On a trip up the Danube last autumn, we took in the celebrated architectural and artistic treasures that one expects in Budapest, Bucharest, Salzburg and Vienna but we had the great fortune to visit some lesser-known (to us, at least) sites as well. The most spectacular of these was Melk Abbey, a Benedictine abbey, sitting high on a promontory overlooking the verdant Wachau Valley and the not-so-blue Danube.
Although Leopold II gave the family castle to the Benedictine monks in 1089, that structure was burned and re-built more than once. The current Baroque abbey, which is sited around seven courtyards and has 497 rooms (all of them in use!), was built between 1702 and 1736. A monastic school was founded in the 12th-century, and a library established that continues to house an impressive collection of 100,000 volumes, around 750 of them dating before the 15th-century. No photography is allowed in the library so you must go see it for yourself. If you love old manuscripts, beautiful bibliotheques and 18th-century ceiling frescoes (these by Paul Troger), the Melk Abbey Library needs to go on your bucket list.
Benedictine monks have been living and working here continuously for more than 900 years. Because of its stature, Melk survived even as Emperor Joseph II was dissolving other Austrian abbeys. The abbey held on through the Napoleonic Wars as well as the period following the Anschluss, when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, and the school and abbey were confiscated by the state. Today there remain Benedictines living in the abbey. The school has 750 pupils of different religious traditions: Lutheran, Muslim, and of course, Catholic.
All photographs below were shot by Morgan Thomas in October 2014. Feel free to use them but please give credit where credit it due! As usual, the captions can be accessed on hover by moving the cursor away from the arrow. I will post two more series of photos later this week, one of the fabulous exhibition, "The Path from Yesterday to Today," and the other of the jaw-dropping cathedral, which is dripping with gold.