Our history

The history of the Kirchenwirt


In 1689, Franz Caspar Conduzzi von Heldenfeld acquired the entire ownership of the little castle at Purberg (Purbergschlössl), which, among other things, had a chapel dedicated to St Anne. At that time, people began to flock in increasing numbers to the new place of pilgrimage. In 1694, the pilgrims numbered around 2,000 on many Sundays and feast days. They were not only from Styria; many travelled from Croatia and Hungary. However, not all of them were pilgrims. There were certainly also a number of curious onlookers, once rumours started to circulate about various miracles alleged to have taken place in Purberg. Around 1695, Franz Caspar Conduzzi thought it would be appropriate to build a lodging house for the ever-growing number of visitors. He therefore laid the foundation stone for the building that is known today as the Kirchenwirt. The business was subsequently handed over to tenants, who did not always act in the best interests of their guests. For example, in 1698 the host, Lorenz Pizenhofer, was found guilty of selling overpriced and watered-down wine.

The Basilica

In 1714, Conduzzi gifted the castle and chapel to the Pauline Order. In the same year, after the site was officially recognised as a place of pilgrimage, the foundation stone was laid for a church. The construction was planned and executed by Andreas Stengg together with his son, Johann Georg Stengg. Just five years later, the first masses were being celebrated and Kaiser Karl VI ordered the construction of a road from Graz to the Mariatrost site, to make the place easier to reach. The shell of the church was finished in 1724, though the building was not finally completed until 1779. A few years later the Pauline monks had to leave Mariatrost because of the Josephine Reforms. The monastery and pilgrimage church were transformed into a parish church, and the cloisters, which had been sold to a butcher, were converted into stables. The pilgrimage site was maintained by the Fransiscans from 1846 to 1996. In October 1968, the Maria Troster Declaration by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference on the Humanae Vitae Encyclical was published in the Basilica. Since 1996 the parish has been in the care of priests from the Diocese of Graz-Seckau. On 28 October 1996 the church was designated a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II. The building underwent a complete renovation around that time.

The Kirchenwirt

In 1713, ownership of the tavern was transferred to the wife of the founder, Maria Anna Conduzzi. In 1718 the ownership passed to Peter Assanger, and in 1720 it changed hands to Maria Theresia von Schrott. On 1 April 1744, the Pauline monastery purchased the tavern for the sum of 13,080 guilders and continued to run it until 1750
We can learn something about the scale of the operation from an inventory list dating from that time. It shows that, almost 250 years ago, a number of rooms were already available for the feeding and lodging of pilgrims. As well as a few dormitories, there were also two guest rooms as well as a dining room and drawing room. Around 50 people could be accommodated at that time.
Then came a whole series of tenants, such as in 1772, for example, when one Georg Rosswald – according to the tenancy agreement – was “prohibited at any time from holding music, or, under any circumstances whatsoever, from accommodating wicked and suspicious persons of both genders”.
In 1787 Josef Schuster purchased the tavern for the sum of 585 guilders. His widow then sold it to Josef Klarer in 1799. From 1750 to 1919, evidence shows that the Kirchenwirt had 32 owners or tenants.
By the mid-19th century the tavern was already an institution and, under the name “Joselwirt”, was becoming a popular excursion destination for the Graz population. The tavern suffered a serious setback on 29 July 1863, when it burned down to its foundations
. The Basilica was completely unharmed by the fire.
The rebuilt tavern was purchased in 1919 by husband and wife Josef and Margarete Pfeifer, who named the business the “Kirchenwirt” by virtue of its location. Just after the end of the Second World War, the tavern was refurbished and extended, and the lodging house converted into a hotel. In 1969 – 50 years after the building was purchased – Josef Pfeifer II took over the management. The next major renovation took place in the 1980s, and again in the late 1990s, the latter under Josef Pfeifer III, who has hosted the Kirchenwirt since 1990 as the third generation of the family.



At that time a small castle with a chapel stands on the hill at Purberg, some distance outside Graz. Franz Caspar Conduzzi von Heldenfeld purchases it and resolves to build a chapel dedicated to the Mother of God on the site. The number of people making their way to this new pilgrimage site soon numbers around 2,000 on many Sundays and feast days. The pilgrims come from Styria, Hungary and Croatia.


Franz Caspar Conduzzi decides to build a lodging house for the ever-increasing stream of visitors. This building is subsequently leased. Not every tenant manages to live up to expectations – for example, in 1698 Lorenz Pizenhofer is found guilty of selling overpriced and watered-down wine.


On 8 August the Pauline Order is gifted the Purberg site and seeks permission to build a monastery and a church.


The foundations for the magnificent Baroque church “Maria Trost” are laid in the reign of Kaiser Karl VI. Sources indicate that over 100,000 pilgrims were already coming ever year.


After many changes of owner, the Pauline monastery purchases the tavern for 13,018 guilders and runs it until 1750. At that time the tavern is able to accommodate 50 guests, even if not all of them have beds to sleep in – as “chair-beds” are also offered.


The tenant Georg Rosswald, according to his tenancy agreement, is “prohibited at any time from holding music, or, under any circumstances whatsoever, from accommodating wicked and suspicious persons of both genders”.


On 29 July a devastating fire destroys the building, which is known at the time as the “Joselwirt”. The tavern is immediately rebuilt. The pilgrimage church remains unaffected by this disaster.


Josef and Margarethe Pfeifer purchase the tavern and rename it the “Kirchenwirt”.


A four-year programme of renovation and expansion commences.


Josef Pfeifer II takes over as host of the “Kirchenwirt” on the 50th anniversary of the business. The building is constantly modernised and work is carried out to raise the standard of the restaurant and hotel.


Josef Pfeifer III continues the tradition and the pursuit of satisfaction for the guests.