MS Amavenita pushed off at 12:45 headed through the Wachau Valley for the town and historic monastery at Melk. We were blessed with another beautiful day and quite a few of us perched on the sundeck to drink in the scenery. I’d hoped for some autumn colour on this trip and I got it.
We arrived at Melk close to sundown. Melk has been a Benedictine Abbey since 1089 and because of its location and wealth it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. You can read about its history here. I didn’t take many pictures – photos were permitted but no flash. However, Pete’s tablet did a great job with the light, so I’ve added some of his shots. Even they don’t do the place justice. Everything gleams and glitters and glows.
The thing that always gets me in these places of worship is the over the top extravagance. The amount of money spent on these places is obscene. And the reason the monks had that money was that rich people thought they could buy themselves a place in heaven. For them, it was real – as real as booking a river cruise, I suppose. I studied Medieval European history at university, and one aspect of what I read came back to me with a vengeance. Some of the monks in these extremely wealthy orders broke away to set up a simpler life, where they could devote themselves to God. Here’s a link to the history of the Cistercian order, which broke away from the Benedictine abbey of Cluny in just such a way. This glittering place of worship at Melk is a graphic illustration of why the monks might want to return to a simple life, as dictated by Benedict himself.
The one thing I liked most about the abbey was the library. Sorry, no pictures allowed. Apparently this library was the inspiration for the library in Umberto Ecco’s The Name of the Rose. To quote the website: “The library of the Melk abbey consists of a total of twelve rooms containing about 1.888 manuscripts, 750 incunabula (printed works before 1500), 1700 works from the 16th, 4500 from the 17th, and 18.000 from the 18th century; together with the newer books, approximately 100.000 volumes in total. About 16.000 of these are found in this library room. They are organized by topics: beginning with editions of the Bible in row I, theology (rows II to VII), jurisprudence (row VIII), geography and astronomy (row VIIII), history (rows X to XV), and ending with the baroque lexica in row XVI.”
Melk abbey is a magnificent place, no doubt about it. But you may have noticed my heart speeds up to a different majesty. The flow of the river, the falling leaves, clouds, swans. To each his/her own, I guess.