Study, discipline, entertainment. With its linear architecture, the Priesterseminar makes its purpose clear. In the spacious inner courtyard you can feel the presence of history and it is understandable why the building was used entirely for educational purposes following the dissolution of the Jesuit order – it housed a school, barracks and even a prison. Today it serves the Catholic Church once again, with the interior courtyard sometimes hosting lively theatre and concert events in Graz.
In the second half of the 16th century Styria was mainly Protestant. The Catholic prince, Archduke Charles II, relied on the support of the noblemen to fight the Ottoman Turks. Which lead to religious tolerance. When the noblemen founded a Protestant school, Charles was forced to take countermeasures at least in the field of education. In 1572 he called the Jesuit Order to Graz who immediately took up teaching and started to build a college. In 1585 the Jesuit university was founded. In 1600 Protestant burghers were expelled by Archduke Ferdinand. For 200 years the Jesuits controlled religious and educational life in Graz.
Up to the 19th century the college, erected by Vinzenz de Verda, was connected to the Jesuit church, today's cathedral. While the courtyard covering 1,300m² is characterized by its original Renaissance style, the interior features Baroque jewels. For instance, the so-called Prunkstiege (grand staircase) - a quite narrow, originally humble staircase which was exuberantly decorated with stucco and paintings with banderols in c. 1712.
The building adjacent to the Seminary is the Old University. It was opened in 1609 by Archduke Ferdinand (later Emperor Ferdinand II). The coats of arms of Ferdinand and his Bavarian wife still embellish the building. On the ground floor there were lecture rooms, above them an aula and a theatre which under Empress Maria Theresa was converted into a huge library in the Rococo style.
By the way: This can be considered to be a sign of reconciliation: in the building of the former Jesuit college, the stronghold of Catholicism, in 1792 the first Protestant service in Graz after the enactment of the Edict of Tolerance was held.