Today the library of the Holy Cross Abbey stores two collections of manuscripts thoroughly kept apart, because they differ widely concerning their history and their numbers. We are talking about the collection of the Holy Cross Abbey on the one hand and the one of the former Abbey Neukloster in Wiener Neustadt (since 1881 a Priory of Holy Cross) founded by the Emperor Frederik lll. in 1444. The covers of the codices mainly date from Baroque days.
A considerable number of manuscripts goes back to the days of the foundation of the abbey and most of them were written right here at our abbey.
A collection of books – those brought by the founding monks as well as those written right at Holy Cross – has been testified since the 12th century. Under the first abbot Gottschalk (+ 1147) the library of non-liturgical texts comprised already approximately 70 volumes. A complete breviary in Cistercian manner with simple red and blue initials (Cod.18) and some liturgical fragments (partly with music) have been preserved ever since the early days of the abbey. Among the manuscripts from the 13th and the early 14th centuries we have to put particular emphasis on the codices written by monks from Holy Cross such as Heinrich von Schüttenhofen, Gutolf (He wrote the Historia Annorum in the 13th century and is one of the first philologists in Austria) and Nikolaus of Holy Cross. They are among the most important authors of their time in Austria. When letterpress printing was invented in the 15th century also the contents of the manuscripts changed in the course of the 16th century. The texts of the medieval monastic lecture and studying canon are replaced by notes taken down by the students, above all texts only handed down once. Among these we find miscellaneous texts by various members of the abbey.
The medieval codices preserved in our abbey – notwithstanding losses in later days – give us a complex idea of the way in which trends in theology, pholosophy and literature were followed at our abbey and also when the respective streams were widespread. In this way it is possible to place Holy Cross Abbey within the context of the cultural and scientific life of medieval Austria. The abbey is well conscious of its responsible role byprotecting important cultural property. The manuscripts are being carefully restored – one by one according to the financial means of the abbey. For the time being emphasis is laid on recovering early fragments pasted over with layers of paper.
For scientific purposes the manuscripts can be used after contacting the administrator of the manuscript cabinet.
Order of microfilms should be directed to Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. The online order form can be found on website
Medieval lists documenting the books of the library from the 12th and 14th centuries have been published in:
Theodor Gottlieb, Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Österreichs 1: Niederösterreich, Wien 1915. Nachdruck: Aalen 1974.
The catalogues by P. Benedikt Gsell and P. Dr.Severin Grill covering the complete number of manuscripts is still valid.
Benedikt Gsell, Verzeichnis der Handschriften in der Bibliothek des Stiftes Heiligenkreuz, in: Die Handschriftenverzeichnisse der Cistercienser-Stifte…… Xenia Bernardina II/1, Wien 1891, 117-272
Severin M.Grill, Nachtrag zum Handschriftenverzeichnis der Stiftsbibliothek Heiligenkreuz, Sancta Crux Jubiläums-Festausgabe 1936, 62-67.
According to an initiative taken by the abbey Dr.Alois Haidinger and Dr.Franz Lackner (retired members of the Austrian Academy of Science) have been working on a new catalogue for some years. They started with the oldest codices of the manuscripts. Their descriptions can be found on website (link: Heiligenkreuz Zisterzienserstift)
Dr. Haidinger´s minute scientific work on the codices of the 12th century is available in databank
The manuscripts in the German language are described in a thesis for the Institute of German at the University of Vienna by Mag. Christina Jackel
Christina Jackel, Katalog der mittelalterlichen deutschen Handschriften des Zisterzienserstifts Heiligenkreuz, Diplomarbeit, Wien 2011, online.
Selected bobliography:
The incunabula of the abbey are available in the databank Inkunabelzensus Österreich of the Austrian National Library -Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Archives for Music

The wonderful antiphonary Co.20 is one of the oldest sources for the tradition of choir singing in Holy Cross. It was made under Abbot Wernher (1203 – 1228) at the abbey. There are also some sheets with music bound together with old manuscripts.
Dating from 1578 we have the first proof for the existence of an organ in the abbey. Singing and music were much cherished, so the first school of music was founded at the beginning of the 17th century. During the Second Siege of Vienna by the Turks (1683) lots of scores and musical instruments were destroyed. However, we still have got one lute made by Georg Epp in 1631, which survived the chaos of history. In the times of Baroque not only choral singing, but also the splendor of Baroque music in general were cultivated. From the evidence in the archives for music and the musical tradition of our abbey we can learn a lot about many aspects of monastic life. This means about the cultivation of liturgy in the course of the day and the celebration of sacral and profane festivities. We must also consider the necessity of representation, which the relations to other monasteries and the courts of the sovereigns brought along. Polyphonic music was important because of a school theatre and the boarding school for the choir-boys. The cultivation of the fine arts at the abbey created contacts to artists´ groups all over the country.
We find the music of great composers of Holy Cross such as P.Alberich Mazak Ocist (1609 – 1661) and P.Clemens Scheupflug Ocist (1731 – 1805) in various archives. Unfortunately none of the music by Mazak has been preserved in our abbey. However, scores by important composers e.g. Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736 – 1809) and Georg Reutter d.J. (1708 – 17772) can be found in our archives. In the 19th century the monks acquired lots of music for various instruments, e.g. the flute, string quartets and other orchestration by Leonhard von Call /1768 – 1815), Franz Hoffmeister (1754 – 18129 and Ignaz Pleyel (1754 – 1832)- for cultivating the art of music at the abbey.
An outstanding example for acquisitions of 20th century music is the heritage of Ferdinand Rebay (1880 – 1954), a former choirboy at Holy Cross. Later he was a choir-master of the Schubert Union in Vienna and in 1920 he became a professor at the Music Academy in Vienna.
Thus our archives contain originals by various composers from the early Baroque days to our time. More and more musicians all over the world are getting interested in the traditional scores of our collection.
The card-index (written by hand) offers a fine survey of the scores available. As early as the 1970ties a part of these was listed in the RISM catalogue and made available to the public interested in music. (link concerning Heiligenkreuz A-HE). The project of listing our important music treasures in the international register of sources of music ( Repertoire International des Sources Musicales) is being continued. Information concerning medieval music manuscripts: DIAMM
The CD VESPERAE Baroque vespers at Stift Heiligenkreuz originated by cooperation of „dolce resonanza“ (a group with a special interest in Baroque music played on original instruments) and the monks of the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, celebrating the 350th anniversary of the composer`s death: P.Alberich Mazak Ocist (1609 – 1661) was a conductor and choir-master of the abbey.
To order the CD :

Numismatic collection

Holy Cross Abbey owns an impressive collection of approximately 30.000 coins, dating like the art collection, from the days of Abbot Robert Leeb (1728 – 17559. This was the time when many other collections were started in Europe – by sovereigns as well as by bishops and monasteries. This historical evidence was used on the one hand for education, but on the other hand these witnesses of the past were to be preserved for the future and later educational purposes. Finally this collection was also used to secure representation.
The coin collection was considerably enlarged by P.Johann Nepomuk Weiß Ocist (+ 1858), P.Dominik Bilimek Ocist (1813 – 1884), who did a lot of travelling and by Prof. P.Dr. Wilhelm NeumannOCist , who lived in in the second half of the 19th century. The end of the 19th century, however, saw the end of collecting at the abbey.
The collection comprises genuine coins dating from antiquity to our days. Among our coins there are also forgeries from the 16/17th centuries, which are interesting from the historical point of view. In about 1976 Abbot Gauermann enlarged the collection by approx. 4.000 coins by including the numismatic collection of the former independent Abbey Neukloster. Further additions to the collection come from coins discovered near the abbey and some are presents given to the abbey. Among the numismatic gifts the medals of various popes are outstanding. This part of the collection is still increasing.