Our group went to Melk and visited a beautiful Monastery there. We had to take the S-Bahn for about an hour because it was a ways outside the city. As all of the far away places we’ve visited, however, this was worth it. This Monastery, to me, seemed rather huge. I haven’t visited too many Monasteries in my life though so I don’t think I have a picture in my head as to what a normal Monastery should look like. This one not only housed Monk’s though, but also a private school of about 900 kids. Some years ago it was a place for all services such as a hospital (for physical and mental illness), an old folks’ home, and orphanage etc. There was also a market there.
We took a guided tour through the beautiful interior with displays representing the History of Vienna. It was clear that our tour guide learn her English from someone British. I have seen a lot of museums regarding the history of Vienna culture and religion but there was a room here that still stood out to me. The floor you walked across went up and down in waves to represent the extremely wonderful/difficult times Austria has face in the last centuries.
I was also intrigued by the amount of gold the monks used for the place. For someone whose life goal is to live simply, it seemed a bit ironic to me that they would then spend fortunes on gold ornamentations. There was even a monk’s robe that was embroidered with gold thread!
I rather enjoyed when a certain king (Franz Joseph I think it was?) stepped in and tried to make religious life much more frugal. He clothed the monks in leather and shortened mass to 1 hour saying that was plenty of time to sing, pray, and repent. My favorite invention of his, however, was the coffin that dropped the body out the bottom so that it could be re-used at everyone’s funeral.
One of my favorite rooms was the library. It was huge! There were so many old books that it did have quite a musty smell, but it was cool to see nonetheless. I wondered how many of those gigantic, ancient books had actually been studied. There were places in the bookshelves where you could see cracks and hinges, indicating secret doors. I thought that was pretty sweet as well.