Melk Abbey

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Melk Abbey
Coat of arms of Melk Abbey
Coat of arms of Melk Abbey
location AustriaAustria Austria
Lies in the diocese St. Polten
Coordinates: 48 ° 13 '42.1 "  N , 15 ° 19' 52.6"  E Coordinates: 48 ° 13 '42.1 "  N , 15 ° 19' 52.6"  E
Melk Abbey as seen from the B1 on the Melk
South view of the monastery complex
Aerial view from the northwest
Impressions from Melk Abbey (Video 2008)

The Benedictine Abbey Melk Abbey - Latin Abbatia SS. App. Petri et Pauli apud Melk - (until the 19th century also Mölk Abbey ) is located in Lower Austria near the town of Melk on the right bank of the Danube . The current (baroque) building was erected in the years 1702–1746 by Jakob Prandtauer . As a symbol of the Wachau , it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It was described as "the most emblematic and dominant baroque building". It also houses the Melk Abbey High School , the oldest still existing school in Austria. Georg Wilfinger is the abbot of the monastery.


The beginnings

Melk Abbey in the Topographia Austriae by Georg Matthäus Vischer (1672)

The monastery rock was probably the Melk fort in Roman times . Since the beginning of the 11th century Melk was a power center of the Babenbergs in the Mark Ostarrichi (Austria). Melk was the preferred burial place of the Babenbergs and since October 13, 1014 the burial place of St. Koloman . Manuscripts in the Melk Abbey Library indicate that under Margrave Leopold I, a community of priests maintained a kind of collegiate monastery on site.

The expansion of the Mark to the north and east resulted in new centers. Melk sank in importance, but remained the burial place of the Babenbergs. In the Investiture Controversy Margrave granted Leopold II. The Bishop of Passau , Altmann of Passau , asylum. This was expelled from Passau because of his loyalty to the Pope. Altmann probably played a major role in Leopold's decision to build a monastery on the rock above the city and the Danube. On March 21, 1089, the Benedictine monks of Lambach Abbey and their abbot Sigibold moved into the newly built monastery on the mountain.

Since the monastery was founded by the margraves, it received an exemption in 1122 : It was separated from the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Passau and placed directly under the Pope. The monastery was probably also assigned a number of properties by the margrave in order to secure its economic existence. Two documents from the 12th century, the Melker Stiftbrief , dated October 13, 1113, and the Ernestinum , an alleged deed of the Babenberg family, attempt to legitimize this property in a document. However, it is very likely that these documents are forgeries.

The monastery had its own office. The early New High German cleric and poet Heinrich von Melk also worked here with some certainty . From the time of Abbot Walther, 1224–1247, a number of manuscripts , some with colored illuminations , have been preserved. Manuscripts from the year 1160 document a fully developed monastery school with lively activity.

On August 14, 1297, however, a fire destroyed the monastery, including the church and all of the outbuildings. The library also fell victim to the flames. With it, most of the writings and historical sources were lost.

Late Middle Ages and Melk monastery reform

The fire disaster brought the monastery to the brink of ruin. Ulrich II, abbot from 1306 to 1324, managed to have the monastery and residential buildings rebuilt in a makeshift manner. Even so, the monastery did not recover permanently in the 14th century. The plague, crop failures and the schism from 1378 to 1417 shook monastic discipline and economic foundations.

The term of office of Duke Rudolf IV brought a ray of hope . In 1362 he gave the monastery a very valuable version for a highly valued relic , an alleged splinter from the cross of Jesus Christ: the Melk Cross . He also converted the grave of St. Koloman into a splendid high grave . The latter, however, despite its fame, fell victim to the later baroque new building.

At the beginning of the 15th century, however, like many other monasteries at that time, the monastery was over-indebted, the monks quarreled among themselves and the discipline shattered. At the Council of Constance a reform of the Benedictine monasteries was decided. The starting point for this reform was to be the Melk Monastery. Nikolaus Seyringer , former rector of the University of Vienna and now a monk in the Benedictine monastery Subiaco , was sent to Melk as a visitor by the council and in 1418 he was also abbot of the monastery.

Seyringer succeeded in ensuring that Melk was once again a place of strict monastic discipline. The Melk monastery reform became the starting point for a broad reform movement. Monks from other monasteries came to Melk to study the reform there. Members of the Melk convent were appointed as abbots in other monasteries. Melk thus became the center of a reform that encompassed Austria and almost all of southern Germany as far as the Black Forest.

In close cooperation with the University of Vienna, Melk subsequently became a cultural center. Personalities of intellectual history such as Petrus von Rosenheim , Johannes von Speyer , Martin von Senging , Wolfgang von Steyr and Johannes Schlitpacher emerged from the monastery. Theological, monastic and scientific works were created or copied in the office. Two thirds of the Melker manuscripts that have survived to this day date from that time.

In economic terms, however, the monastery continued to struggle with difficulties. The Hussite Wars and disputes between Friedrich III. and the nobility shook the country. The monasteries were confronted with financial demands from the sovereigns and were drawn into the disputes. There were tough arguments with Matthias Corvinus . 1483 had to resign Abbot Augustin of Obernalb and that of Friedrich III. preferred Abbot Wolfgang Schaffenrath give way.

Disruption and resurgence in the 16th and 17th centuries

At the beginning of the 16th century , the Turkish wars brought with them further large taxes that shattered the economic basis of the monastery. Properties of the monastery near Vienna were devastated and worthless.

At the same time, many citizens of the surrounding area and noble owners of neighboring castles turned to the Reformation . The number of monastery admissions decreased dramatically. In 1566 the monastery staff only consisted of three priests , three clerics and two lay brothers . The monastery was on the verge of complete dissolution.

In 1564 Urban Perntaz was appointed abbot to Melk and remained abbot there until 1587. Initially, he had tough conflicts with secular officials who were interested in exercising rule over the monastery themselves. There have even been charges against him. Eventually, however, he obtained acquittal from these charges and the official Roman confirmation as abbot. He was able to initiate a new economic start and achieved that many young men from southern Germany re-entered the monastery.

Under his successors Kaspar Hofmann (1587–1623) and Reiner von Landau (1623–1637), this recovery was continued and consolidated. The debts could be reduced and pledged goods bought free - despite the high losses and tax burdens that the Thirty Years' War and the permanent Turkish threat brought with it. Church and monastery were renovated, restored, partly rebuilt and rebuilt. The influence of secular officials was suppressed and eventually broken. As in earlier times, Melk was once again a flourishing monastic community, and Melk monks were again often appointed as abbots to other monasteries. At the end of the 17th century, the financial basis for the extensive, later baroque new building was essentially laid.

At the same time the monastery became a regional center of the Counter Reformation . In agreement with the diocese of Passau, all the parishes in the area were occupied by the monastery in order to put a stop to Lutheran influences.

With the economic upturn, literary and scientific activity at the monastery began again. Personalities such as Johannes Zeller , Philibert Utz , Philibert Hueber and Anselm Schramb lived, researched and wrote in Melk at that time. The Melker monastery school was expanded and reorganized based on the model of the six-class Jesuit schools . The students initially completed four years at the Melker School and switched to the Jesuit College in Vienna for the last two years .

The baroque new building

General plan from 1750
Prelate Court

On November 18, 1700, the only thirty-year-old Berthold Dietmayr was elected abbot by a large majority . Dietmayr pursued the goal from the beginning to emphasize the religious, political and spiritual importance of the monastery by a new building. Even before he was confirmed as abbot of Rome, he began the preparations. In Jakob Prandtauer he found a builder he trusted.

In 1701 the renovation of the sacristy and the church's high choir, which was in danger of collapsing , began. Immediately after the start of this work, it was decided to rebuild the entire church. In 1702 the foundation stone for the new church was laid. Only a little later the decision was made to rebuild the entire monastery complex. An overall plan, a monastery plan , is known from 1711 .

Prandtauer managed the building until his death in 1726. The Viennese theater designer Antonio Beduzzi was won over as interior designer . The stucco work was designed by Johann Pöckh from 1716 . At the same time, the painter Johann Michael Rottmayr designed the ceiling frescoes . After Prandtauer's death, the construction was initially managed by a foreman on the basis of the existing plans, before the construction management was transferred to Joseph Munggenast , a nephew of Prandtauer. A number of other top artists from afar and from the region were involved in the construction and design. For example, Paul Troger painted the frescoes in the library and in the marble hall. Christian David from Vienna was responsible for the gilding .

In 1736, both the church and the monastery were essentially completed. In 1738, however, another fire disaster struck the monastery. Among other things, almost all the roofs, the two towers and some representative rooms were destroyed. Berthold Dietmayr immediately gave the instructions for the reconstruction, but did not experience it before his death in 1739. It was only under his successors Adrian Pliemel (1739–1746) and Thomas Pauer (1746–1762) that the reconstruction could be completed, despite financial and political adversity. In 1746 the new monastery church could finally be consecrated.

Monastic life also flourished in the 18th century from a scientific and musical point of view. The work of the brothers Bernhard and Hieronymus Pez made irreplaceable contributions to Austrian historical research that are still significant today. The musicians Robert Kimmerling , a Haydn student, Kimmerling's student Father Marian Paradeiser as well as the composer and music theorist Father Maximilian Stadler enjoyed a great reputation. The later Vienna Cathedral Kapellmeister Johann Georg Albrechtsberger was a monastery organist in Melk.


In 1783, Austrian Josephinism made its universal claim to Melk Abbey. The theological school was closed by imperial order. The clerics were to be trained in the spirit of the Enlightenment at the Vienna General Seminar alone . The graduates of the general seminar, who came to Melk after completing their training, ensured that the new ideas prevailed there.

Numerous state regulations restricted the monastery’s independence. New parishes that were established in accordance with the state parish order had to be staffed by the monastery. The monastery had to pay for the rectory and schools. Because of its importance for the state, the school system and pastoral care, the monastery was not closed like many other monasteries. In 1785, after the death of Abbot Urban Hauer , Emperor Joseph II prohibited the election of a new abbot . Instead, a state commander abbot should run the monastery.

After Joseph's death in 1790, the regulations were repealed. Isidor Payrhuber , Commendatarabbot since 1788, was elected regular abbot of the monastery.

The pen in the 19th century

The pen in the 19th century.

After the state had withdrawn its influence, the bishop of the newly founded diocese of St. Pölten intervened in monastic life with regulations and edicts. In 1787, at his instigation, the collegiate high school was relocated to St. Pölten . It was not until 1804 that it was able to resume operations in Melk.

On December 14, 1805, around two to three hundred Russian soldiers who were interned as prisoners of war in the northern bastion of the monastery were killed in a fire in the monastery. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars , the monastery was burdened with new heavy tax burdens in addition to the ongoing burdens from the Josephine parish organization. The resulting debt could, however , be mastered after the end of Napoleon's rule, under Abbot Marian Zwinger (1819-1837).

With the revolution of 1848 the monastery lost its manorial power. However, it was financially compensated. Part of the compensation money was used for a general renovation of the monastery buildings. For a further part of the money, an estate was purchased in Margitta in today's Romania.

Towards the end of the 19th century, under Abbot Alexander Karl (1875–1909), the monastery continued to have a major influence on rural and middle-class life in the region. The Wachau owes the characteristic cider fruit trees that line the country roads to his initiative . The monastery built a kindergarten in Melk and donated land to the city. From these donations, a residential area was created that still has a characteristic style today. The adjacent Abt-Karl-Straße was named after the monastic donor.

The 20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, a modern sewer system, a new water pipe and electric light were installed in the monastery. In addition, buildings had to be renovated again. Despite the First World War , this work could be brought to a conclusion. In order to finance it, however, the monastery had to part with valuable cultural assets, especially since a considerable part of the monastery financial assets were lost in the inflation of 1919. Among other things, a Gutenberg Bible was sold to Yale University in 1926.

After Austria's annexation in 1938, the Abbey High School was closed by the National Socialists and the greater part of the Abbey building was confiscated for a state secondary school. A complete closure by the National Socialists was feared, but the monastery was spared. The monastery survived the war and the subsequent occupation, apart from the looting of wine, almost unscathed.

Melk Abbey on the reverse of the 50 Schilling banknote (1951)
The staircase between the visitor parking lot and the monastery buildings, redesigned in the early 1990s

In 1960 the facade was renovated. In 1989 the monastery celebrated its 900th anniversary with an exhibition that could be seen until 1990. In these two years 1.1 million people visited the monastery. Even before the festivities, it became clear that structural renovation measures were needed again. The Kartause Gaming had to be sold in 1983 because the necessary renovation work there, in addition to the work on the monastery itself, could not have been financed.

The entrance building and the prelate's court were restored in time for the exhibition. In 1990 the structural analysis in the library, the Kolomanisaal and on the northern part of the monastery was renovated. From 1991–1995 the north side of the monastery, the east facade, the Torwartlhof, the south facade and the two bastions were restored.

With the traditional line of business of the monastery, agriculture and forestry, neither these expenses nor the ongoing operations could be financed. Tourism has recently become another source of income. Every year around 500,000 guests visit the monastery. As a consequence, a large, modern car park was set up. A bicycle parking lot with luggage lockers is ideal for the many cyclists who visit the monastery as part of a tour on the Danube cycle path . A restaurant, the newly designed monastery garden and the monastery tours are further offers for visitors.

Melk Abbey can be seen on the reverse of the 50 Schilling banknote from 1951.

Architecture and facilities

Size comparison of some of the largest churches in Lower Austria

The entire system

The monastery is the largest monastery of the Austrian Baroque. The south wing alone with its magnificent marble hall is over 240 meters long, the main axis is 320 meters in total.

Entrance system and east facade

East facade

Usually visitors enter the building from the east. The portal , completed in 1718, is flanked by two bastions. The southern bastion is a fortification from 1650. For reasons of symmetry, the builder, Jakob Prandtauer , had a second bastion built on the right side of the portal when the new building was being built. Two statues, St. Leopold and St. Koloman , designed by the Viennese court sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli in 1716 , stand on either side in front of the gate. The angels that crown the gable of the portal are also from Mattielli.

If you cross this, you enter the Torwartlhof , in which the reception and cash desk area for tourists is on the left. On the right is one of the two Babenberg towers , remnants of an old fortification .

Straight ahead, the visitor sees the east facade, the magnificent reception side of the castle-like monastery complex. The abbots used to greet guests from the small balcony above the archway. To the right and left of the balcony are statues of the apostles Peter and Paul , the patrons of the collegiate church. The motto Absit gloriari nisi in cruce is emblazoned on the gable ( but it is far from me to boast as alone of the cross , Gal 6,14  LUT ). In addition to the theological interpretation of fame itself, this saying refers to the monastery’s greatest treasure, the Melker Kreuz (1362). Its enlarged replica is emblazoned on the top of the gable.

Abbey Park and Abbey Restaurant

The entrance to the monastery park is next to the portal. The park was planned by Franz Sebastian Rosenstingl on behalf of Abbot Thomas Pauer in 1746/47 , and the original features have been preserved. The complex is one of the most important garden architectural monuments in Austria and as such is explicitly under monument protection ( No. 16 in the appendix to Section 1, Paragraph 12 of the DMSG ).

In the garden there is a baroque garden pavilion, which was built by Franz Munggenast from 1747 to 1748. The rooms of the pavilion were painted with frescoes by Johann Baptist Wenzel Bergl from 1763 to 1764 showing exotic motifs. Today a café has been set up in the garden pavilion and it is also used for concerts.

The monastery park is divided into different areas, among which the Paradiesgärtlein and the baroque water reservoir with the 250-year-old linden trees should be mentioned.

Opposite the portal is the entrance to another section of the complex, which includes the monastery restaurant and a baroque garden and park (which should not be confused with the large monastery park).

Benediktihalle and Prälatenhof

If you now enter the archway, you find yourself in a two-story, bright hall, the Benediktihalle. The fresco on the ceiling of this hall depicts St. Benedict . The original version by Franz Rosenstingl was renewed in 1852 by Friedrich Schilcher .

From the Benediktihalle you can see an 84 m long and 42 m wide square, the Prälatenhof . Its base is trapezoidal, so that the strong spatial effect, which is oriented towards the dome of the collegiate church, is reinforced.

The facade structure of the surrounding buildings is aimed at simple and calm harmony. Baroque paintings by Franz Rosenstingl on the central gables, depicting the four cardinal virtues , were replaced by frescos by the history painter Friedrich Schilcher in the mid-19th century . These in turn proved to be irreparable during the major restoration in the 1980s. They were therefore replaced in 1988 by modern depictions by Peter Bischof and Helmut Krumpel .

The Kolomani fountain, created in 1687, stood in the middle of the courtyard until 1722 . Abbot Berthold Dietmayr gave these to the Melk market. At the beginning of the 19th century, the fountain was bought from the dissolved Waldhausen monastery and has been in the prelate's court ever since.

Kaiserstiege, Kaisertrakt and museum


The gate on the left rear (south-west) corner of the Prälatenhof leads to the Kaiserstiege, which leads to the Kaisertrakt - that part of the monastery that was intended for the imperial family. The staircase - with columns made of the white Kaiserstein - looks a bit cramped in the lower part for a stately staircase , due to the external spatial conditions. In the upper part, however, it unfolds and shows a rich decoration with stucco and allegorical sculptures: Constantia and Fortitudo . The fresco on the ceiling shows boys playing with eagles pointing to the imperial double eagle . This shows both the secular purpose of this wing and the political role that the monastery played in the Austrian state structure. Emperor Charles VI. , whose motto Constantia et fortitudine (with constancy and bravery) is emblazoned on a large gilded stucco medallion, was very fond of the monastery and its abbot Berthold Dietmayr .

With a length of 196 m, the Kaisergang on the first floor runs through almost the entire south front of the house. On the walls there are portraits of all the Austrian rulers of the Babenberg and Habsburg houses with short biographies. Most of the older portraits were painted in 1759 by Franz Joseph Kremer , the house painter of the monastery. He belonged to Paul Troger's school .

To the left of the corridor are the rooms intended for the imperial family. The furniture was given to Lauenburg Castle , the original stucco decoration has been lost except for two rooms. Today these rooms house the monastery museum, with each room dealing with one or two specific topics:

  1. Saint Benedict and the foundation of the Benedictine order
  2. The Babenbergs, Koloman and the establishment of Melk Abbey
  3. Up and down in the history of the monastery and the church
  4. Romanesque and Gothic: Romanesque crucifix made of limewood, late 12th century (formerly Rupert's Church )
  5. Baroque attitude to life
  6. Abbot Berthold Dietmayr and the baroque monastery, paraments and abbot staffs are on display
  7. Enlightened absolutism and Josephinism , you can see leather chasuble and a so-called Josephinian savings coffin
  8. The developing person and the tasks of the pen
  9. The Breu Altar ( Jörg Breu the Elder ), also known as the Melker Altar, from 1502. The life and suffering of Jesus is depicted on eight panels painted on both sides.
  10. Economy and building history of the monastery
  11. The baroque building and its artistic furnishings, with a model of the entire monastery complex.

Marble hall

Marble hall
Ceiling fresco by Paul Troger in the marble hall

The marble hall adjoining the imperial wing was intended as a festival and dining room for secular guests, especially for the imperial court. The hall could be heated through the iron grille in the floor in the middle of the hall. The door panels and the heels are made of real Salzburg marble , the walls of stucco marble . The inscriptions above the doors, Hospites tamquam Christ suscipiantur (guests should be received like Christ), and Et omnibus congruus honor exhibeatur (and all may be given the appropriate honor), from the Regula Benedicti , indicate the purpose of the room.

The ceiling fresco from 1731 is by Paul Troger . The allegorical painting depicts the goddess Pallas Athene on the lion car is and Hercules , who with a club the hellhound kills. It was interpreted, among other things, as the embodiment of the Habsburg ideal of rule, to rule in a balanced combination of necessary force (Hercules) and prudent moderation (Pallas Athene).

The magnificent architectural painting that frames the ceiling fresco was created by Gaetano Fanti .


A generous arbor forms the western section of the entire complex. It connects the marble hall with the library and offers beautiful, unobstructed views of the river landscape in the west, the mountain landscape in the northwest and the town of Melk at the foot of the monastery in the north.

Inward, towards the complex, from an elevated point of view, it offers a good overview of the entire west facade of the collegiate church and the two towers.


Look at the library
Spiral staircase between library and church

The library is the second most important room in a Benedictine monastery after the church.

The Melker library is divided into two main rooms, which are furnished with ceiling frescoes painted between 1731 and 1732 by Paul Troger . The fresco in the larger of the two rooms creates a spiritual antithesis to the ceiling fresco in the marble hall. It shows an allegory of faith, a woman holding the book with seven seals , the lamb of the apocalypse and a shield with the spirit dove, surrounded by figures of angels and allegorical embodiments of the four cardinal virtues prudence, righteousness, strength and temperance. The architectural painting comes from Gaetano Fanti .

Dark wood with inlay work and the matching, uniform golden-brown coloring of the book spines determine the impressive, harmonious spatial experience.

Since the main room is kept quite dark, doors hidden in the shelves can be opened to give the student the opportunity to step into the light. Two reading rooms have been set up on the upper floor - not accessible to the public. They are decorated with frescoes by Johann Bergl . The library houses around 1800 manuscripts since the 9th century , including a Virgil copy from the 10th to 11th centuries. Only in 1997 was a fragment of a copy of the Nibelungenlied from the 13th century discovered. There are also 750 incunabula . The library comprises a total of around 100,000 volumes, including B. two copies of the Schedel world chronicle printed by Anton Koberger .

Collegiate church

West facade of the collegiate church “St. Peter and Paul "

The collegiate church of Melk bears - although the patron saint of the monastery of St. Koloman is, and the church is also his tomb - the patronage of St. Peter and Paul . It is the symbol of the city of Melk and the Wachau , and is considered one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Austria .

design type

The collegiate church is a mighty barrel-vaulted hall with chapel niches and galleries as well as a huge, 64-meter-high drum dome .

West facade and towers

The church's two saints, Peter and Paul , can be seen on the facade , and statues of the Archangel Michael (left) and a Guardian Angel (right) above the portal . On the gable between the two towers is a monumental statue of the risen Christ, flanked by two angels.

The towers were rebuilt after the fire of 1738 under Joseph Munggenast , whereby he modified Jakob Prandtauer's original plans somewhat. The newly built towers already show Rococo shape features .


The chimes of the collegiate church consist of five church bells . This ringing is based on triads, which is typical of the Baroque period; the strike tone sequence is f 0 –h 0 –d 1 –f 1 –a 1 . At 7,840 kg, the Vesperin is also the largest in Lower Austria . After the abbey burned down in 1738, Abbot Berthold Dietmayr signed a contract with the Viennese bell founder Andreas Klein for the casting of new bells. In 1739 the belfry was erected and the new bells were poured.

The big bell rings as a soloist for the change in pontifical offices. All bells are rung at Vespers on the eve of a solemn festival and before the pontifical mass on solemn festivals. On Fridays, bell 2 rings at the hour of Jesus' death at 3 p.m. Bell 3 rings for the angelus in the morning, at noon and in the evening. On Sundays, bells 3, 4 and 5 are used to call for services. The small choir bell is rung every morning at the convent mass .

No. Surname Diameter
(16th note)
1 Peter and Paul (Vespers) 2360 7840 f 0 −4 North
2 Trinity (fear bell) 1780 4300 h 0 ± 0 south
3 Seven Pains (Ave Maria Bell) 1520 2450 d 1 −6 south
4th Koloman 1180 1235 f 1 +6 south
5 Benedict 960 575 a 1 +6 south
6th Choir bell 650 170 dis 2 +4 Roof turret

Interior of the church

Ceiling and cupola frescoes

The splendid interior, richly decorated with gold leaf , stucco and marble, is kept in the colors gold, ocher, orange, green and gray. A significant part of this goes back to designs and suggestions by the architect Antonio Beduzzi . Down-to-earth artists then created the execution according to his specifications.

The central theme of the gilded high altar is the parting of the apostles Peter and Paul. According to legend, they were led out of the Mamertine dungeon for execution on the same day . A huge golden crown over the two gilded figures interprets the martyrdom of the two as victory in the Christian sense. The two apostles are surrounded by sculptures of prophets from the Old Testament. God the Father is enthroned above everything under another sign of victory, the cross.

This motif of the fighting and victorious church is continued in the magnificent frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr on the ceiling of the presbytery in various allegorical representations. The ceiling frescoes in the nave from 1722 based on Beduzzi's designs are also by Rottmayr. They represent the “Via Triumphalis” of St. Benedict into heaven. Rottmayr's painting of the dome (1716/17) shows the “ Heavenly Jerusalem ” with God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit high in the lantern . You are surrounded by the apostles, Mary and a host of saints who have a special meaning for Melk.

The two altars in the transepts are symmetrically related to each other. They are based on designs by Beduzzi and are dedicated to the two main saints of the monastery, Saint Koloman and Saint Benedict. The left side altar contains the bones of St. Coloman in a sarcophagus . For the sake of symmetry, the right altar, consecrated to Saint Benedict, has a cenotaph . The group of figures on this altar depicts the death of Saint Benedict among his confreres. Opposite this, Saint Koloman's altar sculpture shows these saints praying.

The chapels of the side altars in the nave were also designed by Beduzzi. Their frescoes refer to the life of the saint to whom the altar is consecrated. On the north side from west to east, these are St. Nikolaus (altar painting by Paul Troger, 1746), the Archangel Michael (altar painting by JM Rottmayr, 1723), the Three Wise Men ( Epiphany altar, altar painting by JM Rottmayr, 1723), on the south side St. Sebastian (altar painting by Paul Troger, 1746), John the Baptist - the baptism of Jesus is shown on the altar painting by JM Rottmayr (1727). The third south side altar, the Leopoldi altar, shows the history of the Melk house from Leopold I to Leopold III on the altar picture painted on a tin plate by Georg Bachmann in 1650 . The bones of the sarcophagi of the Michael and John altars come from martyrs from the catacombs of Rome.

The gilded pulpit is the work of the St. Pölten sculptor Peter Widerin based on a design by Galli-Bibiena. The group of figures on the sound cover represents the triumph of the Church over heresy.

The cheeks of the benches are decorated with acanthus carving.


Gregor Hradetzky organ 1970

From the large organ of the Viennese organ builder Gottfried Sonnholz only the prospectus from the construction time 1731/32 has been preserved, because the actual work was given up in 1929 during a renovation. In 1970 the organ builder Gregor Hradetzky from Krems created a new slider chest organ with 3,553 pipes , distributed over 45 registers for three manuals and pedal . In 2005 the Berlin organ building company Schuke overhauled the instrument under the direction of Bernhard Althaus. He had an open flute register exchanged for a Montre 8 'in the swell. In the course of this there was also a re-intonation of the entire pipework. The organ also received an electronic composer system.

In addition to this main organ, the monastery also houses instruments from the organ builders Reil , Hradetzky, Riedl and Ullmann.

The collegiate church in front of the new baroque building

Not much is known about the pre-baroque construction of the collegiate church. Vedutas of the pen give an approximate idea of ​​the external appearance, which, however, has constantly changed due to ongoing renovations.

However, some construction dates are known from documents: In a document from 1467, the construction of the tower known as the "Kuchlturm" or "Flemnik" on the west side of the transept is associated with Abbot Johann III Fläming, whose term of office lasted from 1412 to 1418. It is also known that a sacristy was built between 1418 and 1428.

The Gothic building was consecrated in 1429 by Bishop Leonhard von Passau. The records of the Benedictine monk Anselm Schramb show that construction of the church began at the beginning of the 14th century. At the time of the consecration it was not yet completely completed. The roof of the "great tower" is specifically mentioned, which probably means the west tower, which was only installed in 1465. A lightning strike in one of the towers is documented in 1516. It was rebuilt by 1526.

In 1598 the roof of a tower was renewed in the form of three onions lying on top of one another, which suggests that it was the south tower. For 1601, the roofing of the bell tower is covered with sheet metal. In addition, the floor of the church was repaved. In 1609 the south tower was fitted with new bells. In 1613 and 1614 the floor was replaced again, this time with white marble. A crypt was built under the choir in 1628. From 1678 there was a sacristy and a monk choir, which was probably located behind the high altar. A fire started in the collegiate church in 1683 and devastated the roof of the south tower, as well as the windows and parts of the imperial wing. In 1693 a new church tower was completed.

When converting the sacristy in 1701, Jakob Prandtauer was supposed to take the old church building into consideration and integrated parts of the old sacristy into the new baroque building. The demolition of the old building started from the "Knebelturm" in the west.


Floor plan of the collegiate high school

Stiftsgymnasium Melk : There was a school in the monastery since the 12th century.

The number of boarding school students steadily decreased after the Second World War, because modern means of transport made it possible for the students to live with their families. Today, the former boarding school is essentially a grammar school with a focus on Greek and French and an upper-level grammar school in three types of school with a focus on instrumental instruction, instruction in visual education and in mathematics and science.

Since 1966 a student exchange program has been operated with the Benedictine School St. John's Preparatory School in Minnesota . In 2012, 924 students attended the Melk Abbey High School. The current director is Anton Eder. A two-year renovation phase of the entire school and the construction of a triple sports hall were completed in May 2008.

Fresco by Paul Troger in the Kolomanisaal

In the school area there is also the Kolomanisaal with a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger , which depicts the history of Melk Abbey. Concerts take place regularly in the Kolomanisaal, for example as part of the international Baroque Days Melk Abbey. Otherwise this hall is not open to the public.

Abbey parish churches


  • The pen achieved additional fame through the character of Adson von Melk from Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose . The beginning and end of the novel take place in this location.
  • The novel Blasmusikpop or How Science Came in the Mountains by Vea Kaiser (Kiepenheuer and Witsch, Cologne 2012, ISBN 978-3-462-04464-5 ) is set partly in a Benedictine monastery called Lenk with a high school run by monks, which in his Description (baroque building, library, inner courtyards, etc.) can easily be recognized as Melk Abbey.
  • In the basement of a house in the city center, a secret passage is said to open, which most likely leads into the monastery. It is said that in earlier times this corridor was used by monks to take part in worldly life without being recognized.
  • On May 7, 1963, the Austrian Post issued a definitive stamp from the series of Austrian monuments worth 20.00 Schilling for this motif .
  • The Wachau and Melk Abbey were named Best Historic Destination in the World by National Geographic Traveler magazine in November 2008 .
  • In Mini-Europa , a park at the foot of the Atomium in Brussels , “Austria” is represented by a model of the pen.
  • From 2004 to 2008 the Waldzell Meetings took place in Melk Abbey .


Web links

Commons : Melk Abbey  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. " the most emblematic and dominant Baroque edifice ", cf. Steven Beller: A Concise History of Austria , Cambridge University Press , Cambridge 2006. ISBN 978-0-521-47305-7 , p. 76
  2. ^ The foundation of the Benedictine monastery in Melk. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on July 20, 2013 ; accessed on March 26, 2017 .
  3. ^ Burkhard Ellegast: Melk Abbey . Self-published Melk Abbey, Melk Abbey 1998, p. 9 .
  4. ^ Eva Berger: Historical Gardens of Austria: Gardens and parks from the Renaissance to around 1930 . tape 1 Lower Austria, Burgenland . Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2002, ISBN 978-3-205-99305-6 , Melk, Stiftsgärten , p. 383 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  5. ^ Klaus Güthlein: The Austrian baroque master builder Franz Munggenast. Dissertation, Heidelberg University, p. 111.
  6. ^ Vienna History Wiki: Ruprechtskirche; As of March 4th, 2017
  7. a b Hubert Höllebauer: Studies on the Gothic collegiate church in Melk . Vienna (Dipl.-Arb.) 1987, p. 9 .
  8. ^ H. Tietze, The monuments of the political district of Melk, In: Österreichische Kunsttopographie, Vol. 3, 1909, p. 180.
  9. ^ IF Keiblinger, History of the Benedictine Monastery of Melk, its possessions and surroundings, Vol. 1, 1851, p. 479.
  10. ^ A b I. F. Keiblinger, History of the Benedictine Monastery Melk, its possessions and surroundings, Vol. 1, 1851, p. 517.
  11. a b Anselm Schramb, Chronicon Mellicense, Viennae Austriae 1702, p. 877.
  12. Hubert Höllebauer: studies of Gothic Collegiate Church in Melk . Vienna (Dipl.-Arb.) 1987, p. 10 .
  13. a b c d e f g h Hubert Höllebauer: Studies on the Gothic collegiate church in Melk . Vienna (Dipl.-Arb.) 1987, p. 11 .
  14. ^ A b I. F. Keiblinger: History of the Benedictine monastery Melk, its possessions and surroundings . tape 1 , 1851, p. 713 .
  15. ^ Anselm Schramb: Chronicon Mellicense . Viennae Austriae 1702, p. 711 .
  16. a b c d B. Ellegast: The structural conditions in front of the new Baroque building for Abbot Berthold Dietmary . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 3 , 1983, p. 112 .
  17. ^ H. Tietze: The monuments of the political district of Melk . In: Austrian Art Topography . tape 3 , 1909, pp. 181 .
  18. M. Mair: Historia . Cod. 1462. Melk Abbey Library, p. 77 .
  19. B. Ellegast: The structural conditions in front of the new Baroque building by Abbot Berthold Dietmayr . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 3 , 1983, p. 146 .
  20. L. Pühringer-Zwanowetz: On the plan development of the Melker Stiftbau under Abbot Berthold Dietmayr (1700 - 1739) . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 1 , 1980, p. 121 .
  21. B. Schiereich: History of Melk Abbey from 1675 - 1700 . Vienna (Diss.) 1980, p. 73 .
  22. a b c Hubert Höllebauer: Studies on the Gothic collegiate church in Melk . Vienna (Dipl.-Arb.) 1987, p. 12 .
  23. ^ H. Tietze: The monuments of the political district of Melk . In: Austrian Art Topography . tape 3 , 1909, pp. 183 .
  24. B. Ellegast: The structural conditions in front of the new Baroque building by Abbot Berthold Dietmayr . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 3 , 1983, p. 167 .
  25. B. Ellegast: On the building history of the Melker summer sacristy . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 3 , 1983, p. 177-222 .
  26. G. Floßmann: The building of the Melker collegiate church . In: Melk Abbey. Past and present . tape 1 , 1980, p. 18 .
  27. Melk Abbey named “Best Historic Destination”. In: . March 26, 2009, accessed April 14, 2020.