Sternwarte Kremsmünster

Sternwarte Kremsmünster

THE OBSERVATORY of Kremsmünster

The Baroque observatory is considered the structural symbol of the monastery of Kremsmünster, and at the time of its construction was known as the  "mathematical tower". In art history it is described not only as one of the historical beginnings of modern highrise building architecture but also as the first preserved independent museum edifice. At first the monastery authorities had contemplated erecting the observatory above the bridge gate. Fr. Anselm Desing had already completed plans and a wooden model, which has been preserved. This project was abandoned and in 1748 the decision was made to erect a fully free-standing building in the garden. Once again, the designs were drawn up by Desing, and construction was completed within ten years. This nine-storey structure was meant to house a universal museum in which the visitor would be led from inanimate nature (minerals and fossils on the second floor) over to lower living nature (plants and animals), on to the human sciences and arts (art chamber and picture gallery on the third and fourth floors), then on to the cosmos (the observatory on the sixth floor) and finally to the reflection of God (the chapel on the seventh floor).

Fr. Laurenz Doberschiz wrote in 1764: "A view of the tower from the inside requires lot of puffing and panting." But even before the visitor starts puffing and panting, he notices the many oval portraits which decorate the staircase. They depict the pupils of the knights’ academy (1745 - 1789), which, like the grammar school, greatly influenced the construction and furnishing of the observatory. After all, the teachers of the school also carried out the scientific research and looked after the collections. Three further works of art decorate the staircase: statues of the three astronomers Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler. They represent the progress made in the research of our solar system.

The collections housed in the observatory vividly illustrate the development of research in natural sciences over almost a quarter of a millennium. The present forms of the collections were established in 1977 when they were newly set up for the 1,200-year anniversary celebrations. Great consideration was taken of the fact that the observatory had already become a museum of a museum.

Before the visitor enters one of the exhibit rooms, he encounters the  "weather room". From the year 1763 up to the present day, meteorological observations have been conducted here. This makes the Kremsmunster weather station the only one which can claim 230 years of observation without a change in location.

Fr. Leonhard Angerer (1861 - 1934) was responsible for the formation of the geological, palaeontological and prehistoric collections. In close cooperation with his friend, the Viennese palaeobiologist Othenio Abel (1875 - 1946), he gathered many of these objects and saw to it that they were set up. The most remarkable pieces are the ichthyosaur that was acquired in 1906, the skeleton of a cave-bear found in the Lettenmaier cave in Kremsmünster (reassembled by O. Abel), and the mammoth tooth which was found near Krems in 1645 and illustrated in „Merian". The prehistoric collections experienced a new impetus after the discovery of the small palaeolithic statue of „Venus vom Galgenberg" on the grounds of the monastery in Stratzing (Wachau).

The basis of the mineralogical room is the collection which was acquired from Roger von Rutershausen in 1782. At first it had been displayed in the abbey and in 1803 was brought to the observatory, together with its beautiful display cases. Today, thanks to the work and support of many, the collection has been increased to 12,000 items.

Some of the items exhibited in the physics room stem from the areas of research of the observatory (geodesy, meteorology, seismology) and the rest are instruments that were used for physics demonstrations in the classroom. In addition, the latest seismological recordings are on display here.

In 1880 the zoological collection was set up in the large hall, which had formerly held art works. In 1976 the botanical collection was added. Undoubtedly the most unusual exhibits on this floor are the „xylothek", a collection of wood in book form, and the wax mushroom models by L. Trattinnick (Vienna,1764  -1849). In addition there are glass models of invertebrate creatures made by Leopold Blaschka from Dresden (1822 - 1895, assisted by his son Rudolf, 1857 - 1939) and the extensive humming bird collection by Fr. Anselm Pfeiffer (1848 - 1902). Displayed in the zoological room are animals native to Austria, including a number of those which have become partially or fully extinct, plus many exotic animals. A part of this collection was acquired from Dr. August von Genczik from Linz (1810 - 1864), an explorer of Africa.

The fifth floor holds collections focusing on folklore, ethnology, and the history of civilization. In the centre of the folklore collection stands the model of a square-shaped farm complex, traditionally typical for the region. Household goods and native dress from farm houses and town people’s residences are arranged around the model.

Displayed in the adjoining room is the collection dedicated to the history of civilization, including an Egyptian mummy, several Roman archaeological finds, Turkish artifacts, and ethnological collections from East Africa and New Guinea.

The large hall on the sixth floor was originally used as an observatory for astronomical research and then for magnetic research. Today it is a museum of astronomy.

Here one can see the astronomy table (1590), an impressive number of astronomical observation instruments, including a sextant made of iron that was probably used by Johannes Kepler in Prague, a collection of pocket sundials,  terrestrial and celestial globes, the first astronomical sketches, and several other items that had been used here in former times.

The chapel room houses an altar niche, the portraits of the builder of the observatory, Abbot Alexander Fixlmillner (abbot from 1731 to 1759), the administrator of the monastery Fr. Nonnos Stadler (1696 - 1783) and the observatory mechanic Johannes Illinger (1733 - 1800), and both wooden models of the observatory by Father Anselm Desing (Ensdorf,1699 - 1772).

From this room the visitor can walk out onto a balcony that offers a view of the entire monastery complex and, on clear days, a view of the peaks of the "Totes Gebirge" range.


Letzte Änderung: 2002/07/20