Franciscan Church (Eisenstadt)

Franciscan Church Eisenstadt


Joseph- Haydn- Gasse


Description of Franciscan Church of Eisenstadt or Franziskanerkirche


The Franciscan Church and Monastery of St. Michael is a listed building of the Franciscans (OFM) in Eisenstadt in Burgenland. The church and monastery were built from 1625, and one of the main tasks of the monks, in addition to pastoral work, was looking after the Esterházy burial place donated by Prince Paul I Esterházy de Galantha in 1705. Since 1980, part of the monastery building has been used as a museum for the Diocese of Eisenstadt.



At today's location there was a Minorite monastery with the church of St. John the Evangelist, which was destroyed in 1529 during the first Turkish siege of Vienna. The place remained desolate until Count Nikolaus Esterházy donated a Franciscan monastery in 1625. From 1625 to 1629 the monastery was built to the north of the newly erected Franciscan church, incorporating Gothic elements, on the central axis of Joseph-Haydn-Gasse and consecrated in 1630.

Towards the end of the 17th century, renovation work on the monastery building can be proven, which was probably carried out in connection with the remodeling of the Esterházy crypt and the St. Joseph crypt that took place between 1687 and 1690. During the town fires of Eisenstadt in the 18th century, especially in 1768 and 1776, the Franciscan church and the monastery of St. Michael also suffered major damage, which Prince Nicholas I, as the patron lord, had repaired. In 1770 Stephan Dorfmeister decorated the refectory with oil paintings and frescoes; etc. with depictions of the Last Supper as well as St. Anthony of Padua and St. Francis. From 1777 to 1778, the west tower of the church was rebuilt in the High Baroque style in place of the ridge turret.

From 1856 to 1857, the Esterházy family vault in the east wing of the monastery was taken care of by Franz Storno Sr. expanded in the neo-Gothic style. In 1898 a comprehensive interior renovation of the church was carried out by Franz Storno Jr., from 1958 to 1959 another interior renovation. In 1971 an exterior renovation and adaptation of the monastery was carried out, in the 1990s another interior renovation, followed by the restoration of the west tower and the exterior renovation of the church in 2002-2004.

In 2018, the Franciscan Order announced that the monastery would be handed over to the Diocese of Eisenstadt later that year, after the last two Fathers left the monastery. The church has since been cared for by the Kalasantine order.


Monastery church

The monastery church presents itself as a hall with a retracted three-bay choir, from which a yoke and the apse are separated by the high altar and are used as a confessional chapel. Today's sacristy is connected northeast of this confessional chapel. Inside the church there is valuable equipment from the time of its consecration around 1630: the early baroque high altar depicting St. Michael is flanked on the triumphal arch pillars by two early baroque side altars, which are worked in stucco technique. All three altars were created by Italian artists who worked exclusively at court. Around the year 1705, three further crypts were built under the church in addition to the already existing crypts of the Esterházy and the St. Joseph brotherhood: the St. Antoni crypt for the higher officials of the Esterházy court, the St. Franzisci crypt for the Franciscan monks living in the monastery and the St. Michael crypt.

The church room only has window openings in the south, since the monastery buildings are attached in the north. Also in the south, a side chapel with stucco decorations adjoins the nave. It was built in the second half of the 17th century and bears the princely Esterházy coat of arms above its entrance; the altarpiece of this chapel is a replica of the miraculous image of Czestochowa. The oratory of the Esterházy family is located in the choir on the north inner wall of the church, directly below is a door that used to lead to the sacristy; in the nave there are two other oratories with wooden rococo grilles, the rococo pulpit and a door leading to the cloister. The three-axis western gallery with a straight parapet rests on Tuscan columns; the organ placed in the middle there dates from 1760. Another noteworthy element of the church are the pews on the west gallery from 1630.


Esterházy crypt

The crypt of the princely Esterházy family consists of a neo-Gothic style above-ground three-aisled pillared hall with a crypt below and is located north of the church in the east wing of the monastery, with the apse of the pillared hall protruding from the east wall of the building. The Esterházy crypt can only be entered from the cloister of the monastery and is usually closed by a two-winged wooden portal, through which one enters the aforementioned pillared hall and its two-armed staircase; if necessary, a modern glass door attached to this portal allows a view of the pillared hall. In the monastery church itself there are no tombstones of the princely house or other indications of the existence of this burial place.

The first crypt of the Esterházy, which was probably already built between 1625 and 1629 together with the monastery, was redesigned in the years 1687 to 1690. In 1705, Prince Paul I († 1713) chose the area under the former altar of the Sorrowful Mother of God, Mary "Queen of the Angel" was consecrated as a burial place. From 1856 to 1857, the Esterházy crypt was expanded by Franz Storno as a neo-Gothic three-nave pillared hall with two bays and six high tracery windows. As can be seen from the floor plan of the monastery from the period immediately before 1856, three rooms on the ground floor of the monastery and previously used by the Franciscan monks were included in the crypt for the construction of this pillared hall, namely the previous refectory, the previous mortuary chapel and the previous one Sacristy. In 1989 there was a renovation and from 1990 to 1991 the crypt was expanded again, whereby the older coffins of the Esterházy, which had previously been placed in the two side aisles of the pillared hall, were reburied and in their place two double platforms made of white marble were erected for future burials.

The pillared hall has a three-eighth closure to the east and can be entered from the cloister via a two-armed staircase, which leads from the portal to ground level in 14 steps. This staircase is flanked by two marble sculptures, of which the southern one probably represents Prince Paul II († 1762) and the northern one his wife Maria Anna Louisa (from the Lunatti-Visconti family). In the central nave of the pillared hall, the sarcophagus of Prince Nicholas II († 1833), probably based on a design by Charles de Moreau, is attached to the east wall like an altar table. It has a semicircular inscribed tablet made of red marble; the grave inscription is carved, gilded and surmounted by the prince's coat of arms. On the wall above the sarcophagus, flanked by tall tracery windows, hangs a life-size crucifix. A memorial stone in the crypt in the form of a large rectangular red marble slab with a carved, gilded inscription and a round bronze relief, which was made shortly after the death of the princess, also commemorates Prince Nicholas II and his wife Maria Hermengilde von Liechtenstein († 1845). This memorial stone is now in the southern side aisle of the pillared hall, where it is placed on the west wall.

In the area between the sarcophagus of Prince Nicholas II and the two-armed staircase in the central nave of the pillared hall is the richly designed, red marble tomb of Prince Paul I († 1713) and Joseph I († 1721). On its top sit four mourning putti of white marble; A gray marble relief in the middle of the lid shows the Crucified, St. Mary, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John in relief, as well as an inscription in the form of an open scroll. The grave inscription carved on behalf of Prince Paul reads: “Paul Estora’s Palatine and Prince of the Empire is buried in this grave. After sweating and freezing in peace and war, he chose this resting place for his body, recommending his sinful soul to the Almighty, he hopes to live forever in the kingdom of God, with the help of the dear Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom after Jesus all set his hopes. If you, wayfarer, have piety in your heart, say: May God grant him eternal rest, which may God reward you.” Another notable inscription is located between the two arms of the cloister staircase, while a number of smaller commemorative plaques also line the remaining walls the tomb was attached.

The mortal remains of Princes Michael I († 1721), Paul II († 1762), Nicholas I († 1790), Anton I († 1794), Paul III. († 1866), Nicholas III. († 1894) and Paul IV († 1898) and most of their wives are also buried in the princely tomb.


Most recently, Prince Paul V († 1989 in Zurich) and his widow Melinda († 2014) were buried in the crypt; With the exception of the princely couple Nikolaus IV († 1920) and Margit († 1910), who were buried near Fertőd, all previous bearers of the princely title from the Esterházy family are buried in the Franciscan monastery in Eisenstadt. The tomb of the royal family is not open to the public.

Diocesan Museum
In 1980 the Diocesan Museum was set up on the second floor of the Franciscan monastery and the display collection was constantly expanded in the years that followed. In special exhibitions that change every year, topics such as Burgenland church history and church cultural history such as pilgrimages, veneration of saints, church music, stained glass windows or popular piety are highlighted.