Benedictine monks at the Melk Abbey
Melk is a little village with an old town that’s only about two blocks long. It’s main business is tourism with the jewel in their crown being the Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery, at the top of the mountain. This magnificent palace was built in 1702, in an elaborate Baroque style with marble sculptures and frescoes walls adorning the interior.
With its symmetrical look, there are over 500 rooms and over 1800 windows. Renovations of the windows is an ongoing process…it takes 28 years to get to all of the windows, and then it’s time to start all over again.
The Abbey became a monastic school, one of the most important institutions of higher learning from the early ages until the 12th century. Benedictine monks were not allowed worldly possessions, so preservation and collection of sacred texts in their libraries became extremely important. They became renowned for their extensive manuscript collection. The monastery’s scriptorium was also a major site for the production of manuscripts. There are twelve libraries in the monastery and over 100,000 volumes of hand calligraphied manuscripts.
Walking into the library was like walking into an Indiana Jones movie set. You could see the shine reflect off the gold-guilded edges of the book bindings. It was almost blinding as it shined from every direction of the room. You could smell the old, musty aroma of 600 years of manuscripts in the room, and you could sense an eerie, cool, quietness of the spirits of the past filling the dimly lit room. It was definitely other worldly. The manuscripts were also all written in perfect colored pen and ink calligraphy as if printed by computer, each a beautiful piece of art in their own right.
The most sacred place in the monastery, of course, is the chapel.
Although the Benedictine monks numbered in the thousands, today there are only 30 living in this Abbey today. There are openings if any of you are interested…