Location: Melk, Lower Austria Map
Tel. +43 (0) 2752 555225
9am-5:30pm (last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Apr, Oct: 9am-4:30pm (last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Nov-Mar: open with for reservations
€7.70 adults, €4.50 students
Guided tour: €9.50 adults, €6.30 students
Melk Abbey, officially Melk Abbey (Latin Abbatia SS. App. Petri et Pauli apud Melk) is a Benedictine abbey in the state of Lower Austria in the town of Melk on the right bank of the Danube. Today's baroque building was erected by Jakob Prandtauer between 1702 and 1746. As a symbol of the Wachau, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. It has been described as "the most emblematic and dominant baroque building". It also houses the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, the oldest existing school in Austria. Abbot of the monastery is Georg Wilfinger.
According to several authors, the Melk Castle was located on the monastery rock in Roman times, but there is no archaeological evidence for this. From the beginning of the 11th century, Melk was a center of power for the Babenbergs in the Mark Ostarrichi (Austria). Melk was the preferred burial place of the Babenbergs and since October 13, 1014 St. Koloman's burial place. Manuscripts in the Melk Abbey Library indicate that a community of priests already maintained a kind of collegiate monastery under Margrave Leopold I.
As the Mark expanded north and east, new centers emerged. Melk decreased in importance, but remained the burial place of the Babenbergs. In the investiture dispute, Margrave Leopold II granted asylum to the Bishop of Passau, Altmann von Passau. This had been expelled from Passau because of his loyalty to the Pope. Altmann probably played a significant part in Leopold's decision to build a monastery on the rock above the city and the Danube. On March 21, 1089, Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey and their Abbot Sigibold moved into the newly built monastery on the mountain.
Since the monastery was founded by a margrave, it received an exemption in 1122: it was removed from the jurisdiction of the diocese of Passau and placed directly under the Pope. The monastery was probably also given a number of possessions 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, a purported document of the House of Babenberg, attempt to document this property to legitimize it. However, it is highly probable that these documents are forgeries.
The monastery had its own writing room. The early New High German cleric and poet Heinrich von Melk was certainly also active here. From the time of Abbot Walther, 1224–1247, a number of manuscripts, some with colored book illumination, have been preserved. Manuscripts from the year 1160 document a fully developed monastery school with brisk activity.
On August 14, 1297, however, a fire destroyed the monastery, including the church and all outbuildings. The library also fell victim to the flames. With it, most writings and historical sources were lost.
Late Middle Ages and Melk monastery reform
The catastrophic fire brought the monastery to the brink of ruin. Ulrich II, abbot from 1306 to 1324, achieved that the monastery and residential buildings were provisionally rebuilt. Despite this, the monastery did not recover permanently in the 14th century. The plague, bad harvests and the schism from 1378 to 1417 shook the monastic discipline and the economic foundations.
The tenure 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 tomb of Saint Koloman into a magnificent high tomb. Despite its fame, the latter 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 overindebted, the monks were at odds with each other and discipline was in tatters. At the Council of Constance a reform of the Benedictine monasteries was decided. The starting point for this reform was Melk Abbey. Nikolaus Seyringer, former rector of the University of Vienna and now a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, was sent to Melk as a visitor by the Council and in 1418 he was also the abbot of the monastery.
Seyringer succeeded in having Melk once again become 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 called to other monasteries as abbots. Melk thus became the center of a reform that encompassed Austria and almost the entire southern German region, including 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 writing rooms. Two thirds of the Melk manuscripts that have survived to this day date from that time.
In economic terms, however, the monastery continued to face
difficulties. The Hussite wars and clashes between Friedrich III. and
the nobility shook the land. The monasteries became involved in disputes
over the financial claims of the sovereigns. There were tough arguments
with Matthias Corvinus. In 1483 Abbot Augustin von Obernalb had to
resign and that of Friedrich III. preferred Abbot Wolfgang Schaffenrath
Disruption and resurgence in the 16th and 17th centuries
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Turkish wars brought with them further heavy taxes that shattered the economic basis of the monastery. Possessions of the monastery near Vienna were devastated and worthless.
At the same time, many citizens of the surrounding area and also noble owners of neighboring castles turned to the Reformation. The number of people entering the monastery decreased dramatically. In 1566 the monastery staff consisted of only three priests, three clerics and two lay brothers. The monastery was on the verge of complete dissolution.
In 1564 Urban Perntaz was called to Melk as abbot and remained there until 1587. At first he had to endure tough conflicts with the secular officials, who had an interest in exercising control over the monastery themselves. There were even charges against him. Eventually, however, he achieved 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 entered the monastery again.
Under his successors Kaspar Hofmann (1587-1623) and Reiner von Landau (1623-1637) this recovery was continued and consolidated. Debts could be reduced and pledged goods bought free - despite high losses and tax burdens caused by the Thirty Years' War and the constant Turkish threat. Church and monastery were renovated, restored, partially rebuilt and rebuilt. The influence of the secular officials was pushed back and finally broken. As in earlier times, Melk was again a thriving monastic community, and Melk monks were often called to other monasteries as abbots. 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. All parishes in the area were occupied from the monastery in agreement with the diocese of Passau in order to put a stop to Lutheran influences.
With the economic upswing, 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 Melk monastery school was expanded and reorganized on the model of the six-class Jesuit schools. The students first completed four years at the Melk School and switched to the Jesuit College in Vienna for the last two years.
The baroque new building
On November 18, 1700, the thirty-year-old Berthold Dietmayr was elected abbot with a large majority. From the very beginning, Dietmayr pursued the goal of emphasizing the religious, political and spiritual importance of the monastery with a new building. Even before he was confirmed as abbot of Rome, he began with the preparations. In Jakob Prandtauer he found a builder he trusted.
In 1701 the renewal of the sacristy and the high chancel of the church, which was in danger of collapsing, was tackled. Immediately after the start of this work, it was decided to rebuild the entire church. In 1702 the cornerstone for the new church was laid. Only a short time later, the decision was made to rebuild the entire monastery complex. From the year 1711 an overall plan, a monastery plan, is known.
Prandtauer managed the construction until his death in 1726. The Viennese theater designer Antonio Beduzzi was hired as the 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 based on the existing plans, before the construction management was assigned 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 decoration. 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 catastrophic fire overtook the monastery.
Among other things, almost all roofs, the two towers and some
representative rooms were destroyed. Berthold Dietmayr immediately gave
the instructions for the reconstruction, but did not live to see this
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 difficulties.
Finally, in 1746, the new monastery church was consecrated.
In the 18th century, monastic life also flourished in academic and musical terms. 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 pupil of Haydn, Kimmerling's pupil Father Marian Paradeiser and the composer and music theorist Father Maximilian Stadler enjoyed great acclaim. The later Viennese Cathedral Kapellmeister Johann Georg Albrechtsberger was monastery organist in Melk.
In 1783, Austrian Josephinism also asserted its universal claim to the Melk Monastery. The theological school was closed by imperial order. The clergy should be trained in the spirit of enlightenment at the Vienna General Seminary alone. The graduates of the general seminar, who came to Melk after their training, ensured that the new ideas prevailed there.
Numerous state regulations restricted the independence of the monastery. New parishes set up in accordance with the state parish regulations had to be staffed by the monastery. The monastery had to pay for the vicarages and schools. Because of its importance for the state, the school system and pastoral care, the monastery was not closed like many other monasteries. However, in 1785, after the death of Abbot Urban Hauer, Emperor Joseph II forbade the election of a new abbot. Instead, a state commendatory abbot was to lead the monastery.
After Joseph's death in 1790, the provisions were rescinded. Isidor Payrhuber, deputy abbot since 1788, was elected regular abbot of the monastery.
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 decrees. In 1787, at his instigation, the Stiftsgymnasium was moved 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 north bastion of the monastery died 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 continuing burdens imposed by the Josephine parish organization. However, the resulting debt could 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 rule. However, it was financially compensated. Part of the compensation money was used for a general renovation of the monastic buildings. Another part of the money was used to buy a property in Margitta in present-day Romania.
Towards the end of the 19th century, under Abbot Alexander Karl (1875–1909), the abbey continued to have a major influence on rural and civic life in the region. The Wachau owes the characteristic cider trees that line the country roads to his initiative. The monastery set up a kindergarten in Melk and donated land to the city. These donations resulted in a villa district that still has a characteristic stylistic character today. The adjacent Abt-Karl-Strasse was named after the monastic donor.
The 20th Century
At the beginning of the 20th century, a modern sewage system, a new water pipe and electric lights were installed in the monastery. In addition, buildings had to be renovated again. Despite the First World War, this work was completed. However, the monastery had to part with valuable cultural assets in order to finance it, especially since a considerable part of the monastery's financial assets was lost in the inflation of 1919. Among other things, a Gutenberg Bible was sold to Yale University in 1926.
After the annexation of Austria in 1938, the Stiftsgymnasium was
closed by the National Socialists and the larger part of the monastery
building was confiscated for a state secondary school. A complete
closure by the National Socialists was feared, but the monastery was
spared. Apart from the looting of wine, the monastery survived the war
and the subsequent period of occupation almost unscathed.
In 1960 the facade was renovated. In 1989 the monastery celebrated its 900th anniversary with an exhibition that was on view until 1990. In those two years, 1.1 million people visited the monastery. Even before the celebrations, 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 courtyard were restored in time for the exhibition. In 1990, the structural engineering in the library, the Kolomani Hall and the northern part of the monastery were renovated. Between 1991 and 1995 the north side of the monastery, the east facade, the gatekeeper courtyard, the south facade and the two bastions were restored.
With the monastery's traditional line of business, agriculture and forestry, neither these expenses nor the ongoing operation could be financed. Tourism has recently become another source of income. Around 500,000 guests visit the monastery every year. Consequently, 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 abbey garden and the monastery tours are further offers for the visitors.
The Melk Abbey can be seen on the reverse of the 50 Schilling banknote from 1951.
In 2021, 27 monks belong to the community of Melk Abbey.
The overall system
The monastery is the largest monastery complex of the Austrian Baroque. The south wing alone with its magnificent marble hall is over 240 meters long, the length of the main axis is 320 meters in total.
Entrance system and east facade
Visitors usually 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 master builder, Jakob Prandtauer, had a second bastion built on the right side of the portal during the new construction. Two statues, St. Leopold and St. Coloman, designed by the Viennese court sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli in 1716, stand on either side of the gateway. The angels that crown the pediment of the portal are also by Mattielli.
If you cross this, you enter the Torwartlhof, in which the reception and ticket office area for tourists are on the left. On the right is one of the two Babenberg towers, remains of an old fortification.
Straight ahead, the visitor sees the east facade, the magnificent reception side of the castle-like monastery complex. In earlier times, 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 patron saints of the collegiate church. The motto Absit gloriari nisi in cruce is emblazoned on the gable (but far be it from me to boast of anything but the cross, Gal 6,14 LUT). In addition to the theological interpretation of fame itself, this saying refers to the greatest treasure of the monastery, the Melk Cross (1362). Its enlarged replica is emblazoned on the top of the gable.
Abbey Park and Abbey Restaurant
Next to the portal is the entrance to the Abbey Park. The park was planned in 1746/47 on behalf of Abbot Thomas Pauer by Franz Sebastian Rosenstingl and the original features have been preserved. The complex is one of the most important garden architecture monuments in Austria and as such is explicitly listed as a monument (No. 16 in the appendix to § 1 Para. 12 DMSG).
In the garden there is a baroque garden pavilion, which was built by Franz Munggenast in 1747-1748. The rooms of the pavilion were painted in 1763-1764 by Johann Baptist Wenzel Bergl with frescoes showing exotic motifs. Today there is a café in the garden pavilion and it is also used for concerts.
The monastery park is divided into different areas, among which the paradise garden and the baroque water reservoir with the 250-year-old linden trees are particularly worth mentioning.
Opposite the portal is the entrance to another section of the complex, which includes the monastery restaurant and a baroque garden and park (which, however, should not be confused with the large monastery park).
Benediktihalle and Prälatenhof
The archway leads into a two-story, bright hall, the Benediktihalle. The fresco on the ceiling of this hall depicts Saint Benedict. The original version by Franz Rosenstingl was renewed in 1852 by Friedrich Schilcher.
From the Benediktihalle you can see a 84 m long and 42 m wide square, the Prälatenhof. Its base is trapezoidal, so that the strong spatial effect, which is directed towards the dome of the collegiate church, is intensified.
The structure of the facades of the surrounding buildings is aimed at simplicity and calm harmony. Baroque paintings by Franz Rosenstingl on the central gables, depicting the four cardinal virtues, were replaced in the mid-19th century by frescoes by the history painter Friedrich Schilcher. These, in turn, proved 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. However, Abbot Berthold Dietmayr gave this to the market town of Melk. At the beginning of the 19th century, the fountain was bought from the dissolved Waldhausen Abbey and has been in the Prälatenhof ever since.
Through the gate at the rear left (south-west) corner of the
prelate's court one arrives at the Kaiserstiege, which leads to the
Kaisertrakt – that part of the monastery which was intended for the
imperial family. The staircase – with columns made of white Kaiserstein
– appears somewhat 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 stuccoes and allegorical
sculptures: Constantia and Fortitudo. The fresco on the ceiling shows
boys playing with eagles, pointing to the imperial double-headed 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 perseverance 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 southern front of the house. On the walls are portrait paintings of all Austrian rulers of the houses of Babenberg and Habsburg with short biographies. Most of the older portraits were painted in 1759 by Franz Joseph Kremer, the Abbey painter. He belonged to the school of Paul Troger.
South of the corridor are the rooms intended for the imperial family, which could be heated from the corridor. The furniture was given to Lauenburg Castle, the original stucco decoration has been lost except for two rooms. Today these rooms house the Abbey Museum, with each room dealing with one or two particular themes:
Saint Benedict and the foundation of the Benedictine order
The Babenbergs, Koloman and the founding of the Melk Abbey
Ups and downs in the history of the monastery and the church
Romanesque and Gothic: Romanesque crucifix made of lime wood, late 12th century (formerly Rupertskirche)
Abbot Berthold Dietmayr and the baroque abbey, paraments and abbot's staffs are on display
Enlightened absolutism and Josephinism, leather chasubles and a so-called Josephinian savings coffin can be seen
The evolving human being and the tasks of the monastery
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.
Economy and building history of the monastery
The baroque building and its artistic furnishings, with a model of the entire monastery complex.
The marble hall adjoining the imperial wing was intended as a
banqueting and dining hall for secular guests, especially for the
imperial court. The hall could be heated through the iron grille in the
floor of the middle of the hall. The door panels and the heels are made
of real Salzburg marble, the walls are made of stucco marble. The
inscriptions above the doors, Hospites tamquam Christus suscipiantur
(guests shall be received as Christ), and Et omnibus congruus honor
exhibeatur (and may all be accorded due honour), 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 Athena riding the lion chariot and Hercules slaying the hound of hell with a club. Among other things, it was interpreted as the embodiment of the Habsburg ideal of ruling in a balanced combination of necessary power (Hercules) and wise moderation (Pallas Athena).
Gaetano Fanti created the magnificent architectural painting that frames the ceiling fresco mounted on a flat ceiling and impressively reinforces the three-dimensionality. Only standing in the center of the hall do the vanishing lines, such as those of the columns, appear as straight lines. Viewed from any other point, as curved lines.
A spacious balcony 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 to the west, the mountain landscape to the north-west and the town of Melk at the foot of the monastery to the north.
Inwards, towards the complex, it offers a good overview of the entire west facade of the collegiate church and the two towers from an elevated position.
After the church, the library is the second most important room in a
Benedictine monastery. In Melk it is divided into three floors.
It contains, among other things, two main rooms, which are equipped with 1731-1732 painted ceiling frescoes by Paul Troger. The fresco in the larger of the two rooms creates a spiritual contrast to the ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall. It depicts an allegory of faith, a woman holding the book with seven seals, the lamb of the apocalypse and a shield bearing the spirit dove, surrounded by figures of angels and allegorical embodiments of the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude 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, hidden doors in the shelves can be opened to give the student the opportunity to step into the light. On the upper floor there are two reading rooms that are not accessible to the public. They are decorated with frescoes by Johann Bergl. The library houses around 1800 manuscripts dating back to the 9th century, including a Virgil copy from the 10th to 11th centuries. It was not until 1997 that a fragment of a 13th-century copy of the Nibelungenlied was discovered. There are also 750 incunabula. The library comprises a total of around 100,000 volumes, including e.g. B. two copies of the Schedel world chronicle printed by Anton Koberger. All documents are microfilmed.
The collegiate church of Melk bears - although the patron saint of
the collegiate St. Koloman is, and the church also his burial place -
the patron saint of St. Peter and Paul. It is the landmark of the city
of Melk and the Wachau and is considered one of the most beautiful
baroque churches in Austria.
The collegiate church is a mighty barrel-vaulted hall with chapel niches and galleries as well as a mighty, 64 meter high drum dome.
West facade and towers
The two saints of the church, Peter and Paul, can be seen on the facade and statues of the Archangel Michael (left) and a guardian angel (right) can be seen above the portal. On the pediment between the two towers stands a monumental statue of the risen Christ, flanked by two angels.
The towers were rebuilt after the fire of 1738 under Joseph Munggenast, who slightly modified Jakob Prandtauer's original plans. The newly erected towers already show rococo design features.
The chimes of the collegiate church consist of five church bells. This peal is based on triads, which is typical for the baroque period; the percussion sequence is f0–b0–d1–f1–a1. With its 7,840 kg, the Vesperin is also the largest in Lower Austria. After the monastery burned down in 1738, Abbot Berthold Dietmayr signed a contract with the Viennese bell founder Andreas Klein to cast new bells. In 1739 the belfry was set up and the new bells were cast.
The big bell rings as a soloist for the consecration at pontifical offices. All bells are rung at Vespers on the eve of a Solemnity and before the pontifical mass on Solemnities. On Fridays, bell 2 rings at 3 p.m. at the hour of Jesus’ death. Bell 3 rings for the morning, noon, and evening Angelus. On Sundays, bells 3, 4, and 5 call for the service. The small choir bell is rung every morning for the convent mass.
Interior of the church
The magnificent interior, richly decorated with gold leaf, stucco and marble, is decorated in the colors gold, ochre, orange, green and grey. A significant part of this goes back to the designs and suggestions of the architect Antonio Beduzzi. According to his specifications, local artists then created the execution.
The central theme of the gilded high altar is the farewell of the apostles Peter and Paul to each other. According to legend, they were led out of the Mamertine dungeon to be executed on the same day. A huge golden crown above the two gilded figures interprets the martyrdom of the two as a 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 various allegorical representations in the splendid frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr on the ceiling of the presbytery. Also by Rottmayr are the ceiling frescoes in the nave from 1722 based on designs by Beduzzi. They represent St. Benedict's "Via Triumphalis" to 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 monastery's two main saints, Saint Coloman and Saint Benedict. The left side altar contains the bones of St. Coloman in a sarcophagus. For the sake of symmetry, the right altar, dedicated to Saint Benedict, received a cenotaph. The group of figures on this altar depicts the death of Saint Benedict surrounded by his confreres. Saint Koloman's altar sculpture, on the other hand, shows this saint at prayer.
The chapels of the side altars in the nave were also designed by Beduzzi. Its frescoes relate to the life of the saint to whom the altar is dedicated. These are on the north side from west to east St. Nicholas (altar painting by Paul Troger, 1746), Archangel Michael (altar painting by J. M. Rottmayr, 1723), the three kings (Epiphany altar, altar painting by J. M. Rottmayr, 1723), on the south side of St. Sebastian (altar painting by Paul Troger, 1746), John the Baptist – the baptism of Jesus is depicted in the altar painting by J. M. Rottmayr (1727). The third southern side altar, the Leopoldi altar, shows the history of the house in Melk from Leopold I to Leopold III on the altarpiece painted by Georg Bachmann on a pewter plate in 1650. The bones of the sarcophagi of the Michael and Johannes 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
soundboard represents the triumph of the church over heresy.
The sides of the pews are decorated with acanthus carvings.
Of the large organ by the Viennese organ builder Gottfried Sonnholz, only the prospectus from the time of construction in 1731/32 has been preserved, because the actual work was given up in 1929 during a renovation. In 1970 the Krems organ builder Gregor Hradetzky created a new slider chest organ with 3,553 pipes spread over 45 registers for three manuals and pedal. In 2005 the Berlin organ building company Schuke under the direction of Bernhard Althaus overhauled the instrument. He had an open flute register exchanged for a Montre 8' in the Schwellwerk. In the course of this, there was also a re-voicing of the entire pipe work. The organ also received an electronic typesetting system.
In addition to this main organ, the monastery also houses instruments made by the organ builders Reil, Hradetzky, Riedl and Ullmann.
Not much is known about the pre-baroque construction of the
collegiate church. Views of the monastery give an approximate idea of
the external appearance, which, however, changed constantly due to
However, some construction data are known from documents: In a document from 1467, the origin of the tower on the west side of the transept, known as the "Kuchlturm" or "Flemnik", 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 the construction of the church began at the beginning of the 14th century. At the time of the consecration, it was not yet fully completed. Specifically, the roof of the "big tower" is mentioned, which probably means the west tower, which was only installed in 1465. A lightning strike in one of the towers is documented from 1516. It was rebuilt by 1526.
In 1598 the roof of a tower was renewed in the form of three superimposed onions, which suggests that it was the south tower. For 1601 the covering of the bell tower is covered with sheet metal. In addition, the floor of the church was newly paved. In 1609 the south tower was fitted with new bells. In 1613 and 1614 the floor was again replaced, this time with white marble. A crypt was built in 1628 under the choir. A sacristy and a monks' choir, which was probably located behind the high altar, date from 1678. A fire started in the collegiate church in 1683 and destroyed 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 renovating the sacristy in 1701, Jakob Prandtauer was supposed to take the old church building into account and integrated parts of the old sacristy into the baroque new building. The demolition of the old building started from the "Toggle Tower" in the west.
In 2012, 924 students attended the Stiftsgymnasium Melk.
There has been 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 enable the students to live with their families. The former boarding school is now essentially a grammar school with a focus on the subjects Greek and French and an upper secondary school in three school types with a focus on instrumental lessons, lessons in art education and in the mathematical and scientific area.
In 1966, a student exchange program with the Benedictine school St. John's Preparatory School in Minnesota was launched. A two-year renovation phase of the entire school and the construction of a triple sports hall were completed in May 2008.
In the school area there is also the Kolomanisaal with a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger depicting the history of Melk Abbey. Concerts are regularly held in the Kolomani Hall, for example as part of the International Baroque Days at Melk Abbey. Otherwise this room is not open to the public.
The pen achieved additional notoriety 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 at this location.
The novel Blasmusikpop by Vea Kaiser is partly set in a Benedictine monastery called Lenk, with a grammar school run by monks, which can be recognized from its description (baroque building, library, inner courtyards, etc.) as Melk Abbey.
On May 7, 1963, the Austrian Post Office issued a definitive stamp of the Austrian Architectural Monuments stamp series with a value of 20 schillings based on this motif.
In November 2008, National Geographic Traveler magazine named the Wachau and Melk Abbey the Best Historic Destination in the World.
In Mini-Europe, 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.