One of the finest Baroque buildings of the world can be found sitting majestically on a hill in Austria, overlooking the town of Melk and the Danube River. A jewel in the surrounding area, Melk Abbey has served as a spiritual and cultural centre for many years.
Originally belonging to the House of Babenbergs it was donated in 1809 to the Benedictine monks who transformed it into a strong fortified abbey. Melk Abbey has seen its share of disasters with a huge fire damaging a considerable amount of the abbey in 1297 and a subsequent outbreak of plague and poor harvest pushing the monastery almost to the brink of disintegration.
Fortunately a young abbot named Berthold Dietmayr was appointed and during the period 1702 - 1736 worked tirelessly with architect Jakob Prandtauer to reconstruct the buildings. The efforts of this young abbott and architect resulted in Melk Abbey evolving into the most impressive church of the region.
Featuring a 200 feet high dome, the twin symmetrical towers of Melk Abbey can be seen from miles around. Equally impressive is the church of Melk Abbey which is considered to be the one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in the region. On the orders of Abbot Berthold Dietmayr, the church was completely reconstructed and redecorated by master artists and craftsmen including Antonio Beduzzi, Paul Troger, Lorenzo Mattielli, Giuseppe Galli-Bibiena, Peter Widerin and Johann Michael. Some of the more unusual features of the church include a sarcophagus containing the skeleton of St. Colomon placed at the left side altar and another sarcophagus supposedly containing the remains of St. Benedict at the right altar.
Melk Abbey’s other significant attractions include the Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) and the Melk Abbey Library. The Marmorsaal showcases stunning interior design with red marble pilasters, stucco marble walls and a captivating ceiling fresco depicting powerful characters from Greek mythology by artist Paul Troger. The library of Melk Abbey is equally impressive as it is a treasure trove of approximately 100,000 volumes of old books: some gilded and some wrapped in inlaid wood. The volumes span multiple topics including medicine, history law and medicine and in different languages as well including Hebrew, Latin and English. All books are from different eras: 750 were printed before 1,500, 1,700 books are from the 16th century, 4,500 from the 17th century and 18,000 from the 18th century. As the monks liked symmetry, all the books were rebound to look similar.
Today, Melk Abbey operates as a co-ed school where more than 900 students study
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