Admont’s Benedictine abbey is arguably Austria’s most elegant and exciting baroque abbey. It brings together museums, religion, and modern art and architecture into an award-winning cultural ensemble.
The centrepiece of the abbey is its Stiftsbibliothek, the largest abbey library in the world. Survivor of a fire in 1865 that severely damaged the rest of the abbey, it displays about 70,000 volumes of the abbey’s 200,000-strong collection, and is decorated with heavenly ceiling frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694–1783) and statues (in wood, but painted to look like bronze) by Josef Stammel (1695–1765).
The abbey is also home to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), featuring rare pieces such as its tiny portable altar from 1375, made from amethyst quartz and edged with gilt-silver plates; some Gerhard Mercator globes from 1541 and 1551; and monstrances from the 15th and 16th centuries. Each year innovative temporary exhibitions complement the permanent ones.
Another museum, the Museum für Gegenwartkunst (Museum for Contemporary Art), contains works by about 100 mainly Austrian artists, and has pieces you can explore with your hands. The Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) began in 1674 with a small collection and today includes rooms devoted to flying insects (one of the largest collections in the world), butterflies, stuffed animals, wax fruit and reptiles. From the glass stairway and herb garden there are views to Gesäuse National Park.