about a dream: Day 16: Stift Melk

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 16: Stift Melk

Today we drove out to Melk Abbey in the town of Melk, about an hour and a half from Baden. Wow was it fabulous!! Here's us in front of it. I'm not sure if you'd call this the front or the back of the Abbey. This is the side on the steep rocky outcrop facing the Danube, and you enter at the other end, so it's kind of the back. But it's the side facing the town and the pretty face of the Abbey, so it's kind of the front. Here, you decide:

The Abbey was founded in 1089 when someone (I mean, Leopold II, Margrave of Austria. Thank you wikipedia!) donated an old castle to the Benedictine Monks. Stift literally translates to "gift," so it's still called the "Melk gift" in German. Talk about undying gratitude!

It was enlarged, at one point burned and rebuilt, and then underwent a major renovation in the 1700s. The popular style in the early 1700s was Baroque, so that's why the chapel is so ornate. The tour guide said that they'd hoped to just give the original chapel a Baroque face-lift in the 1700s, but the structure was too weak, so it was cheaper to just tear it down and rebuild. Here's the chapel:

Off to bake some cookies, I'll finish this blog post later!

Back! I'm going to continue this here instead of starting a new post so keep the Melk visit all in one post.

Here's a video of the inside of the chapel.

There happened to be a wedding going on, so that was a live choir singing. Very beautiful! We weren't allowed any further into the chapel during the wedding, but we came back later after the tour (the chapel isn't a part of the tour, they want to keep it more of a sacred space than a tourist spot, but we were welcome to wander around it on our own afterward. No more choir though). I tried to keep my hand as steady as possible, but I was pretty zoomed in there for a while, so it's a little shaky.

The chapel was beautiful, and like most major churches, there were some people buried there. It's weird, but I'm used to that. What I'm not used to is bones being displayed like it's Disney's Pirates of the Carribean ride. WEIRD! I didn't even want to take a picture because I thought it would creep the girls out so much, but here's a pic from the great internet:

Yes, let's just encase the bones in a body stocking, dress them up, and pose them. The best part is, one of the old Austrian ruling families (probably a Hapsburg, but you know me and names) gave these bones as a gift and told the monks that they were the bones of a saint. Which saint? They didn't know. Any proof of that claim? Of course not! But if the empress gives you bones and tells you they come from a saint, you put them up on the wall there, even though they're probably really just the bones of some poor peasant. The royal worship that went on here several hundred years ago apparently rivalled even the situation in the UK.

More on that theme, the tour we took (which didn't begin until 2:55 pm, giving us 2 hours to wander around on our own before) began in the Imperial Hall. Why is there a wing of the monestary called the Imperial Hall, I didn't wonder, but should have. I'll tell you why. They reserved an entire wing of the Monestary for the visiting emperor and empress (Maria Theresa and her husband, I forget his name) and their entourage of like, 200, even though they only visited once. Ever! The rooms were not used after that. They just sat there, waiting, in case royalty came back. God forbid they be sullied by commoners!!

Here's a photo of the marble hall, used for entertaining and I don't remember what else. It's not really marble, just painted to look like it. The ceiling was beautiful, painted by someone famous, I don't remember who. I could look it up on wikipedia, but this post is already taking me forever.

Finally, here's another video of the exterior of the Abbey. You can right-click on the you tube links and open them in another tab if you don't want to be directed away from the blog. I don't know how to change my settings so that it automatically does that. One day if I have extra time I'll see if I can figure it out.

After the tour, which was in English, people were thanking our tour guide for doing such a wonderful job. Dear Maggie sighed loudly and said, "UGGH. It was SOOOOO boring!" Embarrassing! Fortunately, she just laughed. You can't please everyone!

And here's the girls, 5 minutes after we got in the car to go home.

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