Tourism—A Visit to the Abbey

 


Europe’s Great Cultural Ensemble

Melk has been a spiritual and cultural center of the country for more than 1000 years, first as a castle for the Babenbergs, then from 1089 as a Benedictine monastery, founded by Margrave Leopold II.
Since the 12th century a school has been connected with the monastery, and valuable manuscripts have been collected and created in the library. In the course of the monastery’s history, members of the Melk monastic community have achieved significant success in the fields of natural science and the arts.



In the 15th century, the monastery was the starting point of one of the most important medieval monastic reforms, the “Melk Reform”, and had close ties to the Humanists at the University of Vienna.

 Gatekeeper's Courtyard

Prelate's Courtyard


Visual evidence of teh monastary's imortance in the Baroque as well as of the outstanding status of the abbot at the time, Berthold Dietmayr, is the magnificent baroque building. This was built between 1702 and 1736 following plans by Jakob Prandtauer and with the cooperation of some of the most renowned artists of the time.

For over 900 years monks have continued in the tradition of St. Benedict without interruption in the fields of parish life (23 parishes belong to the monastery), school (secondary school with ca. 800 pupils), economy, culture, and tourism.
Since its beginnings Melk has been an important intellectual and spiritual center of the country.

The numerous visitors to the building pose a pastoral challenge to the monastery, a desire to make them realize that in every period and genre of art, the artists wanted to call attention to God through their works (“Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus”—So that God is honored in all we do).

The magnificent baroque building has been undergoing extensive restoration work since 1978, and large-scale adaptations have been carried out for the areas of the school, the guest house, culture, and tourism. In this way  Melk Abbey presents itself to visitors today as one of Austria’s highlights and as Europe’s great cultural ensemble.

The New Abbey Museum

Imperial Staircase

The imperial rooms are currently home to the most modern abbey museum in Austria. The topic of the exhibition is “The Path from Yesterday to Today - Melk Abbey in its Past and Present"

 

Detail of the Imperial Staircase

 

The architect of the exhibition is Hans Hoffer, who, among other achievements,  also designed the “Klangtheater Ganzohr” in Vienna and has directed the “Klangwolke Linz” several times. 
His architecture is based on a moderate production, intended not to reduce the power of the artistically valuable objects, but to emphasize their importance for the over 910-year-long Benedictine monastic history of Melk through the new presentation.

Melk Cross     Head Reliquary (St. Agnes?)     Coloman Monstrance

The varied design of the rooms creates a very lively narration of a long history with all its ups and downs. Current happenings in Melk Abbey are shown with contemporary methods, for example, video presentations. To present the economic and construction history in an interesting way, computer animations were created by Ars Electronica Center Linz—Future Lab.
In the course of the alteration of the imperial rooms for the new abbey museum the magnificent inlayed wood floors were also restored, and remain partially visible in the new design of the museum.

The first of the designed rooms begins simply, the visitors gathered around a long wooden table, with the first word of the rule of St. Benedict: LISTEN!
The language of the objects becomes more and more dense until the High Baroque, and then appears emptied out in the period of Josephinism, reduced to bare rationalism. From the Enlightenment one lands in the modern world of today.

St. Benedict

Coronation of Thorns and Mocking of Christ--Details from the Jörg Breu Altar

Visitors are surrounded by rooms designed in various ways through architecture, light, sound, and new media; embedded in these total surroundings the sensitive language of the original objects and texts can be found.
The diverse techniques in the exhibition are used dramatically sparingly, and result in a complex entirety which reflects life in the monastery. The ideas behind the construction were created in discussions with Abbot Dr. Burkhard Ellegast and Father Martin Rotheneder.
The circle of the design closes in a dialogue between a multimedia installation with the theme “Whole People” and the wonderful gothic winged altar by Jörg Breu. The display of “Man and God” as never-ending movement shows us the permanent endeavor of our existence.

 


The Prelate’s Hall with its baroque painting gallery is one of the most beautiful rooms in the monastery. It is not open to the public, but is used by the abbot for representative purposes.

Prelate's Hall



During a visit to the abbey, in addition to the imperial rooms one can see the Marble Hall and library, masterworks of baroque room design with famous frescoes by Paul Troger, as well as the terrace with a wonderful view of the Danube scenery and the western facade of the abbey church. 
Highlight and end of the visit is the abbey church. Artists such as Jakob Prandtauer, Johann Michael Rottmayr, Paul Troger, Antonio Beduzzi, Lorenzo Matielli and Peter Widerin created with many others a synthesis of the arts to the glory of God, an unparalleled, indisputably classic example of Baroque.



Educational museum tours


Educational museum tours for school groups can be given in two specially designed separate rooms. Special effects using light and motion are used to tell the story of the monastery, the Benedictines, and especially the story of St. Coloman.

Abbey Park and Garden Pavilion
Abbey Museum
Opening Times