St. Florian and Hallstatt

To see a little more of Austria and learn more of its history, we had a field trip to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the Monastery of Saint Florian, and the little village of Hallstatt. I will write a separate article on the experiences from the concentration camp and the Holocaust survivor we heard a few days later.

First documented in 819, this monastery was founded after Saint Florian, who suffered martyrdom in the river Enns because of his Christian faith. It has also been the home of the famous boy’s choir for over 1,000 years.

The outer building of the St. Florian Monastery.

The first room we toured was the library; a massive room possessing a total of 150,000 volumes, of which 108,000 date back before 1900. Not simply a collection, visitors can request to study these books for scientific purposes (under supervision of course). Painted on the ceiling is a fresco by Bartolomeo Altomonte from 1747, showing the marriage of virtue and science under the protection of religion.

One wall of the library.
The books are organized alphabetically.
The ceiling fresco by Bartolomeo Altomonte.

The next room we entered was the Marble Hall, originally meant for entertaining guests, particularly royalty, but now is often reserved as a concert space. Another fresco by Bartolomeo Altomonte is shown here, this one focusing on Austria (the colour scheme of the entire room is based on the red and white from the Austrian flag; this includes the floor tiles, the fresco, and even mirrors to reflect the floor’s pattern).

An interesting doorknob from the Marble Hall.
A fresco celebrating Austria by Bartolomeo Altomonte.
An ornate candle holder from the Marble Hall.


We then headed to the Basilica, which was reconstructed in 1686. The organ, called the Bruckner-organ since 1930 after Anton Bruckner, the famous composer and organist who played and was later buried here, is the highlight of this section. It has 4 manuals, 103 sounding organ-stops, and 7343 pipes, creating a rich and resounding sound, though we were not lucky enough to hear it. Once again, frescoes adorn the ceiling, however these were created by two painters from Munich, and show the martyrdom of Saint Florian.

The Bruckner Organ with the older pews underneath.
The ceiling frescoes showing the martyrdom of St. Florian.

Lastly we entered the Crypt, located right underneath the Basilica. Anton Bruckner is buried here in a simple coffin. Many of the tombstones date from the Gothic period and in the niches are the coffins of abbots. All throughout, the foundations of the Gothic church and walls from Roman times can be seen. In the very back, the bones of 6,000 people are stored, which were discovered in 1291.

The stack of over 6,000 bones, which were discovered in 1291.

Our last of the day was Hallstatt, a picturesque if now overly touristy village on the eastern shore of the Hallstätter Lake. Until the late 19th century, it was only possible to reach the city by boat or small trails. While I did find the town beautiful, an hour was enough to walk the length, take some pictures, and have a coffee before heading back to the bus and to Salzburg.

The local cemetery, though the “skull room” was closed. Until recently, Hallstatt did not have enough room to bury people and so after a few years, the bones would be dug up and the skulls painted with the name of the deceased and placed in a room.
A tree-like plant growing up the side of a building one of the town squares.
Lanterns hanging from a tree with Hallstätter Lake in the background.



4 thoughts on “St. Florian and Hallstatt

  1. Love your travel photos & stories. The monastery looks amazing, especially the library. Ever consider becomming a librarian of antiquities? It just occurred to me the other day that I’ll be able to write off any music related things I do on my trip to Austria. (I wonder if that includes Mozart balls?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The St. Florian Monastery is stunning. It’s hard to wrap my imagination around how long it’s been standing there and how many thousands of hours of craftsmanship and artistry went into its construction. The library is amazing – it looks like a wonderful place to spend many hours exploring – so many details. The ceiling frescoes are beautifully preserved. I imagine there is a full-time crew that constantly works on restoration to keep the colors so vibrant. The Crypt is both a little bit creepy and a little bit thought-provoking. Each of those sets of bones was a person who lived and worked and had parents and, perhaps, children. That’s quite an orderly method for storing the sets of bones. Little or no wasted space between them. When I think of all the people who have lived since the time homo sapiens began burying the dead, it’s mind-boggling to realize how many people have lived and died before us. No wonder many cities ran out of space to bury the dead and needed to recycle grave sites. Hallstatt looks very pretty. I’ve read that it’s a touristy town, but it sounds worth visiting if Mom and I have the time one day while you’re in classes. I love your photo of the lake and hills with the lanterns hanging from the silhouetted tree in the foreground.

    Liked by 1 person

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