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Heiligenkreuz, in the heart of the southern section of the Vienna Woods, is a magnificent Cistercian abbey with a famous Romanesque and Gothic church founded in 1135 by Leopold III. Until a few years ago it was a little-known place of contemplative worship and prayer. Then, in 2008, the monks recorded their Gregorian chants, and the resulting album topped the charts, beating out pop stars like Madonna.
The church itself is lofty and serene, with beautifully carved choir stalls (the Cistercians are a singing order) surmounted by busts of Cistercian saints. The great treasure here is the relic of the cross that Leopold V is said to have brought back from his crusade in 1188. Call in advance to arrange a tour in English.
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