Perspective in Melk Abbey

The other day I visited the Melk Abbey in Austria. It was about an hour train ride to the town from Vienna, the Abbey itself was visible above the entire town like some shining Sun with it’s brilliant yellow exterior.

Stift Melk, as it’s known in German, was reconstructed in Baroque effervescence in the mid-18th century by an enterprising Abbot. Before it was the plain gothic a la Notre Dame, then it was transformed into something that would’ve made Louis XIVth a little jealous.

The walk to the abbey through the little town really impresses upon you the importance of the place, it’s been a monastery since the 11th century and still houses a school for locals.

I loved the abbey and I must say it’s one of the most spectacular places I’ve visited. I have only been to a few places in my life like Melk where people have been doing the same thing for centuries on end without change.

One of the neatest aspects of the abbey is the marble hall at the end. It was created to house the ‘fun’ for the imperial family when they visited.

The hall is pretty and lined with a faux marble that actually costs more than real marble. Another side of it is the effort they put into not disturbing the people and their fun.

A few windows in the closest wall to the entrance let the rulers have music played for them without having to see the musicians, the windows were even a way to control the volume.

A heavy grate in the centre of the room, as my guide informed me, was put there so that the servants could heat the room from below and thus not disturb the dinner or dancing or whatever else a bunch of Habsburgs do in an abbey.

The most spectacular feature though is the ceiling painting which depicts some religous happening I cannot remember. The roof was flat planks of wood so the painter had to employ perspective so that it appeared sloped and ideal.

The perspective, the trick of the moonlight so to speak, only works when standing in the centre of the room where the imperials would’ve been, otherwise it makes the painting and the whole room seem a little skewed, a little unnecessary. It’s as if the painter wanted to paint a beautiful picture while also saying maybe this whole thing is a little off, a little not in line with the principles of the religion he is paying homage to.


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