Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk, Austria. While its setting – on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube River – is beautiful, it’s what one finds inside the abbey that makes it spectacular. If you arrive at the abbey on a river cruise – the way many visitors first visit it today (I was aboard a Grand Circle cruise when I visited) – you see it on a crest far ahead as your cruise up the Danube. It’s a beautiful, and interesting, place, with a spectacular history.
t was originally built in the 11th century but was later destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the early 18th century in Baroque style. It’s a building so huge – it has 497 rooms and 1365 windows – that it obviously was difficult to maintain which necessitated a large-scale 26-year restoration beginning in 1975.
It’s incredible that the Abbey has survived at all through the Reformation of the 16th century and the occupation by Napoleon in the 19th and the Nazis in the 20th centuries. In the past farming and agriculture sustained the monks. Today the 30 monks who still live in and maintain the Abbey, which also houses a school of 900+ students, survive thanks to the admission paid by the ½ million tourists who wander through it every year.