It’s hard to miss the Franziskanerkirche – it’s the tall, yellow spire on the river opposite the Kunsthaus. You may wonder why an order devoted to poverty has such a ruddy big tower. Thanks to the Franziskanerkirche’s strategic position near the old city walls, the city authorities decided that it also needed to function as a defensive fortification. The tower was built in A.D. 1636-1643 and the onion dome was added in A.D. 1740.
It’s a safe bet to say that if you find an Austrian church with 20th century stained glass (like this one and the Stadtpfarrkirche), the windows were blown out by World War Two bombing.
European cities have a habit of secreting the best places behind innocuous walls. There is the Vrtbov Garden in Prague, the Sebastiansfriedhof in Salzburg, and this peaceful oasis near the Hauptplatz.
Founded by Minorites in A.D. 1239, the Franziskaner Klosterkirche is the oldest monastery in Graz. When the Franciscan order split in the 16th century, those who stayed loyal to the Minorite ideals had to move out. They eventually found a new place, the Mariahilferkirche, to the west of the river. But the remaining Franciscans friars pray in the monastery to this day.
Tips for Visiting
The Franziskanerkloster and the Franziskanerkirche are located at the end of Neutorgasse, on the other side of the river from the Kunsthaus and right in the heart of the Franziskanerviertel. The church, the original Gothic cloisters, and the monastery’s small garden are open to the public. Around the walls of the cloister, look for the names and professions of distinguished city residents who were buried here.
The Franziskanerviertel (“Franciscan Quarter”) sits in the protective embrace of the Franziskanerkirche. Back in the old days, the area was known as the Kälberne Viertel (“Veal Quarter”). Farmers drove their cattle into town to be slaughtered next to the river. The smell must have been… pungent.
Restaurants, chocolateries, and children’s clothing stores have replaced many of the butchers’ shops, but there are still a few that remain. Today, the quarter has a distinctly Italian feel, with old men shooting the breeze over espresso and old women applying their lipstick in courtyard cafés. After lunch, you might want to take a quiet walk through the Franziskanerkloster.
Tips for Visiting
The Franziskanerviertel is where Graz holds its traditional Adventmarkt (“Christmas Market”). In the week leading up to the holiday, the quarter is scented with cinnamon and packed with stands selling farm goods and handicrafts.