Fairytale halls, Baroque jewels, and Imperial grandeur can be found in these five beautiful Austrian libraries. By Julian Mattocks Photographs Courtesy Julian Mattocks
In the Styrian town of Admont, on the edges of the Gesäuse National Park, I pause outside a library door, preparing myself for one of Austria’s true treasures. When it opens, I’m instantly transported into an awe-inspiring fairytale. White-and-gold gilded bookshelves on both sides of a polychrome marble floor stretch out before me as far as the eye can see, while exquisitely decorated carvings and statues, and magnificent ceiling frescoes adorn a hall bursting with light. Rumored to be the inspiration for the magical library in Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast, this is the largest monastery library in the world and arguably the most beautiful. It’s not difficult to see why it was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World when it was completed in 1776.
A functioning Benedictine monastery with a community of 23 monks responsible for 26 parishes, Admont has skyrocketed to fame in recent times, with Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club telling its readers to “Go for Baroque in Austria and visit the Admont Abbey library!” With a record 70,000 visitors in 2019 and a cleverly executed marketing campaign with numerous videos on Instagram the abbey’s Facebook reach soared to 31 million. A 2023 report by the heavyweight media agency Agence France Presse was seen by a staggering 600 million people.