“Absit Gloriari Nisi in Cruce”

One of the walkways at Melk
Decorative staircase up to the imperial rooms
Statue in the staircase up to the Imperial Rooms

Everyone who enters Melk Abbey passes under these words – they reference the cross of Christ primarily but also refer to one of the abbey’s most treasured artifacts: the Melk Cross. The Melk Cross contains a relic, the jawbone from an Irish missionary martyred by the local populace. It’s under lock and key in the abbey – in a secret room, we were told. However, the imperial rooms of the abbey have been turned into a museum to house many other abbey artifacts.

Maria Theresa and her husband greet visitors to the Imperial Rooms
This hallway shows every king and queen of Austria
Starting with the first Babenberg king

These rooms are called imperial because they are where the Habsburgs stayed when they visited the abbey on their way west. They would bring all their own furniture with them. But as you can see, the rooms where they stayed were opulent without furniture. As I said, those rooms are now exhibit space to tell visitors the story of the abbey itself. Each room has its own theme, and some even have their own color scheme.

The first room in the exhibit represents the importance of the Benedictine principles – Höre is German for “Listen” to represent what Benedictine monks should do
This book contains the teachings of St. Benedict
The key principles of the Benedictine order are carved into the table
The key principles of the Benedictine order are carved into the table

The sequence of rooms follows the history of the abbey: from its founding under Benedictine principles through the medieval period, the Baroque period, the Enlightenment, and into the present.

One of the decorative ceilings in the Imperial Rooms
One of the artifacts at Melk Abbey
One of the artifacts at Melk Abbey
One of the artifacts at Melk Abbey
Painting in the room with the liturgical vestments
Liturgical vestments at Melk Abbey
Liturgical vestments at Melk – still used today



My particular favorite was the room dedicated to Emperor Joseph II, Maria Theresa’s son. As I mentioned in the Dürnstein post, he was an Enlightened man who believed in austerity. He personally designed leather vestments for the priests because they were cheaper. The abbey displays two of these today, but our tour guide was careful to point out that the leather has not stood the test of time. Joseph II also designed a reusable coffin he thought would be quite economical: it was used for burial and then has a quick-release lever that would allow the body to be buried without a coffin. Needless to say, this was not a popular move, so the reusable coffins were only used for about 6 months.

This image shows the corruption that ate its way into the abbey in the 14th century
And this image shows the reforms that brought all back to their Benedictine principles
Elaborate artifact at Melk
Elaborate artifact at Melk
Elaborate artifact at Melk
Elaborate artifacts at Melk
Leather vestment designed by Joseph II – after seeing the elaborate artifacts, it’s obvious why Joseph felt a need for a simpler worship style
Reusable coffin designed by Joseph II

The final room of the imperial rooms exhibit showcases altar paintings from the abbey church: brilliant in their colors and vivid in their detail. One side showcases the events of Christ’s crucifixion, and the other displays scenes from Christ’s birth and early life.

Part of the modern exhibit in the final room
Altar piece in the final room
Detail of the altar piece
Detail of the altar piece
Detail of the altar piece

Check back tomorrow for information about the library, Marble Room and abbey church.

Title quote: Latin for “Glory only in the cross,” the words over the entrance to Melk Abbey

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