Just and hour and a half train ride from Vienna is one of the most ornate cathedrals in Europe. Melk Abbey is an unexpected surprise and the small town has so much character. Cute little half-timbered buildings filled with shops and some interesting restaurants.
First a little history of Melk Abbey
Originally Benedictine monks were given this land in 1089, but it took until 1736 to finish the abbey. The historic roots of Melk is the creation of its monastic library which started producing its own manuscripts. A very rare thing to do at the time. The library was a marvel with tall floor to ceiling shelves filled with everything from bibles to original music compositions. The ceiling’s dramatic fresco became famous by Austrian painter Paul Troger who also painted the Marble Hall, an impressive room used to feed and entertain guests of the abbey.
Walking into the cathedral is an experience that takes your breath away. The elaborate decor is stunning! The tall marble columns of the Treasury are adorned in gold with golden statues of the saints surrounding the altar. The golden filigree pulpit and a ceiling fresco in the nave filters over to the pews. A notable piece of the fresco is a depiction the Glorification of St Benedict with monks witnessing him ascending into heaven. It would take hours to appreciate the art in this church and that’s just what I planned to do.
I had decided to lie down on my back to study and take it all in when all of a sudden the lights turned off. Thinking this was some sort of electrical problem I lied back down waiting for the lights to turn back on. After about 10 minutes it occurred to me it was awfully quiet in there. I got back up, looked around in the dark shadowed room and noticed I was all alone! There was enough light coming in from the upper windows to see there was an exit gate. Heading over there I noticed it was closed. NO, it can’t be closed! But it was, and it was locked too! So now I had to try to find another way out, I know I’ll go back the way we came in! No, that door was locked too! What do I do now? I could be locked in here for hours even days! I could miss the cruise to Vienna, and how far is Vienna from here?
What seemed like hours stuck in there was actually about 20-30 minutes. I started screaming “HELP” hoping someone might be walking by and hear me. No luck, another 10 minutes went then suddenly I heard a noise. Okay being a prisoner in a large dark, scary room your mind starts to play tricks on you. Was it saints from days past? Or maybe the statues coming to life to come and eat me. Ogre’s crawling out from the depths of the floor? Whatever it was it was scaring me. I waited with bated breath wondering if I was going to survive the next few minutes. Step by step I heard something walking and then…. the gate opened wide, I jumped 10 feet high! A small light was shining just behind this small pudgy form. Gasp, I’m done for! And then I heard it, a voice calling out with a thick accent “Who’s in there?”. Through my squinted eyes I saw a flowing gown with a head-dress and a small form of a face. It was a nun! Hooray! I’m saved! I went running up to her almost in tears but the look on her face was not comforting in the least. The stern eyes were more scary than that potential Ogre! I asked if I could leave and she responded “Tourists….., Next time pay attention to your group and you won’t be locked in. If I didn’t know better I’d say she did it on purpose to teach me a lesson. And, it did!