Around 1070 Bishop Altmann who was later canonized founded a "reformed" monastery to the west of the old part of the city which was dedicated to St. Nikolaus and was taken over by Augustine monks. The Dukes of Bavaria managed to establish sovereignty over both the monastery and its lands which led to centuries of conflict with Passau's bishops. The only things that remain of the Early Romanesque monastery church are the south apsis and the crypt under the east chancel. Probably finished before 1080 and called the "Chapel of Mary", this is the oldest crypt in Lower Bavaria and Passau's earliest place of pilgrimage devoted to Mary.
The building of the present Gothic church became necessary because of the damage done by an earthquake in 1348. It was then given a Baroque interior in 1715 by Johann Michael Prunner and Jakob Pawanger. It was here in 1717 that Wolfgang Andreas Heindl painted his first major cycle of frescos. In the nave he painted the miracles of St. Nikolaus and in the crossing an Ascension of Mary modelled on that on Andrea Pozzo. The magnificient decoration of the main altar was given to the parish church of Vilshofen in 1804. The reason for this gift was that in the previous year St. Nikola had also fallen victim to the Secularization. The spacious monastic tract grouped around three courtyards which Carlo Antonio Carlone began to build in 1683 was to have been turned into a branch of the Nymphenburg procelain factory but instead it was put to military use and remained a barracks until 1945. In 1959, however, the church was restored and became the parish church of St. Nikola. The east wing of the monastery was acquired by an order of nuns for their motherhouse and in the remaining building the University of Passau was founded in 1972.
© Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg
Foto der St. Nikolakirche - Picture of St. Nikola church
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