Baroque Library of Metten Abbey – Metten, Germany - Atlas Obscura
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Metten, Germany

Baroque Library of Metten Abbey

This 8th-century Bavarian monastery is home to an exquisite Baroque-era library. 

Metten Abbey, also known as Kloster Metten and St. Michael’s Abbey, is a Benedictine monastery established in 766 in Germany’s southeastern region of Bavaria. The medieval abbey is treasured for its a rich history, arresting architecture, and perhaps most of all, its stunning 18th-century library.

Evidence suggests that Metten Abbey was originally home to a modest library built in the 1260s, which was expanded upon throughout the years, with a writing room added at the turn of the 15th century, and various manuscripts archived in the space under the Abbot Johannes Nablas in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Baroque library as seen today was constructed between 1722 and 1726 at the behest of Abbot Roman II Märkl, who commissioned a fleet of artists and carpenters to revive the abbey with frescoes, sculptures, and custom bookcases. Today, this ornate repository of knowledge is regarded as one of the most magnificent and beautiful historic libraries in Germany.

Allegorical statues by the Austrian stuccoist Franz Josef Ignaz Holzinger effortlessly bear the weight of a vaulted ceiling, painted by the Italian-born artist Innozenz Waräthi with the likenesses of religious and academic leaders and philosophers. Portraits of ecclesiastical icons Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome hover over copies of the books they penned; Saint Jerome reads a text by Cicero.

Today, the library houses some 35,000 books, though most of them aren’t original to its Baroque-era makeover. Between 1803 and 1815, the abbey’s property was confiscated and auctioned off after the building was seized by the state. Hundreds of books were sent to municipal and university libraries.

Metten Abbey was reestablished in the 1830s with the incorporation of a school, a fitting addition in keeping with its longstanding association with education. In the abbey’s early years, the monks who inhabited it were academics, philosophers, and, naturally, theologists. Some of Metten Abbey’s old books were returned upon its reestablishment, while other volumes were donated from estates and shuttered monasteries. Over time, the library acquired new books relating to religion, philosophy, and history for the boarding school students taught onsite.

Among the Baroque library’s most prized possessions are the Mettener Antiphonary, a collection of 15th-century music manuscripts, and a receipt from 1715 for 500 guilders paid to German artist Cosmas Damian Asam, who painted the monastery’s altarpiece.

In 2009, Metten Abbey unveiled the New Library, located on either side of the monastery’s courtyard and decorated with vivid panes of stained glass by the Munich-based artist Robert M. Weber. The New Library was created out of a need for more space, and offers room for some 300,000 books.

Know Before You Go

The library at Metten Abbey is accessible by guided tour only.

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