St Leopold’s Day commemorates Margrave Leopold III, who founded Klosterneuburg Abbey. St Leopold’s Day is celebrated on 15 November, the anniversary of the death of Leopold III in 1136. St Leopold’s Day has been celebrated since Leopold’s canonisation in 1485. Since 1663, St Leopold has been the national patron saint of Austria and, in particular, the patron saint of Vienna, Lower Austria and (together with St Florian) Upper Austria.
Klosterneuburg, formerly Neuburg, is located on the right bank of the Danube, immediately north of Vienna, at the foot of the Leopold’s mountain. Neuburg was built around 1000 on the ruins of the Roman fort on the high plateau bordered by the Weidlinger and Kierlinger streams and an arm of the Danube. Margrave Leopold III, who became Lord of Neuburg on the occasion of his marriage to Agnes (daughter of the German King Henry IV) in 1106, moved his residence from Mödling to Neuburg.
The centre of St. Leopold’s festivities is Klosterneuburg. Initially, large banquets with dances and tournaments were held there. The old festival has since evolved into a funfair, the Leopoldi Market, where visitors can enjoy themselves after high mass in the collegiate church and after sliding down the famous thousand-bucket barrel.
Klosterneuburg Abbey’s Verdun Altar, named after its creator Nikolaus of Verdun, is of one of the most important artworks of the Middle Ages that was completed in 1181. The Altar comprises a total of 51 enamelled panels arranged in three horizontal layers, corresponding to the epochs of the history of salvation. It was the first work of the High Middle Ages to draw on the style of antiquity with its enamel still shining with undimmed brilliance today. The Verdun Altar can be seen in St. Leopold’s Chapel of Klosterneuburg Abbey.
The skull bone of St Leopold is completely sewn into red velvet, with only the frontal bone exposed. The entire skull is fixed on a cushion. In 1616, the skull relic of St Leopold was ceremonially crowned with the archducal hat by Maximilian III. In 1677, the relic was given a precious setting. Enamelled golden rosettes are sewn around the relic like a chain. Every year at the Leopold Festival on 15 November, the skull relic of St. Leopold is exposed for veneration in front of the Verdun Altar in St Leopold’s Chapel and taken from there and brought by a procession that besides all priests includes members of the knightly order of the holy sepulchre of Jerusalem to the high mass in the Klosterneuburg abbey church.
The collegiate church in Klosterneuburg has a richly designed north-western twin-tower façade with 5-storey towers above square substructures with gabled buttresses. At the height of the central nave eaves, the towers have two-zone tower tops with high pointed spires above a gable crown.
On the occasion of the anniversary of St Leopold’s death, a pontifical mass is celebrated every year on 15 November by the provost of Klosterneuburg Abbey with all the priests present. In 2024, the high mass will be celebrated with the Austrian composer’s Anton Bruckner’s Mass in D minor with the monastery choir and the monastery music orchestra.
For the pontifical mass in honour of the anniversary of St Leopold’s death on 15 November each year, a particularly valuable liturgical vestment from the treasury of Klosterneuburg Abbey is worn by the celebrant. The pontificals also include the mitre and crozier.
Klosterneuburg Abbey belongs to the congregation of the Austrian Augustinian canons and dates back to a foundation by Leopold III, Margrave of the Bavarian Marcha orientalis (Ostarrîchi). The castle on Leopold’s mountain was built in 1101 by Leopold as a fortress against invasions from the east and to control the Danube. According to legend, Leopold III’s wife Agnes lost a cloth on the balcony of their castle on Leopold’s mountain. Years after the wind has taken Agnes’ cloth away it was found in the Neuburg flood plain, a place where Leopold III was to build a monastery in 1108. Agnes cloth is exhibited in the treasury of Klosterneuburg Abbey.
The south-eastern part of Klosterneuburg Abbey dates back to the 18th century. Emperor Charles VI wanted the House of Habsburg to convert Klosterneuburg Abbey into an Austrian Escorial, i.e. a baroque, stately monastery residence, out of devotion to St Leopold. The 2 monumental domes, decorated with the crowns of the House of Habsburg, represent the imperial crown on the one hand and the Austrian archducal hat on the other.
Towards the end of the St Leopold’s Day tour to Klosterneuburg abbey you get the chance to taste some of Klosterneuburg’s abbey’s wines in the ambience of a historic wine cellar of the 13th century. Klosterneuburg Abbey has been growing wine since it was founded. The vineyards are located in selected sites in Klosterneuburg, Vienna, Gumpoldskirchen and Tattendorf. While the Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties are cultivated in Klosterneuburg, the Viennese Gemischter Satz is the main variety grown in the Viennese vineyards in Kahlenbergerdorf and Nussberg.
The indigenous specialities Zierfandler and Rotgipfler are cultivated in the vineyards of Gumpoldskirchen, and the estate’s famous red wines, especially St. Laurent, mature in Tattendorf. Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also cultivated.
The estate’s bottle-fermented sparkling wines are in a class of their own. As Austria’s first climate-neutral winery, Klosterneuburg Abbey is also a pioneer in terms of sustainability and climate protection.
This special tour is only available once a year on St Leopolds Day on the 15th of November
Duration: approximately 8 – 9 hours
The driving distance from Vienna to Klosterneuburg is approximately: 15 km
This St Leopold’s Day offer is a private tour for 2 travelers
Hotel pickup and drop-off in Vienna
Transportation by car to Klosterneuburg Abbey
Pontifical mass at Klosterneuburg Abbey church
Lunch in the Abbey restaurant
Traditional barrel slide in the Binderstadel of Klosterneuburg Abbey
Access to the funfair Leopoldi market
Access to the treasury and the museum of Klosterneuburg Abbey
Tasting of 3 wines from the Klosterneuburg Abbey vineyard
Return transportation by car to Vienna
Accompaniment by 2 well educated local guides
This full-day private tour to Klosterneuburg gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the celebrations in honour of Austria’s patron saint, Saint Leopold. Leopold III founded Klosterneuburg Abbey in 1108 on the site where his wife’s wind-blown veil was found. The highlight of the celebrations in honour of the anniversary of St Leopold’s death on 15 November 2024 is the pontifical mass at 10 a.m. with the Mass in D minor by the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner and the Abbey Choir and Orchestra in the Abbey Church of Klosterneuburg. For this mass, which is celebrated by the provost of Klosterneuburg Abbey together with all the priests present, the skull reliquary of St Leopold is solemnly brought from the tomb of St Leopold in Leopold’s Chapel to the abbey church, accompanied by the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. After the high mass, there is lunch in the Abbey restaurant and then the traditional barrel slide. You will also have the opportunity to have a look around the Leopoldi market, a funfair on Klosterneuburg’s town hall square. You can also take a look at the Verdun Altar in St Leopold’s chapel, the treasury and the museum of Klosterneuburg Abbey before we finish off in the historic cellar of the wine shop of Klosterneuburg Abbey with a tasting of some of the excellent wines from the abbey vineyards.
The private St Leopold’s Day tour for 2 travelers is € 874,00
The Austrian archducal hat, set with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, has been in the treasury of Klosterneuburg Abbey since 1616. Modelled on the „holy crowns“ of Hungary (St Stephen’s Crown) and Bohemia (Wenceslas Crown), it was also intended to be a „holy crown“ and thus an absolute symbol of power. The archducal hat is associated with a saint, namely the founder of Klosterneuburg monastery and patron saint of Austria, St Leopold. The hat was only allowed to be brought to Vienna for the inauguration of a new archduke the last time in 1835 for Emperor Ferdinand I. The hat made its last official appearance in 1989 at the funeral of Zita, the last Empress of Austria.