This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
Founded in 1089, the Melk Abbey was gifted to a group of Benedictine monks by Leopold II, the Margrave of Austria. Originally one of Leopold’s castles, the Abbey was turned into a monastic school where it became renowned for its extensive collection of manuscripts, quality of education, and for withstanding years of political turmoil.
Founded in the 12th century, the monastic school, known as the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, quickly flourished, earning fame for its library and serving as a production site for manuscripts. Centuries later, the Abbey would find itself at the center of the Melk Reform, a movement that restored the monastic values, economic system, and education of Austrian Benedictine & Bavarian life.
By the 15th century, the school had reached its academic peak. Yet, the school was redesigned after suffering devastation from foreign invasion. Led by Jakbo Prandtauer, the Abbey that stands today was rebuilt in 1702 in the Baroque style.
At the end of the 18th century, the Melk was faced with upheaval once more when Emperor Joseph II began seizing and dissolving Austrian abbeys. Due to its reputation as an academic institution, the Melk remained untouched. In the years to come, it would go on to endure the Napoleonic Wars, World War II, and confiscation from the Austrian state itself.
Known for its academic prowess, the castle-turned-monastery should also be recognized for its mettle. Still standing after centuries of turmoil, the Abbey underwent a 17-year restoration starting in 1978 that preserved its interior frescoes and marble. Now a co-ed school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk is still in operation and is the oldest continuously open school in Austria.
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