Melk Abbey (German: Stift Melk) is a
Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk, Lower Austria,
Austria, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river,
adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey contains the tomb of
Saint Coloman of Stockerau and the remains of several members of
the House of Babenberg, Austria's first ruling dynasty.
The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold
II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine
monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium
Melk, was founded in the 12th century, and the monastic library
soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection.
The monastery's scriptorium was also a major site for the
production of manuscripts. In the 15th century the abbey became
the centre of the Melk Reform movement which reinvigorated the
monastic life of Austria and Southern Germany.
Today's Baroque abbey was built between
1702 and 1736 to designs by Jakob Prandtauer. Particularly
noteworthy are the abbey church with frescos by Johann Michael
Rottmayr and the library with countless medieval manuscripts,
including a famed collection of musical manuscripts and frescos
by Paul Troger.
Due to its fame and academic stature, Melk
managed to escape dissolution under Emperor Joseph II when many
other Austrian abbeys were seized and dissolved between 1780 and
1790. The abbey managed to survive other threats to its
existence during the Napoleonic Wars, and also in the period
following the Anschluss in 1938, when the school and a large
part of the abbey were confiscated by the state.
The school was returned to the abbey after
the Second World War and now caters for nearly 900 pupils of