Sunday, 24 Jan 2021

Admont Abbey Library

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Admont Abbey Library
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In Europe, despite different eras and customs, monasteries and abbeys have always enjoyed special respect. They not only played an important economic role, but also influenced the secular policy of the state. Traditionally, the abbeys were on the river bank. The buildings themselves – the church and the cells – were surrounded by high stone walls, protected from raids. Thanks to its powerful architecture, most of the monasteries have survived to this day. Among them is the Benedictine abbey of Admont. It is the most beautiful library. 

One of the most interesting sights of Austria is the Admont Abbey Library, located near the Gesäuse National Park. It is located in a beautiful building, designed by engineer Wilhelm Bucher in 1865. The structure combines several architectural styles – from the early Baroque to the Neo-Gothic. Entrance doors are made in Romanesque style and date back to the beginning of the XII century. In the western part of the building of the library are two tall towers, and its facade is decorated with sculptures of St. Benedict and Holy Scholastic. Entering the building, you enter a spacious reading room of the library, on both sides of which there are naves. The ceiling is made in the form of seven domes and is decorated with frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte, showing the stages of human self-improvement.

Admont Abbey Library - photo 1
Admont Abbey Library


Its snow-white walls rise above the transparent rivulet flowing along the small Austrian town of Enns. The first mention of the monastery dates back to the year 1074. Its founder is Archbishop Gebhard. In the 12th century, there was a girls’ school at the abbey. Thanks to her, Admont became incredibly popular throughout Europe. All noble families tried to send their daughters to study here. But the years went by, the school was empty and closed. The monastery needed to exist for something. And, oh, a miracle! Here appears the library. Of course, it took more than one day to create and fill it. In medieval Europe, the monks, bending over an incorrect, dull candle, carefully deduced letters and painted illustrations. From dawn to dusk, in their scriptories, they were busy creating books. Some of them were made by order of rich feudal lords, who wanted to raise their level of enlightenment in the eyes of their neighbors. However, many publications were created by the monks themselves.

In 1774 the architect Josef Huber built a new hall for the library (length – 70 meters, width – 14 meters, and ceiling height – 13 meters). About 200 thousand books were moved to the new hall, among which there were more than 1000 rare manuscripts of the Middle Ages, rare ornaments and engravings in the library.

On this way the monks of the Abbey Admont also went. Officially, the book depository opened in 1776-th year. In his “collection” there were many rare volumes. But the library was waiting for failure. Soon it burned down, and the works of book art had to be restored anew. But today – here is the largest collection of ancient volumes.

Admont Abbey Library - photo 2


In 1774 the architect Josef Huber built a new hall for the library (length – 70 meters, width – 14 meters, and ceiling height – 13 meters). About 200 thousand books were moved to the new hall of the library, among which there were more than 1000 rare manuscripts of the Middle Ages, rare ornaments and engravings.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the abbey reached its highest point of creative success thanks to the work of the world-famous church embroiderer Brother Benno Khan and the sculptor Joseph Stammel (1695-1765).

April 27, 1865, the fire destroyed almost the entire monastery. While the monastic archives were burned, the library was saved. Reconstruction began the following year, and was not yet fully completed by 1890.

The economic crises of the 1930s forced the abbey to sell many of its artistic treasures, during the period of the National Socialist government the monastery was dissolved and the monks evicted. The monks were able to return in 1946, and today the monastery is once again a thriving Benedictine community.

Many works on theological literature, there are scientific and even historical treatises. In the library of the abbey there is also one of the rarest manuscripts, which invariably attracts the attention of researchers – this is the work of the apostle Peter. It is believed that this is the original!

Admont Abbey Library - photo 3


And ordinary townsfolk come to this magic place every year not only to hold wonderful folios in their hands, but also to enjoy the design of the library. The book depository is in a separate large building. Its interior interior is more like a museum hall or a theater foyer.

On the floor of the library there is a white and brown parquet, made of strong species of trees. On the walls – unique in its beauty stucco. In the corridors of book readers, divine statues are met. This is the work of the famous master Josef Stemmel. The most famous are four of them: they symbolize death, a terrible judgment, hell and paradise.

Thirteen-meter ceiling is more like a church cathedral. And not only in form – it is domed. But also for “filling”. On the ceiling there are unique frescoes created by Bartolomeo Altomonte. The Italian artist decided to depart from the religious question and made an allegorical painting on the theme of art, natural science, and the development of science. Frescos are made in beautiful blue tones, which successfully blend in with the rest of the interior.

All books are neatly placed on wooden racks of snow-white color. Cabinets are made by hand by local craftsmen. The library has two levels. Connect the first and second “floors” of the wooden staircase, also painted in white.

Not only books determine the attractiveness of this library, but also the amazing decoration of the halls. The restored frescoes, the books are in white hand-made closets, the magnificent parquet (with an interesting 3D effect), the sculptures of Josef Stemmel – all this invariably attracts the attention of visitors, even those far from the book subjects.

Admont Abbey Library - photo 4


Annually in the book depository they arrange an exhibition of rare folios. For several weeks they leave the dark and stuffy storerooms to appear before visitors in all their glory. This is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the works created by the monks at different times, as well as jump into the chariot of time and go back several centuries back, say, to Medieval Europe.

After four years of restoration work, which was spent 6 million euros, the library in its primeval splendor was opened for visitors in August last year.

Admont Abbey is adjoined by the ancient “Maria Park”, on its scenic stages, several festivals and large performances take place every year.

The exhibition of rare manuscripts and printed books from the monastery library, attracting more and more visitors, also enjoys an uninterrupted interest.

In addition to the world-famous library, which attracts pilgrims and tourists, the complex of museums dedicated to nature, art history and various rarities is located in the Abbey of Admont. There is a special exhibition hall with works of art for blind people.

The library of the Abbey of Admont is one of the largest monastery libraries in the world. It contains ancient manuscripts, ancient church, medical and scientific literature. Its main reading room was built in 1776 according to the sketches of the architect Joseph Huberg. Its length is about 70 meters, and the width is about 14 meters. In total, the library stores 70,000 manuscripts and 200,000 books


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