Sense of Wonder...

Wanderlust-Melk, Austria


Modern Art in Not-So-Modern Places…

While exploring the beautiful city of Melk, Austria we visited a Benedictine abbey on a scheduled tour. The Stift Melk is known as a Spiritual Cultural Center. It also is a working abbey and a preparatory school.

While we awaited our tour guide in a large courtyard, I was immediately taken with the juxtaposition of modern art in this baroque structure.  The apexes of the four high walls surrounding us were adorned with modern depictions of the four cardinal virtues…

Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance

This surprise should have prepared me for what was to come, but I was awe-struck.

What I expected to see in the museum was Renaissance art of religious figures or biblical scenes. What I saw took my breath away and is hands-down the most beautiful modern-art-museum-housed-in-an-abbey that I have ever seen. The series of 11 adjoining rooms tell the story of the monks, the region, and the abbey through beautiful sculpture, artifacts, and lighting. The tour guide was the best we have ever had. I highly recommend this awe-inspiring tour if you have an opportunity. I have so many pictures, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone traveling there. Here is a sampling of 5 of the 11 museum rooms.

The Blue Room…Listen to your heart

This beautifully serene room tells the story of a young Benedict escaping the immorality of Rome, and living as a hermit in the caves of Subiaco, Italy.

The Green Room…A House for God and Man

A Benedictine monastery was founded By Leopold II in 1089. Members of the Babenberger families donated relics and art. This green lit room displays some of the collection.

The Gold Room…The Ups and Downs of History

Through documents and artifacts, this understated room describes the times of prosperity and stagnation of the Abbey.

Time to sweep out the cobwebs in the section of your brain that holds history facts because lots of historical events are invoked in the telling: the Conflict of Investitures, the Concordat of Worms , the Council of Constance, the Melk Reform, and the Religious Peace of Augsburg. Whew! Fascinating history however.


The Wood Room…The Wood of Life

This room is solely dedicated to the holy cross. Inspiring!


The Figures Room…The Whole Person...

My favorite of the museum rooms, this one depicted plaster images of a man gradually emerging from the wall with spaced lighting that throws off shadows. When entering, visitors are taken by the cool temperature and the starkness of the white figures…then the walls come alive as the emerging plaster characters are used as a screen for a video history lesson. Remarkable.

The museums were not the only art of our exploration of this unique place. Even the hallways we traversed were filled with interesting sights…

The Abbey compound also offers visitors a view of the huge and ornate library, the marble hall, the courtyard dedicated to St. Coloman (Austria’s first patron saint) and finally, the Melk Abbey Church.


Everything about this place was beautiful. I would definitely return. Our tour did not include the Baroque Garden Pavillion with its Garden of Paradise, so I just have to go back!

Auf Wiedersehen, wir kommen wieder

Now its your turn…have you ever been to Melk? Have you been to someplace just as magical? I would love some travel ideas.

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