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Pilgrimage Church at Sankt Wolfgang

In the small village of Sankt Wolfgang 4 km south of Weitra there is a pilgrimage church of impressive dimensions consecrated to Saint Wolfgang. 

With a length of 42 m, a width of 21 m and a height of 14 m, the church dominates over the place. It is is the largest church of the diocese of St. Pölten which does not stand in a city but in a village.

Around 1400, donated Thomas Schaler, Viscount of Weitra, and John, his brother, the church in the village Pfaffenschlag, as the place was originally called. The Schalers were owners of the castle and dominion of Engelstein to which the village belonged. As patron saint Wolfgang was selected. He was very popular in the late Middle Ages. On November 6th, 1407 the choir of the church was consecrated, and in 1408 bishop Georg von Passau confirmed this foundation as a branch church of the parish Großschönau once again. About ten years later the building was finished; it is a Gothic hall church with a wide, three-aisled hall room on an almost square ground plan. In 1979, frescoes were discovered on the side walls of the choir. They stem from the 15th and 16th century, and their older layer shows 14 scenes of the life of St. Wolfgang (painted approx. in 1430).

St. Wolfgang's church soon became a pilgrimage destination. Therefore in 1447 a pilgrim house was established by the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Weitra as an accommodation facility (today used as the parsonage). The church should finally give the place its final name; during the 16th century the village was already mostly called Sankt Wolfgang.

Pilgrimage lasted, however, only until the time of the Reformation. In the 1570s and 1580s  the Protestant lord of the manor of Engelstein Christopher of Prague took away parts of the interior and locked the church. In 1583 he employed an evangelical preacher. From the Gothic equipment, only a few pieces were rescued, including the three large carved figures of the three saints-bishops Wolfgang, Erasmus and Nicholas, probably dating from 1500 when they might have stood on the late Gothic high altar. Also a remarkable crucifix with movable arms and a baptismal font donated in 1514 has been preserved. Since 1887, the Gothic stained glass windows of the church are to be found in the Collegiate Church at Stift Zwettl.

In 1617, the church was Catholic again, but pilgrimage could not be revived. At the end of the 17th century the local citizen (yet native of Tyrol) and master carpenter Balthasar Threyer built a large high altar in early Baroque style (1692/94). The altar is divided in three equal axes. It was designed for the three above-mentioned sculptures. Bishop Wolfgang as the church patron stood in the central niche, flanked by Erasmus and Nicholas.
On the occasion of the instigation of Rainer Kollmann as abbot of the Zwettl cloyster in 1765, St. Wolfgang was raised to the status of a parish and the church was partially refurbished. At that time the two rococo side altars and the organ were built. Famous Martin Johann Schmidt created two altarpieces of baroque features – the death of St. Joseph, in 1766, and the glory of St. Nicholas, in 1768. In 1877, a large fire destroyed a part of the village and of the church - the roof and the baroque ridge turret burned down to ashes. The roof was restored to its flat shape again and neo-Gothic ridge turrets were placed on it.

Since the reintroduction of a monthly pilgrimage day in 1975, the church has again become a pilgrimage place. In 2007 it celebrated its 600-year anniversary.