Housed in the complex of the former Dominican Monastery, Museum Krems offers an overview of the history of the town and the region known as the Wachau.
Among the museum’s many treasures is a fine collection of saints and martyrs carved in wood and stone. These grace the cloistered courtyard and date from the Medieval Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque. See www.museumkrems.at for details of opening times and the tours available.
In Austria, Krems was one of the first places where a mint was established and a collection of „Kremser Pfennige“ is on display in Room 2. These were struck between 1120-1193 in a castle that overlooked the town. Minting in Krems was stopped in 1194, when Leopold V set up a central mint in Vienna. The money for this came from the huge ransom that the Duke was able to extract for Richard the Lionheart when he was imprisoned in Dürnstein Castle after having insulted the Duke in the Holy Land two years earlier. Later the castle where the Kremser Pfennige were minted was converted into a palace by the judge and financial administrator, Gozzo. Gozzo is shown on a fresco in the Dominican Church kneeling in supplication before the Virgin Mary who is shown as the Queen of Heaven.
Gozzo’s palace may be seen on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays when guided tours are offered. The meeting point for these tours which are given in German, is Palazzo Gozzo itself, situated at the Hoher Markt above the museum.
The early history of Krems and the Wachau is dominated by the interwoven histories of monasteries and winemaking, with the latter never losing importance. In the museum visitors can learn about the Krems-Stein Winegrowers‘ Guild which is the only guild in Europe still in existence. From August until mid October, the grapes were guarded by another group of people, the Hüter ,whose rites, rituals and customs are also documented.
The heyday of Krems and Stein was during the Renaissance, when the twinned towns lay at the intersection of the North-South overland route to Venice and the East-West river route provided by the River Danube. Testifying to this prosperity is a masterpiece of cabinet-making owned by the apothecary, Dr. Wolfgang Kappler.
A portrait by Wolf Huber shows Kappler’s wife, Magdalena, who was mother to the couple’s thirteen children. For those continuing on to Vienna, the Huber connection can be continued through a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum where two further portraits may be seen.
In Museum Krems, below ground, visitors can see the drunkenness of Noah carved in high relief and learn about „Kremser Senf“, a mustard that for 350 years was made in Krems.
In the winding cellars, bones and pottery testify to the Slavic people who during the Age of Migration, occupied the Krems and Stein plateaux’s. In a 12.000 Litre barrel one can listen to the exhilarating tones of the Wachauer Wine-Grower’s March, composed by local composer Ernst Schandl (1920-1997) and visitors are challenged to ponder the secret kept by the black cat with the glass eyes!
Over the winter of 2019/2020, the first part of a two season restoration program was carried out in the Dominican Church, with the colours of the original decoration of the ceiling now revealing itself in all its original brightness and intensity.
Boss and ceiling from the nave of the Dominican Church in Krems, 1260
Boss from the apse of the Dominican Church in Krems, circa 1320
Fan vault in the choir of the Dominican Church in Krems, circa 1320