Selling a “Stift” – Fiecht changes ownership
“Stift” is the name of ancient monasteries in Austria which have prelates – abbots or provosts – as superiors. The Benedictine Stift Fiecht has recently been sold: the resident community of nine monks felt no longer able to adequately animate the baroque spaces of the monastery which, in addition, had suffered badly from the construction of one of Europe’s principal highways right in front of the abbey.
In June 2016 the community decided to sell the Baroque monastery in the valley and to relocate to the ancient monastery of St Georgenberg in the mountains where the community had been founded and where it had existed until the early 18th century. St Georgenberg is currently being renovated and the monks will move to the mountain monastery in mid-2019.
The sale of a monastery is not an easy matter. The regional government as well as the local diocese of Innsbruck were involved, and given the dimensions and cultural importance of the property, the Vatican also had to give a green light.
The monks were fortunate to find a strong partner in Dr. Christoph Swarovski, head of Tyrolit and a leading Austrian industrialist. He has purchased the monastery and, in keeping with the cultural tradition of the Stift, plans to establish an education center for the needs of Tyrolean industry.
Selling a monastery in itself is not exactly a joyful occasion. But the fact that the monks remain in the area and that the new owner’s plans are being welcomed by almost everyone in the region made the formal handing-over on 28 June 2018 a solemn ceremony. In the presence of the bishop and the Landeshauptmann (governor), Prior Raphael Gebauer handed over the keys to the new owner. The abbey church, an Alpine Baroque jewel, continues to be in use by the local parish.