The town of Melk, where we spent the night, is the site of the Stift Melk, a Benedictine abbey that sits 200 feet above the Danube.
Originally founded in 1089, a monastic school and scriptorium were added during the next century and the abbey became known for its manuscripts and library long before the invention of print.
Over the years, a village developed along the river.
But the imposing abbey on the cliff clearly dominates the area. The little hotel we stayed in is just off the edge of the photo, below, to the right.
The Danube River overflows its banks and the first floors of the buildings along the river have periodically been under water. According to the marker on the street near the river, the highest level reached was in 1501, but the 3rd and 4th highest levels were in 2002 and 2012, respectively, and well above my head while standing on the street!
The current Baroque abbey complex was built between 1702-1736. Due to its reputation as a center of learning, the Melk Abbey was spared when Habsburg Emperor Joseph I seized and dissolved most of the monasteries in Austria between 1780 and 1790. It was also left alone during the Napoleonic Wars – in fact, Napoleon slept here (I’ve noticed this is akin to our own “Washington slept here”).
On Tuesday morning, before hitting the road, we walked up to the Abbey to poke around inside. Here’s the main entrance. Apparently, the gate was completed in 1708:
We went through the main gate and the first courtyard, then though an archway into the second courtyard where I took the photo, below. We then acrossed this second courtyard and went through the door on the far side to the left, looking for a way into the church whose dome we could see up above.
We found an unlocked door on the side of the nave and walked in. They’re not hurting for money here, that’s for sure.
The ceiling frescoes were beautiful.
Back out the door we entered through. This photo might give you an idea of the size of this place; it seemed to go on forever.
Melk Abbey is still actively used, but it amazes me that a complex this large has only 700 students. Geez, they have more than twice that number of windows, according to Wikipedia. What do they do with all that space?
I guess I’ll never know. It was supposed to rain in the afternoon, so we decided to skip the tour (which was in German, anyway) and get going on the bikes.