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Cistercian Abbey of Zwettl

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(CLARAVALLIS AUSTRIAE).

A filiation of Heiligenkreuz, of the line of Morimond, situated in Lower Austria, in the Diocese of St. Hippolyte. This monastery was founded in 1137 by Hadmar I of Kuenring, with Herrmann, a monk of Heiligenkreuz, as its first abbot (1137-47). The foundation was confirmed by Innocent II (1140) and by several other popes and emperors. It made rapid progress, soon becoming one of the most important monasteries in the order. Extensive buildings were erected, and the church, chapter-room, and dormitory were blessed in 1159, though the entire monastery was not completed until 1218. For more than two centuries its spiritual, as well as temporal, state was most flourishing; towards the end of the fourteenth century, however, its prosperity was on the decline; it was repeatedly plundered, especially in 1426, when 4000 sacked and burned it down, one brother being martyred. It was rebuilt under Abbot John (1437-51), and regained a part of its former splendour, having over forty priests near the end of the fifteenth century, and so continued until reduced to six monks and one secular priest under the Lutheran Reformation, when also a fourth part of its possessions, which were very large, were ordered to be sold by an imperial rescript. Under Abbot Erasmus (1512-1545) and his successors it flourished anew, notwithstanding the Thirty Years War and the Turkish invasion, during which it was saved from destruction by the friendship of Count Thurn for Abbot Siegfried. During the administrations of Abbot Linck (1646-71), author of "Annales Austrio Claravallenses", and Abbot Melchior (1706-1747), who rebuilt a great part of the abbey and enriched it with many precious vessels and vestments, it reached its zenith. The latter encouraged study, and opened schools of philosophy, theology, etc., in the monastery, and founded the library. During the period of Josephinism Abbot Rainer was obliged to resign, to be succeeded by a commendatory abbot (1786), but after 1804 the community was allowed to elect its own abbot. Since 1878 the abbey has been administered by Abbot Stephen Roessler, the sixty-first from its foundation; besides him two other noted historians were members of Zwettl during the nineteenth century; John von Frast (d. 1850) and Leopold Janauschek , the author of "Originum Cisterciensium". The abbey is justly proud of its great library, which contains over 60,000 volumes, 500 incunabula , and 420 manuscripts. The community is now formed of over 40 priests, who have care of fifteen incorporated parishes.

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