Why do art, history and wine combine so well? That Vienna art wine tour I did in Klosterneuburg was admittedly an obvious match. What else would you do in Austria’s oldest wine estate that happens to be a monastery where the Austrian nation was forged, and that has been run by art aficionado clerics for 900 years?
Like El Escorial in Spain, Klosterneuburg monastery is outside the capital. At just 10 km Klosterneuburg is much closer to Vienna, though, than El Escorial to Madrid (45 km). And unlike El Escorial, Klosterneuburg is completely manageable in size.
Home of Art Collectors
Vienna Art Wine Tour. Klosterneuburg mixes Middle Ages with baroque, church with Imperial state rooms, art treasures with wine barrels. At the monastery’s museum, I heard about the very beginnings of Austria itself, about the Medieval Legend of the Veil, and about the most important of Austrian crowns. Monastery founder Margrave Leopold III ruled in the 11th/12th century AD and was a contemporary of Thomas Becket.
The museum was packed with amazing historic objects you’d rather suspect in Vienna’s central palaces, such as these ivory carvings. The Augustinian canons, who have run Klosterneuburg ever since, have been passionate art collectors.
I love fabrics and Art Nouveau, and found a marvellous ‘Jugendstil’ ecclesiastical garment from 1910 between gold plated altar pieces and ivory carvings. It is called ‘Marienornat’.
My favourite piece was the Medieval Babenberg family tree. The gigantic artwork spanned several square metres and was filled with richly painted medallions of dozens of male and female Babenberg rulers: kings, maids, knights and crusaders who shaped Central Europe, when no one even talked of fantasy films.
The most outstanding and precious piece was the Altar of Verdun. We discovered it in the lower part of the monastery’s church. The 900-year-old altar depicted key stories of the Bible in scenes, spread across three boards. Each image was fire-gilded and beautifully enamelled. Some figurines were unusually emotional and dynamic for that period. The altar received its name from its creator Nicolas of Verdun.
Imperial State Rooms
Vienna Art Wine Tour. Klosterneuburg Abbey hosts a few Imperial state rooms. They don’t just look untouched, they are. In the 18th century Klosterneuburg almost became Schönbrunn Palace. Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresia’s father, wanted to move his seat to the monastery’s site. A baroque palace with stunning rooms and a Marble Hall were annexed by a top baroque architect but left unfinished after Charles’ death. Maria Theresia preferred Schönbrunn. And this meant Klosterneuburg went into decline as an Imperial residence. Walking through those virgin rooms felt to me both like a privilege and a historic error.
The Marble Hall featured a fabulous ceiling fresco. Best of all: you didn’t need to twist your neck to see it. A tilted mirror on the floor created a fantastic perspective, blending the ceiling fresco with some walls. The most obvious place showing that Klosterneuburg palace remained a work in progress was the Sala Terrena entrance hall. The Abbey’s curators decided to leave the hall in its original condition rather than plastering over it. The result was a striking contrast: Perfectly chiseled Atlas statues lining the room meeting with raw brickwork.
The Wine In The Vienna Art Wine Tour
As Austria’s oldest wine estate Klosterneuburg Abbey boasts a vast underground wine cellar world. Even today, Klosterneuburg continues to produce around 50 types of wine, sparkling wine, spirits and natural apple juices, along with oils, vinegars, honey and chocolates.
I joined one of the Abbey’s special wine tours after my abbey tour. We descended 36 metres to large vaulted rooms across three levels: the Roman Cellar, the Barrique Cellar and the Fermentation Cellar. Some of the operational rooms were filled with gigantic oak barrels, some with enormous modern steel tanks and a wine distillery machinery.
As the second part of my Vienna art wine tour continued it became obvious how deeply rooted the abbey still is in regional wine production. The Abbey owns vineyards and orchards not only in Klosterneuburg, but in Vienna and Gumpoldskirchen and Tattendorf in the Vienna Woods. Generations of regional vintners attended Klosterneuburg’s renowned viniculture school. During the tour you learn all about local wine production over the centuries, and local wine growing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a tour in English, and a wine tasting.
Klosterneuburg is open during the following periods:
16th November to 30th April : 10:00am to 5:00 pm
1st May to 15th November: 09:00am to 6:00 pm
24th December : 10:00am to 12:00pm
25th, 26th and 31st December : closed
1st January: 01:00 pm to 05:00 pm
Entrance tickets: EUR 17 (adults): EUR 11 (children); Children under 6 years of age go free. If you get the VIENNA PASS, the entrance is free and you can get a hop on hop off bus to take you to Klosterneuburg.
How To Get There by Public Transport: take metro U4 to Heiligenstadt, then bus 238 or 239 to Klosterneuburg-Stift. Walk 5 min to the monastery.
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