A new home for the “discarded” – renovation of the Mesner Tower

It is now more than 50 years since the last members of the Mesner family left the ancient walls of St. Oswald. Now, the former “Mesner Tower” is being transformed into a different kind of home: a home for those who were moved out of the church more than 100 years ago – the “discarded” saints that once resided in the baroque interior.

But until then, there is still a lot to do!


In the past four years, we have been working hard on the Mesner Tower. On the 1st floor, we were able to restore access to the room formerly used by the children of the Mesner family. After the dividing wall and drop ceiling had been demolished, and the former staircase sealed off with old floor boards, this upper floor is now available to host various special occasions.

Upper floor before

Upper floor afterwards

Once located right next to this room was St. Oswald’s aging WC. Here, too, we set to work, installing a new electrical system and plumbing , and creating modern “conveniences” for our visitors.

Changes have also been made to the lower floors. Here, it was time to actually “peel away” some of the alterations that had been made previously. The restorers were able to expose the historical ceiling timbers, remove later wooden casing and verdigris from the stone walls, as well as crumbling plaster. At other places, sections of wall needed to be mended or completely rebuilt.

1st basement with suspended ceiling and wall cladding

1st basement after uncovering the historic wooden tram ceiling

Das 2. Untergeschoss während der Restaurierungsarbeiten

The newly designed anteroom on the 1st basement floor with exposed historical masonry

The damp and moisture is practically a thing of the past, not least because this Gothic vaulted room acquired a new/old stone floor from Eisenerz master stone mason Alfred Valland.

Reutilize instead of throwing away: this was our motto. Also the case in our future exhibition room in the upper basement. Here, marble slabs from the former Knittelfeld side altar are an eye-catching feature of the flooring, framed by oak floorboards.

In August 2016, the Mesner Tower was first opened up to the public and, as part of the “Rust Festival”, served as exhibition space for pieces created by young artists, temporarily becoming “Galerie Röstli”. Here, Eisenerz-local Eva Koppler presented her linocuts and prints, and guests were invited to admire her works, and those of other artists, as well as to attend workshops.

Yet the Mesner Tower project continues.

Tourism Development of the Fortified Church of St. Oswald

The EU LEADER development program encouraged us to take a new step forward.
After completing a full renovation program, the fortified church is now being made more accessible to a broader public.

A newly created walking tour allows you to gain intriguing insights and perspectives on the church. Existing features are cast in a new light, and even enhanced with the addition of modern elements.


We seized the opportunity and took yet another step in 2016. Within barely a year, thanks to subsidies from the EU LEADER program, we were able to allow visitors and residents of the mountain town of Eisenerz to experience St. Oswald’s in a whole new way.

Steel info boards accompany you on your tour of the fortifications and church, drawing your attention to specific features, both indoors and out. A highlight for tourists will undoubtedly be a newly built steel battlement and lookout platform: a modern replica of the original wooden structure, located on the inner side of the defensive walls.

The bannister already created by Feldbach artist Roswitha Dautermann shows us conceptually and symbolically the close ties between our ore-mining tradition, the town itself and the fortified church. When seen in combination, they penetrate deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Innerberg and the people who live here, and provide a whole new way to understand the town of Eisenerz.

Visitors will now also be able to look out over, and enjoy a whole new perspective of the former cemetery, before the tour concludes back inside the church.

2004 – 2014
Ten years rescuing a witness to history

The damage to the defensive fortifications and the outside of the parish church could no longer be overlooked by the start of this century. And so it was that, in 2004, mine councilor Harold Umfer established the “Association for the Rescue of the St. Oswald Fortifications and Parish Church” . “After retiring as mine director with VOEST ALPINE Erzberg, I want to dedicate myself to rescuing this architectonic jewel”, he once promised former Erzberg parish priest, Alfred Nikolini. This promise was kept, as a program was drawn up to renovate St. Oswald church and its fortifications.

Step by step since 2004, roofs were restored, masonry dried out and shored up, non-original walls removed, rooms such as the St. John’s Chapel refurbished and refunctioned, surfaces plastered, while glass windows, statuary and old gravestones have also been restored.

During the 10 years of building activity, mine councilor Harold Umfer managed, through his untiring and judicious efforts, to bring in the 1.2M Euro in private donations, subsidies and public funds necessary to complete the project. In 2013, this church-castle was officially declared a “Styrian Landmark” (“Steirisches Wahrzeichen”).

Owned by the Borough of Eisenerz, once the rescue of this historic building had been completed, the goals of the association shifted from “rescue” to “preservation”. For his dedication, mine councilor Umfer received an award of appreciation from the “Denkmal Steiermark” association, as he did the Diocesan Declaration of Honor from Bishop Dr. Egon Kapellari.

In 2014, mine councilor Umfer handed over the reins as chairperson of the rechristened “Association for the Preservation of the St. Oswald Fortifications and Parish Church” to Gregor Ruckhofer.

Here is a brief retrospective in pictures


We are overwhelmed by just how many people have supported this project to rescue our fortified church. And who continue to do so!
Through their financial contributions, over the past 12 years we were able to invest
a total of 1.3 million euro in restoration of this architectural jewel
at the foot of the Erzberg.

In future, too, we will dedicate ourselves with all our strength
to preserving this “Styrian Landmark”.

We hope you will keep providing us with your support!


May God bless you!

To all of the private donors and sponsors
the diocese of Graz-Seckau
the Rom. Cath. parish of Eisenerz
the borough of Eisenerz
the Styrian REVI FUND
the Federal Monuments Office



Your donation to preserve the fortifications and parish church of St. Oswald:
Verein zur Erhaltung der Wehranlage und Pfarrkirche St. Oswald
IBAN: AT62 3846 0000 0604 7500

Purpose of payment: Wehrkirchenanlage St. Oswald in Eisenerz