The Franciscan Church

While the large Romanesque monastery church exemplifies the concept of Heavenly Jerusalem, St. Michael Parish Church represents the bright festivities of the Baroque period, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre portrays the people's pious notions about the suffering and death of Jesus.  In contrast, the Franciscan Church of St. Leopold embodies a reduction to the bare essentials:
The Franciscan Church

With their plain and simple architectural styles, the churches that were erected for the Franciscan and the Capuchin orders during the counter-reformation stand out against the traditionally wealthy and culturally rich monasteries. Franciscan friar Vitus Rastpichler from the Ötztal valley designed the minster consecrated in 1967 by the Prince-Bishop of Bressanone/Brixen. By deliberately omitting a high bell tower, complex vaults and ceiling frescoes, he paid tribute to the ideal of poverty. At the entrance to the nave, a small chapel dedicated to St. Anthony can be used for private prayers and services. The monks originally performed their chants up in the choir loft. Only a fragment of the original church decor has been preserved to the present day, among them large oil paintings on the side altars and images of the Franciscan saints on the south wall. The altars in use today are elegant works from the Rococo period. In a careful two-year restoration project which began in 1992, the original appearance of the abbey was partially restored, and in 1994 it won the Europa Nostra Award for cultural heritage conservation.

The Cloister
The Cloister boasts a cultural treasure of the highest order: the St. Francis cycle comprising 31 paintings on wooden panels. Over 70 individual scenes recount the story of the order's founder, Francis of Assisi, as seen by 17th century biographers. Friar Lukas Plazer, the son of a humble local artist from Überetsch, painted them between 1706 and 1709. The text accompanying the paintings – wondrous occurrences interpreted in Baroque German – reveals insights into the people’s religious notions during the period around 1700 and vividly describes the homes of the rich and the poor, fine garments worn by noblewomen, the shabby robes of impoverished monks and the splendid embellishments brought to the church and as altar decorations. Donated by influential townspeople and aristocrats, these cloister paintings are the most detailed description of St. Francis of Assisi’s life ever produced in the so called People’s Baroque context of central Europe. The rooms which are important in daily monastic life are arranged around the cloister and its restored well: the portal and entrance, the laundry room, the kitchen, the dining hall, the sacristy and pantries containing supplies for the winter in the cellar.
The altars

The altar pieces with their skilfully crafted intarsia work by cabinet makers Franz Schraffl from Dobbiaco/Toblach and Johann Josch from Bolzano/Bozen hold particularly precious treasures: On the high altar, a painting by Christoph Unterberger of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts shows Mary and the Infant Jesus with St. Leopold of Austria and St. Francis kneeling in front of them. On the right side altar, St. Teresa of Ávila and St. Peter of Alcántara were painted in 1715 by the Baroque artist Antonio Balestra from Verona. The painting of the Virgin Mary on the left side altar – probably by Johann Hofmann the Elder – dates from around 1675. A number of smaller illustrations in the upper segment of the altar were added in 1769 by Silesian artist Carl Henrici. The different stations were painted in 1733 by Michael Hudetz, and the tabernacle portraying the order's two patron saints was created in 1769 by the Baroque virtuoso Christoph Anton Mayr.

Burial monuments

Numerous burial monuments of persons who had rendered outstanding services to the church can be found throughout the building: Nobleman and benefactor Michael Dinzl was laid to rest in the choir, while Dominikus Schraffl and Johann Kaspar Troyer von Aufkirchen, both Canons at the monastery, were buried in the chapel of St. Anthony.


The waters of the nearby stream have repeatedly caused severe damage to the monastery. To protect the structure from further harm, a sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk carved by Andreas Fasching (1689–1745) from San Candido/Innichen was added to the north wall of the church. The large Baroque nativity scene displayed in the chapel of St. Anthony during Christmas and the trumpet-playing angel at the top of the pulpit are works by his son Johann from around 1765. The wooden figures on the altars were carved by Johann Paterer from Lienz, who had studied in San Candido/Innichen and achieved renown thanks to his numerous procession groups and their floating guardian angels.