In Austria, an internet star monastic library

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Admont (Austria) (AFP) – Hyper-trendy gilding and incunabula: an Austrian monastery lost in the middle of the mountains is making the buzz on the internet thanks to its breathtaking baroque library, “instagrammable” as you wish.

Located far from the circuits, 250 kilometers south-west of Vienne, the venerable Benedictine abbey of Admont is almost 950 years old.

But she did not hesitate to embrace her century and social networks to carve out a place for herself in the tourist sector of religious heritage, very competitive in Europe.

“It was in 2018 and we were wondering how to reach a wider audience”, explains to AFP the communication manager with a good chic good look.

“We said to ourselves that the best way was to bet everything” on the library, “a single room”, with influencers and a “crowd magnet”, explains Mario Brandmüller.

With its 70 meters long, 14 wide and nearly 13 high, this place with 70,000 works is in itself a temple of superlatives. What to proclaim itself “largest monastic library in the world”.

Colorful frescoes on the ceiling, linden wood sculptures, checkerboard marble floors that contrast with immaculate walls… there is everything you need for modern photogenics.

A visitor sits inside the library of the Benedictine Abbey in Admont (Austria) on December 6, 2022 © JOE KLAMAR / AFP

“We shared photos and videos on different travel and culture platforms” in 13 different languages, says the spokesperson, congratulating himself on having “succeeded in transmitting content that captivates” all over the world.

“Go for Baroque”

The monastery’s website has also been revamped: you can find spiritual advice or a virtual visit there.

The digital consecration was total when Oprah Winfrey herself, the high priestess of American television, warmly recommended a visit to Admont in early 2021 as part of her highly influential book club. “Go for Baroque in Austria”, she launched.

As a result of this well-rehearsed marketing strategy, videos have flourished on TikTok and the number of subscribers to the Facebook account has soared from 4,500 in 2018 to 160,000 currently.

Abbot Maximilian Schiefermüller is pictured inside the library of the Benedictine Abbey in Admont (Austria), December 6, 2022
Abbot Maximilian Schiefermüller is pictured inside the library of the Benedictine Abbey in Admont (Austria), December 6, 2022 © JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The abbey reaches on this same network an audience “of 25 million people per month”, against only 10,000 four years ago, rejoices Mr. Brandmüller, supported by two geek monks who got into the game.

The success is also reflected outside the Web: the site, which catches the eye of selfie lovers, was full last summer with nearly 60,000 tickets sold between June and September.

Already for its inauguration in 1776, the library had been designed to impress. It was then a question of trying to compete with the monastery of the Escorial in Madrid in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation.

Real Disney Decor

Once through the doors, visitors can take an interest in the important collection of manuscripts – the oldest of which dates from the 8th century – miraculously spared by a fire in 1865.

However, only researchers have the right to consult these precious and fragile objects.

Far from the philosophical considerations of its architect Joseph Hueber, who said that “like the spirit, light must flood space”, some retain its similarities with the “Disney library”.

Thirty years ago, the studio would have been inspired by these gigantic volumes for scenes that have become cult cartoons “Beauty and the Beast”.

The spotlight also allows the abbey to transmit the faith and even to recruit: one of the twenty-three monks joined the convent after discovering it behind his computer.

It is this dynamism in the field of public relations that has earned the Benedictines a coveted prize awarded by the government and named “Staatspreis”.

Nice recognition, even if Father Maximilian Schiefermüller, who takes care of the archives, says he is “very strict concerning the requests which range from the simple photo shoot to the fashion show”.

Abbot Maximilian Schiefermüller poses inside the library of the Benedictine Abbey of Admont (Austria), December 6, 2022
Abbot Maximilian Schiefermüller poses inside the library of the Benedictine Abbey of Admont (Austria), December 6, 2022 © JOE KLAMAR / AFP

“Of course, the library has made us famous”, admits the 41-year-old religious, revealing the secret staircase leading to a reading platform that thousands of Internet users dream of borrowing.

But “the living heart of the monastery has always been the church”.

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In Austria, an internet star monastic library


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