Monday, July 31, 2017

A Visit to Innsbruck (3): Two Churches of the Norbertines

In Innsbruck, the Premonstratensians (or Norbertines) of Wilten have an unusual set-up: they live in their Stift or monastery and also take care of a large Marian shrine only a stone’s throw away, the Basilika Wilten. Wilten enjoys the privilege of being the oldest parish in this part of the country, the “mother parish.” The cherished image of Our Lady has attracted pilgrims since the Middle Ages. Today’s Rococo church (1751-1755) is the most important accomplishment of the Tyrolean priest-architect Franz de Paula Penz. In 1957, Pope Pius XII elevated the church to the status of a minor basilica.
(Peaking out on the right side is part of the structure of the Norbertine monastery itself.) This basilica is dedicated to “Our Lady Under the Four Pillars,” for reasons that are clear when we look inside at the sanctuary:
Inevitably, the elevated pulpit, which I love so much, and whose utter neglect is like a silent reproach to all of Europe:

A beautiful piece of mosaic work on the outside of the church, in the graveyard that surrounds it:

A view of the basilica from the side, then a view looking over to the Norbertine monastery across the street:
Now we arrive at the monastery itself. A sign on the outside reads: “In the Middle Ages, in the area around the Roman settlement of Veldidena, a monastery was founded, so legend has it, by Haymon, a mythical giant. On the site of the original monastery of secular priests, the Order of Premonstratensians has been running the abbey since 1138. It enjoyed its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was extended in the Baroque style.”
Haymon, the mythical giant-founder
The inside features a striking black-and-gold Baroque color scheme, with no shortage of side altars for abundant celebration of private Masses:
Since the church was locked, I couldn’t go up closer to the high altar, where there is a rather odd depiction of Christ as the Good Shepherd with a bunch of golden sheep, possibly with sheep on His right and goats on His left, to judge from the sad-looking animal on that side, and Christ's lowered arm:
Here is the elevated pulpit of Stift Wilten:
Lastly, two modern works of art. The one is the conversion of Paul [Update: A reader has correctly pointed out that this is far more likely a reference to St. Norbert's dramatic conversion], a rusted sculpture in the piazza right outside the church; the other, a crucifixion scene with Saints Stephen, Lawrence, Paul, and Peter, in a small chapel off of the atrium.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: