The History of the Museum

The council board member, Johann Baptist Geißler set up a room of the city hall tower (on the 3rd floor with oriel window), the “town armament room” according to an order from Mayor Vinzenz Würth in 1833. Up until then it was in the tower to Nalb (Nalberturm). He described and catalogued the items of the collections, which is seen as the official founding of the museum. He was therefore the founder of the “Antiquity Chamber”, the first  museum of local heritage in Lower Austria.

Johann Baptist Geißler, born in Brno in 1784, had been the printer in Retz since 1810. He quit this job one year after getting the job in the municipality as “city scribe”. Geißler started the “commemorative book of the city of Retz”. A well-kept oil picture reminds us  of the museum’s founder and the city’s first scribe.

The act of collecting things belongs to the “romantic traits of the Biedermeier style”  (Heimatbuch, II. Band , P. 378). Cherished utensils and objects of everyday life were compiled passed down to the future generations.

After Geißler’s death the “Antiquity Chamber” was taken care of by Mayor Josef Mößmer until 1848. Then it was forgotten. Josef Mößmer’s son, Anton Mößmer took over the responsibility of the collection in 1874. He introduced a reform and was an active collector.

From 1890 to 1907 Mayor Alois Richter was the museum’s curator. The museum’s stock was set up in four rooms of the newly built post office building (today’s Hauptplatz 13). Richter expanded the collection through archaeological finds. Alois Richter was a well-known numismatist, his extensive coin and medal collection is now in the city archive.

From 1907 to 1934 the museum was taken care of Mayor Karl Mößmer.  He founded the department of the folk culture and extended the prehistorical department with the help of the teacher, Alexander Sackl. He also developed an extensive collection of keepsakes from World War I. It was expanded by objects from the museum of military history and was known as the “war museum”.  It was situated in the burgher’s room of the city hall in the interwar period.

Von 1925 to 1942 the museum’s agenda was taken care of by Lecturer Prof. Rudolf Resch, the author of the Retzer Heimatbuch, the local history book. He made an effort to order and  to make a speciation of the geological and prehistorical objects. He brought the importance of the city collections out into the public through many publications.

After Prof. Rudolf Resch death his nephew, the teacher, Anton Resch, took over the museum.  “The Nazi-period caused chaos in the museum. The display rooms in the post office building  were changed into rooms for the military followers of Hitler, the  wonderful show cases were ruined and the museum items were stored in the old Sparkasse. There they started to set it up again, but because of the war it remained unfinished. As the front came nearer some local patriots got together and saved the objects they thought most valuable.

The precautionary measures alone proved unnecessary. Even the objects that were not hidden remained untouched.” (Anton Resch, at the new opening of the oldest museum of local history in Lower Austria. Wochenblatt für das Viertel unter dem Manhartsberg, Nr. 44, 1.11.1947)

Anton Resch and the head of the cultural studies department of the Lower Austrian State Museum, Dr. Rupert Feuchtmüller, ordered the objects of the museum again after the end of the war, the museum was set up again in the burgher’s room of the city hall. In 1948 the local history collection and the prehistorical collection were set up in the Bürgerspital.


The Bürgerspital

The Bürgerspital, originally known as the “hospital for the chronically sick ones” a trust of the Count of Hardegg, was  first founded by the church before 1279. In 1467 they built a new chapel in the late gothic style within the city walls near the Znojmo Gate. Trusts and legacies like the hospital building, the chapel, the cemetery, the adjoining buildings, fields, meadows, forests and vineyards increased the wealth of the hospital.

The chapel was remodeled in baroque style after the Thirty Year War. In the process of the church reforms it was closed by Emperor Josef II in 1798. Afterwards the building was used as a theater room, a bank, city council rooms and a school. Scribe apartments, a military hospital, a prison, an archive and a city council office were occasionally situated in the adjoining buildings. The collections of the museum of local history have been set up in the Bürgerspital since 1948.

The building complex also has an eventful  history which reached its new peak in the restoration of 2003/2004. The trust of the Bürgerspital still exists today. Needy members of the city are still being helped with the earnings from the rest of the property of 53 hectares of vineyards, forests and fields.


The Building of the Bürgerspital

Count Michael von Maydburg had the hospital church and building rebuilt in the style of late gothic in 1467. The chapel, whose patrons were the holy John, the Baptist and John, the Evangelist, had a high altar and two side altars (consecrated to John, the Baptist, John, the Evangelist and Elizabeth). The hospital cemetery was located beside the church to the Znojmo  Gate until 1559. The restoration of the church arch and its restyling in the baroque (bell, new window, vestry, church stalls, the wooden church tower with shingles, the ORGELPOSITIV and the organ) took place after the misery of the Thirty Year War. Every Saturday there were church services for the people of the hospital. Public services were held on St. John’s day and St. Elizabeth’s day.

After the closing of the chapel and the selling of the furniture and fixings the chapel was used as a theater room, a bank and a meeting room of the municipality.

From 1732 to 1875 there was a city school in the building of the Bürgerspital.  Parts of the building were used occasionally as apartments for the city scribes or schoolmasters, a military hospital, a prison or an archive.

From 1752 to 1840 the city council office were here. In 1948 the collections of the city museum of local history were set up here.