Admont Benedictine Monastery - Library


La Spezia, Italy

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HDR processed in Photomatix Pro 3.1.3 from a single RAW image, then processed using CS4 – no tripod used

Nikon D300 Sigma 15/30

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Austria’s first neo-gothic sacred building

After the devastating fire of 1865 William Bücher reconstructed the abbey and parish church St. Blasius on the Romanesque and Gothic foundations of the old church. It is Austria’s first neo-Gothic sacred building and was consecrated in 1869. The church fascinates with artful furnishing and design, its two dominant towers, both 70 meters high, make it an impressive landmark. Architect Bücher also proved his sense of humor: the gothic gargoyles on the outside of the building caricature the German emperor Willhelm I and Bismarck.
The church’s neo-Gothic interior invites the visitor to go on a treasure hunt for pieces of art that had been created for the church throughout the centuries. The white marbled neo-Gothic high altar is framed by four embroidered baroque tapestries. They were all artfully fabricated in the monastery’s own school for embroidery. The tapestries show the abbots’ coats of arms, depict saints and portray a colorful variety of flowers and animals.Above the chancel the visitor will see a larger than life gothic cross, made by Andreas Lackner in 1518. A replica of Admont’s famous Madonna is placed beside the side altar, the original statue (dating back to 1310) can be found in the province museum Joanneum in Graz.
The altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary is decorated with a baroque painting of Maria Immaculate, done by Martino Altomonte in 1726. The painting is framed with 15 rosary medallions by Joseph Stammel, the abbey’s sculptor in the Baroque. Around 1755 and 1756 Stammel also carved the variety of figures for Admont’s Christmas manger in the manger altar. The manger, which is traditionally only opened around Christmas (24.12. – 02.02.) and remains closed throughout the rest of the year, is one of the most beautiful and renowned ones in Austria.

Since its foundation in 1074, i.e. since almost one thousand years, Admont Benedictine Monastery has collected and preserved cultural goods. In this respect the library has a special position. This library is one of the most important cultural properties of our country and is one of the largest late Baroque works of art in Europe. Perhaps a little overenthusiastically but at the same quite justifiably, since the early 19th century the Admont library has been called the “eighth wonder of the world”. It represents a repository of knowledge containing examples of the artistic and historical development of books over the centuries – from the manuscripts of the medieval Admont writing school over the collection of incunabula (early printed books) to the fully developed printing process. As a work of art, the library should be viewed as a whole in which the various genres (architecture, frescoes, sculptures, written and printed matter) blend into one work – in the final analysis, the central place of books in the history of the development of the Benedictine Order. The late Baroque library, completed in 1776, was commissioned by Abbot Matthäus Offner (reigned 1751-1779) and built by the Graz Master Builder Josef Hueber (1715-1787). Hueber was imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment: “As with the mind, light should also fill the room”. With a length of 70 m, a width of 14 m and 11 m in height (12.7 m in the central cupola) and divided into three, this room is the largest monastery library room in the world. The Austrian National Library in Vienna served Hueber as a pattern. The seven ceiling frescoes created by the 80-year-old Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694-1783) in the summer months of the years 1775 and 1776 also breathe the spirit of the Enlightenment. They show the steps in man’s exploration of thinking and speaking from the sciences to Divine Revelation in the central cupola. The bookcases under this cupola alone contain editions of the Bible and the Church Fathers, those in the North side room theological literature and those in the South room all the other subjects. The monastery sculptor Josef Stammel (1695-1765), one of the most important Baroque sculptors, created the extensive carvings in the room. Particularly famous is “The Four Last Things”, a group of four over-lifesize presentations of Death, the Last Judgement, Heaven and Hell. The Admont library is a historical monument to book culture with an importance far beyond the region. At the same time it offers equally valuable and exhaustive source material of the surrounding country. The total collection of books comprises some 200,000 volumes. The most valuable treasures are the more than 1,400 manuscripts (the earliest from the 8th century) and the 530 incunabula (early printed books before 1500).

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