Monastery Of Molk
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
We had determined upon dining at Molk the next day. The early morning was somewhat in-auspicious; but as the day advanced, it grew bright and cheerful. Some delightful glimpses of the Danube, to the left, from the more elevated parts of the road, accompanied us the whole -way, till we caught the first view, beneath a bright blue sky, of the towering church and Monastery of Molk.
Conceive what you please, and yet you shall not conceive the situation of this monastery. Less elevated above the road than Chremsminster, but of a more commanding style of architecture, and of considerably greater extent, it strikes you—as the Danube winds round and washes its rocky base as one of the noblest edifices in the world. The wooded heights of the opposite side of the Danube crown the view of this magnificent edifice, in a manner hardly to be surpassed. There is also a beautiful play of architectural lines and ornament in the front of the building, indicative of a pure Italian taste, and giving to the edifice, if not the air of towering grandeur, at least of dignified splendor.
As usual, I ordered a late dinner, intending to pay my respects to the Principal, and obtain per-mission to inspect the library. My late monastic visits had inspired me with confidence; and I marched up the steep sides of the hill, upon which the monastery is built, quite assured of the success of the visit I was about to pay. You must now accompany the bibliographer to the monastery. In five minutes from entering the outer gate of the first quadrangle—looking toward Vienna, and which is the more ancient part of the building—I was in conversation with the Vice-Principal and Librarian, each of us speaking Latin. I delivered the letter which I had received at Salzburg, and proceeded to the library.
The view from this library is really enchanting, and put everything seen from a similar situation at Landshut and almost even at Chremsminster, out of my recollection. You look down upon the Danube, catching a fine sweep of the river, as it widens in its course toward Vienna. A man might sit, read, and gaze—in such a situation—till he fancied he had scarcely one earthly want! I now descended a small staircase, which brought me directly into the large library—forming the right wing of the building, looking up the Danube toward Lintz. I had scarcely uttered three notes of admiration, when the Abbe Strattman entered; and to my surprise and satisfaction, addrest me by name. We immediately commenced an ardent unintermitting conversation in the French language, which the Abbe speaks fluently and correctly.
I now took a leisurely survey of the library; which is, beyond all doubt, the finest room of its kind which I have seen upon the Continent—not for its size, but for its style of architecture, and the materials of which it is composed. I was told that it was "the Imperial Library in miniature," —but with this difference, let me here add, in favor of Molk-that it looks over a magnificently-wooded country, with the Danube rolling its rapid course at its base. The wainscot and shelves are walnut tree, of different shades, inlaid, or dove-tailed, surmounted by gilt ornaments. The pilasters have Corinthian capitals of gilt; and the bolder or projecting parts of a gallery, which surrounds the room, are covered with the same metal. Every-thing is in harmony. This library may be about a hundred feet in length, by forty in width. It is sufficiently well furnished with books, of the ordinary useful class, and was once, I suspect, much richer in the bibliographical lore of the fifteenth century.
On reaching the last descending step, just before entering the church, the Vice-Principal bade me look upward and view the corkscrew staircase. I did so; and to view and admire was one and the same operation of the mind. It was the most perfect and extraordinary thing of the kind which I had ever seen—the consummation, as I was told, of that particular species of art. The church is the very perfection of ecclesiastical Roman architecture; that of Chremsminster, altho fine, being much inferior to it in loftiness and richness of decoration. The windows are fixt so as to throw their concentrated light beneath a dome, of no ordinary height, and of no ordinary elegance of decoration; but this dome is suffering from damp, and the paintings upon the ceiling will, unless repaired, be effaced in the course of a few years.
The church is in the shape of a cross; and at the end of each of the transepts, is a rich altar, with statuary, in the style of art usual about a century ago. The pews—made of dark mahogany or walnut tree, much after the English fashion, bit lower and more tasteful—are placed on each side of the nave, or entering; with ample space between them. They are exclusively appropriated to the tenants of the monastery. At the end of the nave, you look to the left, opposite—and observe, laced in a recess—a pulpit, which, from top to b ottom, is completely covered with gold. And yet, there is nothing gaudy or tasteless; or glaringly obtrusive, in this extraordinary clerical rostrum. The whole is in the most perfect taste; and perhaps more judgment was required to man-age such an ornament, or appendage—consistently with the splendid style of decoration exacted by the founder, for it was expressly the Prolate Dietmayr's wish that it should be so adorned, than may on first consideration be supposed. In fact, the whole church is in a blaze of gold; and I was told that the gilding alone cost upward of ninety thousand florins. Upon the whole, I under-stood that the church of this monastery was considered as the most beautiful in Austria; and I can easily believe it to be so.