Essential Architecture-  Austria

Melk Abbey Stift Melk













Melk Abbey or Stift Melk is an historic Austrian Benedictine abbey, and one of the world's most famous monastic sites. It is located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Danube in the federal state of Lower Austria, adjoining the Wachau valley. It has the rare distinction of surviving as an active Benedictine monastery continuously since its foundation.

The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A school was founded in the 12th Century, and the monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. The monastery was also a major site for the production of manuscripts. In the 15th Century the abbey became the centre of the Melk Reform movement which reinvigorated the monastic life of Austria and Southern Germany.

Today's impressive Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736 by architect Jakob Prandtauer. Particularly noteworthy is the abbey church with frescos by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the impressive library with countless medieval manuscripts.

Due to its fame and academic stature, Melk managed to escape dissolution under Emperor Joseph II when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and dissolved between 1780 and 1790. The abbey managed to survive other threats to its existence during the Napoleonic Wars, and also in the period following the Nazi Anschluss (take over) of Austria in 1938, when the school and a large part of the abbey were confiscated by the state.

The school was returned to the abbey after the Second World War and now caters for nearly 900 pupils of both sexes.

Since 1625 the abbey has been a member of the Austrian Congregation, now within the Benedictine Confederation.

Umberto Eco named one of the protagonists in his well-known novel The Name of the Rose as a tribute to the abbey and its famous library "Adso von Melk".

In the land register, Dürnstein is subdivided into the catastral communities of Dürnstein, Oberloiben and Unterloiben.

In the castle above the town, King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England was held captive by Duke Leopold V after their dispute during the Third Crusade in 1193. The castle was almost completely destroyed by the Swedes in 1645. The Battle of Dürenstein was fought nearby in 1805.