Friday, December 25, 2015

Melk Abbey

We arrived in Melk in the middle of the night – I didn’t notice a thing – and woke up to fog, but fog with a twist: lots of blue patches overhead! The sun broke through as we headed up the hill for our visit to the Melk Abbey.

What to say about this fabulous Abbey? There was so much and I took so many pictures that trying to boil it down to its’ essence is almost impossible. Thus I have chosen to simply whet your appetite and also only concentrate on the Abbey during this blog although we thereafter cruised through the Wachau gorge before docking in Vienna: one day’s events may become three separate blogs.

The Melk Abbey was the residence of Leopold I in 976, at the very beginning of what would become an important empire. His ancestors added to the treasures and in 1089 Leopold II gave it to the Benedictine monks who have worked and lived here ever since. Part of their creed is education and a school was established in the early days, which still exists and is now coed.  Through the waxing and waning of the original Austrian dynasty, the Babenbergs, the Abbey managed to thrive, collecting manuscripts of importance as well as functioning as a scriptorium: this in turn saved it from dissolution under Emperor Joseph II although the theology school was shut and imperial lay abbots were installed. It again suffered economic problems during the Napoleonic wars and the feudal period of 1848 as well as during WWII when the fathers were even imprisoned for a short period, the school and many parts of the abbey confiscated. However, the monastery was not dissolved and the schools were returned after the war so it managed to scrape through.

In his novel The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco named one of the protagonists "Adso of Melk" as a tribute to the abbey and its famous library.
Below are a very few pictures of a tiny bit of Melk Abbey

Entry to Melk Abbey
Statue - Peter or Paul holding the church

part of the entry
the windows of the entry had an Advent calendar
The Cuppola
"Liebe" or love

A beautiful full-sized Christ on the Cross
Note that on the cuppola there is a double line for the cross: this means that the property, church etc. belong to the Vatican and not to the local Catholic diocese.

"Höre" and "Liebe" are two of the leitmotifs at Melk, meaning listen and love.

Melk Abbey
Two maquettes of the Abbey: one of the Abbey and the city below here on the left and one of the Abbey itself below.

 There is the Imperial Wing where the Emperors and other royalty stayed - sometimes for weeks at a time and usually with valuable gifts such as traveling altars. Then there is the dining room (take a look at the window here: that allowed the music to flow into the room from a full orchestra in the next room over), then the walk in between the dining room of the Imperial wing and the Library (where we were not allowed to take pictures at all). And the wing facing us in the picture below is the religious wing - with to the left smaller wings for the school and the administration of the whole.
renovations still go on and must be planned
Architectural drawings - some 5 men were taking measures
Church entry as seen from the connecting Esplanade

The spiral stairwell from the Library to the Church

Facing the Altar of the Church
The organ - one of the smaller that I have seen

Angel detail
Although all seems covered in gold, the tour guide told us that only four kilos (or under ten pounds) of gold was used in the entire Abbey - gold leaf, but very finely applied!

The view from below as we walked back to the River Concerto
One of the more impressive buildings that I have visited in my lifetime - then it was on to the famous Wachau gorges - next blog.