Gartenpavillion

In 1747–1748, Franz Munggenast built the Garden Pavilion as a space for the fathers to relax and recuperate. The Abbey observed strict fasting periods, and this facility was intended to promote both the psychological and physical health of its inhabitants. Medical procedures of the time involved bleeding and various purging treatments. After these cures, the monks needed fortification. Of the Abbey’s contingent of monks, one group was always continuing with normal Abbey life and singing the choral prayers while another was recuperating. The Garden Pavilion was built for this purpose, entirely in keeping with the intellectual world of the Baroque period.

The ceiling fresco in the Garden Pavilion is by Johann Wenzel Bergl (1718– 1789), a pupil of Paul Troger and Franz Anton Maulbertsch; it depicts the triumph of the light. At the centre of the heavenly vault, the sun shines; above it, we see a zodiacal arch with the signs of the months for the three joyous seasons, spring, summer and autumn. The youthful form of spring, crowned with flowers, rides in, bathed in sunlight, in a triumphal carriage. Underneath are summer, crowned in ears of wheat, and autumn with a cornucopia, from which a rich harvest flows. Winter follows them carrying a lowered torch, which, symbolising the north wind, blows out rain and snow before it. The seasons echo through four medallions within the architectural paintings: on the north side, to the right, putti dig up the earth (spring); on the south side, to the left, they cut up the harvest (summer); on the south side, to the right, they press wine (autumn), and on the north side, to the left, they ride in sledges (winter).

On the edges of the frescoes one sees the four continents then known in Europe. On the north side, opposite the main entrance, is the Tyrian princess Europa, whom Zeus, taking the form of a bull, abducted to Crete. She is easily recognisable as Empress Maria Theresa; the imperial insignia and eagle also recall the Holy Roman Empire. The numerous arts and sciences (not only music, sculpture, astronomy and painting but also the art of war) illustrate this continent’s primacy.

In the east, the figure of Asia is represented by an oriental prince, whose sceptre and turban recall the Turkish Empire; he is surrounded by courtiers, scribes and bound slaves. A Chinese emissary offers up gifts. In the south, Africa is symbolised by a Moorish prince holding a beautiful horse by the reins; exotic animals and plants surround him alongside figures with jewels and pearls; in the background is a pyramid with the symbols of Islam and heathen religions. To the west, America is represented with undifferentiated depictions Indians and black people; an elephant (!) symbolises the continent’s fauna. A Spanish explorer exchanges goods with the locals.

The putti in the frescoes above the door represent the five senses. Taste, the most important of them in this place of feasts and revelry, appears twice: as drinking (in the south) and eating (in the north). Alongside the latter in the north is touch on the left and smell on the right; in the south, sight on the right and hearing on the left. The frescoes over the two niches show, on the left, Abbot Thomas Pauer in a medallion; his time in office saw the start of the Pavilion’s construction in 1747. He died, however, before its completion. This is the reason for the presence of Chronos with the hourglass. The medallion on the right contains Abbot Urban Hauer, who oversaw the completion of the construction. Consequently, there is an angel proclaiming his fame on a horn. Below is the architect of the Pavilion, Franz Munggenast, and left the artist Johann Wenzel Bergl, who painted the frescoes in 1764. The frescoes in the other rooms depict exotic scenes (for example, in the eastern room, the discovery of America, exotic animals and fruits).

The Bergl frescoes confront us with the joy of life, with voluptuous painting of exotic plants and animals, paradisiacal surroundings and loving harmonies. It is unimportant whether Bergl’s fantasies depict grand iconographic ideas that act as an earthly counterpart to the spiritual realm of the Abbey and the church. The paintings simply express a Baroque mentality that expressed itself even in a place of asceticism. The piety of this period had a very earthly accent, as did these people’s attitude toward life. 

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