I decided to start dating my blogs – since I am sooooooooo far behind.
Our last stop leaving Austria was Melk Abbey – one of the most famous monastic sites in the world. Pretty impressive, right? (Thanks to Wiki for the photo) It is even on an Austrian commemorative coin. I wonder, now that the Euro has taken over, what good commemorative coins are? I mean, you can’t even spend them any longer! Does this make them more or less valuable? And hey,has the EU gotten together yet to do a commemorative euro? Maybe they should commemorate our sojourn here, a worthy topic, I would say…. Blundering in Besancon 2010 - but which image to use?
The Abbey is located in a small town and dominates the landscape for miles around. We got there fairly early and paid our entrance fee. The entire place was in magnificent shape, due to it’s prominence, this Abbey has been preserved through many wars and conflicts since its founding in 1089. The plaster work, the paintings, the sculptures, all seemed in pristine condition and lovingly maintained.
We went through, reading about the history of the place and attempting to appreciate the modern art installation they had put in. I never fail to find these installations jarring. I guess there are so many old churches in Europe, it makes sense to use the space for some good art, but it feels sacrilegious or something to walk through a formerly sacred space that is now lit with neon green lighting and features glass boxes filled with bizarre sculptures….
I really enjoyed the parquet floors and the views over the Danube River (that’s right, the Danube – I have seen so many famous rivers, people). We also got to step into the Abbey Church – I was hoping to hear some of that famous Benedictine chanting live, but the kids were too antsy to wait for the moment of Enya (I mean, chanting)….
But the best thing about Melk, the thing that made it worth visiting, the thing that made my heart stop in awe and my eyes well up in tears, was the LIBRARY!!! I couldn’t find much information on it online – but here is what it said on the sign in the room. I hope it helps fellow web wanderers to learn more in their hour of curiosity:
“In order of importance for the rooms in a Benedictine monastery, the library comes only second to the church. The artistic, valuable decorations, show the high regard the monks had for their library. The ceiling fresco by Paul Troger shows… a symbolic description of Faith. The central female figure represents Faith and the groups of angels surrounding her represent the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. The four wooden sculptures represent the four Faculties: Theology, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence. The library of Melk consists of a total of 12 rooms, containing 1,888 manuscripts, 750 incunabula (printed works from before 1500), 1700 works from the 16th century, 4500 from the 17th century, and 18,000 from the 18th century all together with the newer books for a total of about 100,000 volumes. (If you are wondering how that compares to an average library, visit here) Only about 16,000 of them are held in this room. They are organized by topics: Beginning editions of the Bible in Row I, Theology (rows II to VII), Jurisprudence (row VIII), Geography and Astronomy (Row IX), History (Rows X to XV) and ending with the Baroque lexica (in Row XVI).”
So, if this room holds 16,000 books, that means it is less than 20 percent of their enormous collection. No wonder people gave up their entire lives (and still do) to live in this place. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted myself. My favorite Disney heroine has always been Belle. The reason I like her so much is because she LOVES books. They set it up right from the very beginning when she visits the book shop and gets out a book she’s already read 3 times, then tells the goats about it. She reads as much as she possibly can, wherever and whenever – even when walking down a crowded street. She also reads out loud. I am the same – I have even read while driving – but only at stop lights. People think she is odd, she doesn’t quite fit in. That has always been me as well. The best scene in that movie was when the Beast gives her the library. If anyone out there wants to woo me away from Andre – a library such as that one might be the only thing that would work! (Of course, once you gave me such a place, I would be spending all my time in it, not with you) I mean, don’t get me wrong, a regular library is a sacred space to me as well. I love the school library, the public library and the bibliobus here in France and let’s not forget our own personal libraries. I love to poke around on other peoples bookshelves. One of the best ways to judge whether I will like new friends is to see whether or not they have a library in their home, and what kind of books are on the shelves! But this library was something different – it was a shrine to books – and, though I don’t consider myself particularly religious, I don’t think it is a stretch to say the printed word is an object of worship for me. To see such a magnificent library was a soul touching experience. Just breathing the musty air surrounding all those books was a privilege. What a place.
And here, if you want, is a bit more of Belle: