Saint Coloman is the patron saint of both the abbey and the town of Melk. Each year on October 13, a special Mass in honor of Saint Coloman is celebrated in Melk abbey. This is also traditionally the day on which the town of Melk has organized Saint Coloman’s fair since 1451.
The first patron saint of our country and our province has special importance not only for the History of the monastery and the town of Melk, but also for Austria’s History. Saint Coloman was the first patron saint of Austria’s first rulers, the Babenberg margraves.
The Legend of Saint Coloman
According to the legend Coloman was an Irish king’s son who didn’t want to succeed his father, but rather renounced crown, power, and riches to start a pilgrimage to the Holy Land instead. He came as far as Stockerau, where the area’s fearful population suspected him to be a spy, tortured him, and finally hanged him on an elder tree. The legend goes that said tree then grew new leaves and new blossoms, which proved Coloman’s saintliness to the Babenbergs. Only much later came the realization that an innocent man was brought to death because of fear and prejudice. In 1014 Coloman was buried in the fortress of Melk alongside members of the ruling Babenberg family.
“The veneration of Saint Coloman remains vibrant to this day. New artwork, literature, and music is still dedicated to the saint. Especially in our time, in which it has become difficult to listen to each other, he can be regarded as a contemporary saint, because he was not understood as a stranger in a foreign land. Those who are different, look different, speak differently, arouse suspicion, cause fear, and can easily become victims of prejudice.”