Located on the south bank of the Danube River, half way between Linz and Vienna, Melk is a small city of around 5000 inhabitants, yet it holds surprises that make it one of the most popular destinations in Austria. Discover them all on our Melk shore excursion!
A majestic Benedectine Abbey set high above the valley, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube River, adjoining the idyllic Wachau valley, is Melk’s iconic symbol and UNESCO world heritage site.
The 900-years old masterpiece was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. Ever since, the monks have lived and worked here without interruption, thus Melk Abbey being one of the very few places which has continuously performed its function.
A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, was founded in the twelfth 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 fifteenth 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 and designed by the architect Jakob Prandtauer; while the Marmorsaal contains pillars covered in red marble and a ceiling with allegorical paintings by Paul Troger. The library occupies two floors and preserves about 80,000 volumes of inestimable value, to the point that in his novel “The Name of the Rose”, Umberto Eco named one of the protagonists "Adso of Melk" as a tribute to the abbey and its famous library. The Stiftskirche boasts an impressive number of windows and is richly embellished with marble and frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr.
Melk Abbey is until today a stout symbol of spirituality and art, Austria’s spiritual and theological center on the Danube, enriching Europe and the world of Christianity with its inestimable value.
On our Melk shore excursion, we will stroll together through the cobbled streets of the small but alluring historical centre, admiring and revealing the history behind the various buildings built between the 15th and 17th centuries, such as the Rathaus, and the Haus am Stein.
We will cover also a dark chapter in Melk’s history: between 21st April 1944 and 15th April 1945 a concentration camp operated on the grounds of the pioneer barracks of Melk. It was one of the biggest satellite camps of Mauthausen concentration camp and the biggest satellite camp in Lower Austria, with approximately 14.390 prisoners who were forced to work here in the course of one year. Around 5,000 Jews lost their lives here. More than 3.500 corpses were burned in the crematorium which was built in the fall of 1944. The former crematorium building was declared a public monument in 1962 and has been the home of the Melk concentration camp memorial ever since.
We recommend the current contemporary historical exhibition in the rooms of the memorial, created by Bertrand Perz and Gottfried Fliedl in the early 1990s.
Embark with us on a journey through Melk’s unique history, culture and nature; feel the spiritual atmophere on our Melk shore excursion!