Melk Abbey on the Lower Austrian bank of the Danube is the landmark of the town of Melk and the largest baroque monastery complex in Austria. In addition to the magnificent collegiate church, there are many other wonderfully decorated rooms to discover.
Like a golden crown, the magnificent Melk Abbey towers over the Danube in the town of the same name in the Wachau region of Lower Austria. With its magnificent architecture, splendid interior and wealth of art-historical treasures, it is one of the most important baroque buildings in Austria and in the whole of Europe. Since 2000, Melk Abbey has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, in the midst of the Wachau, is on our list of the top 10 sights of Austria and our top 10 monasteries in the world worth seeing.
PICTURES: Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey was founded in 1089 as a Babenberg castle and later as a Benedictine monastery, and has never been inhabited by any other order since. Its present appearance dates from the early 18th century, when the monastery was rebuilt according to plans by the famous Baroque architect Jakob Prandtauer. The enormous building measures 320 metres along its longitudinal axis, only the south wing, which houses the opulent marble hall, is already 240 metres long.
Places of interest in Melk Abbey
The Benedictines had over 900 years to accumulate knowledge and experience, turning the monastery into a centre of art, culture, faith and science. This knowledge is still passed on to the more than 900 pupils of the Abbey Grammar School today, and the thousands of visitors from all over the world who stroll through the magnificent premises of the Melk Abbey also benefit from it.
Tip: The entire splendour of the monastery with its legends and stories can best be experienced in the course of a guided tour. When visiting the monastery, you should by no means just look straight ahead, but let the magnificent frescoes on the ceiling and walls take effect on you.
The church of St. Peter and Paul is the centrepiece of Melk Abbey and is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Austria.
With a 64m high dome, it impresses with its almost monstrously decorated interior with stucco, marble and gold leaf.
The church is located at the prelate's courtyard, which is adorned in the middle by the Kolomanibrunnen, a fountain that once belonged to the dissolved Waldhausen Abbey.
The inner courtyard is trapezoidal in shape and faces the church with its majestic dome.
Imperial Staircase and Imperial Corridor with Abbey Museum
From the south-western end of the Prelate's Court, an entrance leads to the opulent Imperial Staircase, which leads into the former chambers of the imperial family and is exuberantly decorated with paintings, stucco and sculptures. It leads into the Kaisergang, which is still lined with paintings of the former rulers from the houses of Babenberg and Habsburg.
The former imperial apartments on the other side of the corridor now house the Abbey Museum, which takes visitors on a tour of the architectural, economic and cultural history of Melk Abbey from its foundation to the present day in modern exhibitions. In addition to a model of the entire building, which is well worth seeing, exhibits from the treasury and the archives and particularly valuable items from the library are on display here.
The opulent marble hall in Melk Abbey is located in the south wing and directly adjoins the imperial wing. In the past, secular guests were invited to festivities and banquets in the splendidly decorated stucco and marble state hall.
On its ceiling, the dreamlike fresco by Paul Troger impresses with Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and the mighty Hercules, which is supposed to embody the ruling dynasty of the Habsburgs. The marble hall leads directly onto a spacious terrace that closes off the west wing of the abbey building and offers a fantastic view over the town of Melk and the banks of the Danube. The entrance to the Abbey library is also located here.
Tip: It is not only because of the ceiling fresco that it is worth looking upwards in the Marble Hall! Standing in the middle, all the painted columns that "support" the ceiling appear straight. If you look at them from one of the entrances to the hall, you only see that they are actually crooked.
In the library of Melk Abbey, it's not only the die-hard bookworms who are stunned. Even the layman is awestruck by the incredible number of valuable, sometimes ancient volumes. Some of the 100,000 literary works in the Melk Abbey Library are among the most valuable written heirlooms from the Middle Ages. And here, too, it is worth looking up at the magnificent ceiling fresco by Paul Troger, this time an allegory of faith.
The crowning glory of a visit to Melk Abbey is a leisurely stroll through the secluded Abbey Park. Shortly after the entrance, the baroque garden pavilion by Franz Munggenast catches the eye.
It was built in the mid-18th century and decorated by Johann Wenzel Bergi with elaborate exotic frescoes, which today adorn the café in the pavilion and serve as a backdrop for concerts and other events. Paths lined with colourful blossoms lead through the magnificent garden, through rose beds to a drinking water pool lined with 250-year-old lime trees.
Tip: Those with a sweet tooth should not miss enjoying a slice of the famous Kolomani cake, named after the patron saint of Melk and a composition of chocolate and elderberry jam to delight the palate.