Melk Abbey is a massive complex on a hill above the mighty Danube River in the Wachau. The Benedictine Abbey was formerly the royal residence of the first kings of Austria, the Babenberg family, who built a fortress on this hill in the 10th century. The abbey was founded in the 11th century. After the capital of Austria moved to Vienna, Melk was a reasonable stopping place on the road west, given its location 100km from Vienna. It was a frequent stop for the Habsburg rulers, but any visitors were welcome to seek shelter at the abbey, royal or otherwise.
The abbey you see today is a Baroque construction from the 18th century. Today the abbey hosts a primary school for local children in addition to its magnificent library and church. There are also still monks at Melk between the ages of 26 and 92 – they live onsite and teach at the school or do other work at the abbey.
The abbey was an inspiration for Umberto Eco when he wrote The Name of the Rose.
The abbey is huge, so the next two posts will also cover my visit there. Today’s post shows the exterior of the abbey and the village of Melk at its base. Check back tomorrow for details about the imperial apartments at Melk.
Title quote: Lyrics from “The Blue Danube,” music by Johann Strauss II, lyrics by Joseph Weyl