Stift Melk - UNESCO-Welterbe

Path to the future

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“One-sidedness brings confusion and destruction and ultimately causes painful events which are hard to understand. Sometimes bitter experiences and a long time in-between are necessary that a low becomes a high again. If we lose sight of the big picture and of the individual, human life will always be threatened.”

Abbot em. Dr. Burkhard Ellegast OSB, excerpt from “Das Stift Melk” (“Melk Abbey”)


The two world wars shook Europe to its very foundations. Often faith was driven back. A secularization of the way of thinking which ultimately rejects every higher power and doesn’t know responsibility towards God anymore resulted in terrible killing and murdering, in marginalization and abuse of power.

Despite everything and everyone the monasteries continued praying, tried to give security and help, and walk a clear path of togetherness and faith.

During and after World War I it was possible, in spite of great difficulties, to install sewers, new plumbing and electricity in the monastery. Urgently needed restoration works could only be financed through the sale of cultural possessions (e.g. a Gutenberg Bible).

As of 1938 Melk abbey was in constant danger of being dissolved, and monks were threatened with arrest. Many brothers were drafted. Property was dispossessed, the school was taken away from the Benedictines and rooms were confiscated. Only a small part of the building could be used as a monastery. Because of the abbey’s continued existence, it could better survive the last days of the war and the period of the occupation, which resulted in tremendous damage to dissolved monasteries.

After the two world wars the abbeys tried to bring the monastic spirit back. The war and the ban on accepting new monks at that time left substantial voids. Abbot Maurus, whose strength lay in pastoral care, was able to deal with these problems and set a Church-aware, priestly course. School, parishes and abbey should all be provided for equally. The badly damaged dome of the church was repaired and the long overdue exterior restoration started.

In 1960 Melk abbey was open to tourists for the first time, and the exhibition about Baroque style brought 380.000 visitors to the monastery that year.

In the second half of the 20th century the abbey school began to accept girls, the monastery’s business operations were restructured, many parts of the abbey complex were adapted for guests and visitors, and the building was completely restored.