The Benedictine Abbey has dominated the town for nearly one thousand years, although the amazing Baroque version that stands today was built between 1702 and 1736.
It is still an active monastery, and also houses a school for about nine hundred students.
Blown away is the only way to describe our reaction - and that was before we got to go inside.
Part of the interior serves as a museum, with some really cool artifacts.
In the 1700s, these reusable coffins with a trap door underneath were used
Striking paintings by Jörg Breu (1502)
The ceiling of the Marble Hall, Paul Troger (1731)
The sections that are still in day-to-day use, the library and the church, were even more fascinating to us.
The incredibly impressive library holds one hundred thousand volumes that are still in use by the monks, some over ten centuries old.
The monks have rebound most of the manuscripts, not only to preserve the precious volumes, but to give the shelves a uniform look. Being in the room with all of these great works of science and literature gave us quite a charge.
Before we could get too excited though, we were off to the focal point of the abbey, the Stiftskirche.
The church is dedicated to Saint Coloman of Stockerau, who is interred there, and is considered one of Austria's finest.
While the outside is beautiful --if somewhat conventional --inside we were in for a real eye opener. The monks really went for baroque, they didn't skimp on the gold leaf, marble, or the frescoes on the ceilings… and the pipe organ, wow!
The pipe organ
In spite of all that, the highlight for us was the two "catacomb saints" on display.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the desire to display relics in churches became so great that the Vatican ordered numerous unknown skeletons be brought up from the catacombs under Rome and declared them to be the remains of saints. Then they sent them off to eager churches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The thinking seemed to be that since they came from Rome, they must have been a martyr or great Christian of some sort. On arrival to their new homes, the "saints" were adorned in jewels and gaudy finery and proudly given places of honor.
It was a little unclear to us why this would happen at this church, considering they have had the remains of their patron saint on the premises for a thousand years.
We ended the day on a high note, as a reward for our walk back to our ship we got our best view of the abbey just as we were getting back to the river.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
Thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See our entire Christmas cruise along The Danube with stops in Budapest, Bratislavia, Vienna, Durnstein & Melk, Salzburg, and Passau.
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