Oh, Melk! I should have packed adult diapers, so pleased was I to get disembark in Melk, if only for a few hours. We just had the morning to tour Melk Abbey, and, to use this week’s motto, it only whet our appetite (translated from the Latin, Ium Steehl Drulung et Nonsated).
More than 1100 years old (though only the past 900 have been an operational monastery), the abbey has gone through few full remodels. The current baroque rebuild happened only 300 years ago—I was completely disappointed in how new the abbey was until I gave myself a firm pinch and reminded myself I live in northwest corner of the USA.
Our first impression of the abbey was this stair set. Having spent the last 11 years building/cursing stone stairs, we were already impressed. In the words of Piper, we said, “This is going to be good!”
My dapper husband is very tolerant of his shutterbug wife.
We had be the best guide yet of our tours. While still a working abbey and public school, it also uses tourism to fund it projects, and we were happy to comply with a trip through the well-designed museum.
But first, more staircases. I blame Dwayne for my over-appreciation of beautiful and completed stairs.
This is the unexplored half of one corridor of one floor of one wing. It’s enough to give me both goose bumps and wanderlust.
The Melk Abbey is known for many things: its age, it’s 1880+ windows, the world’s finest and largest medieval library (be still my beating heart and pass the diapers), and this Melk Cross:
Made with more gold and gems than a cross has a right to, it’s actual value comes from the sliver of wood worked into its back that is said to be from The Cross. So, kids, this is very interesting and there are many relics that include these sort of bone or wood remnants, and I would like them to be true for sheer interest value. But there are a few points to consider. One, it is very unlikely that at the point of Jesus’ death, anyone thought to tear apart the cross for future keepsakes. Remember, the only few people who may have actually believed he was the Christ were too busy mourning him, and thinking he wasn’t actually the King. By the time Sunday morning arrived, would anyone been able to find that one particular cross, even if they had suddenly thought to themselves, “Hey, Jesus is alive! I bet a piece of wood from his cross will be worth a fortune!” Chances of fraudulent claims several hundred years after the event are more likely. Secondly, even if that particular cross had been cut up and divided among the pious, the number of supposed Splinters-From-The-Cross gathered from around the world would be enough to make several new crosses. Fascinating though, huh?
I’m not sure what I was most interested in, but the books and scrolls drew me in. This is a minute prayer book for abbey monks. (Kyla and Piper, “minute” means “very small”.)
Here’s a replica of medieval scroll. It certainly does have words (and even if it were written in English, which it certainly isn’t, the script is too fancy for me to make out much), but the hallmark of pre-printed books were the illustrations.
After so much wealth and subsequent spending, one of the monarchs introduced a set of financial reforms. He actually did many smart things, but my favorite was this reusable coffin. It has hinges on the bottom, so after the grave has been dug and all the mourners gone, one can release the bottom, keep the body in the grave, and pull the coffin up again for the next burial.
This is for my book group, or anyone else who has read Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and The Ends of the Earth. Do you remember the chest of documents the abbess used to keep the important treaties and scrolls, not sharing the key with the corrupt abbot? This chest was used for the same secure storage. It has a decoy keyhole the front, but the real key (which is a heavy iron one bigger than your hand) goes into the back where with enough strength, you can unlock 14 locks that guard it’s treasure. It was nearly impossible to break into any other way. Look at the locking mechanism in the lid!
Here is a model replica of the Abbey, too large to capture in one shot.
All this was interesting enough to make me temporarily forget about the library. There’s really no point in showing a picture, as nothing can do those rooms justice. All the books in the library were printed, so nothing on display was older than 1600 or so, and the bindings were newer than that. And honestly, there was probably very little of interest (or in English), but the nooks! The window seats! The wood paneling and upper balconies! One could probably gain IQ points by reading even Dick and Jane, as long as you read it in here. Oh, sigh.
The church was everything and more than you can expect in an exquisitely baroque (read: extra, extra-fancy), but come on, I just saw an amazing library, and amazing cathedrals are getting plentiful.
And a touching photographic moment on the way back to the ship. If I thought my kids would wear them, I would consider bringing them back each some lederhosen.