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ISSUE 12 - May 2012

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Medieval Stars in Melk Abbey (pages 18-21)
Paul G. Beck, Georg Zotti

Key Words
International Year of Astronomy 2009, Lecture Series, Exhibition, Medieval Astronomy


Melk Abbey, a marvel of European high baroque architecture, is one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Austria, attracting 450 000 visitors each year. The monastery’s museum presents selected aspects of Benedictine life in Melk since the monastery’s foundation in 1089. After the church, the library is the second-most important room in a Benedictine monastery. Due to the wide scientific interests and contacts of the medieval monks, these libraries also contain manuscripts on mathematics, physics and astronomy. In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), the annual library exhibition was fully dedicated to astronomical manuscripts and early prints from the past 1000 years. Following earlier research work on astronomical manuscripts in Melk’s library, we were invited to organise the exhibition. In addition, we also presented a lecture series and provided more background in an accompanying book. Because of positive feedback from the visitors, the exhibition was extended until March 2011. In the two years of its duration, the exhibition was seen by more than 900 000 visitors. In this article, we describe the background to the scientific project, how the exhibition was organised and lessons learned from this project.