Religious art in Austria - Melk Cross – Melk Abbey Product ID: 0216130

As part of its “Religious art in Austria” series, Austrian Post is presenting the Melk Cross on a special engraved stamp.

€ 1,70

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The Melk cross is considered the most precious treasure in Melk Abbey: it includes a fragment of wood which is supposed to have come from the cross of Jesus and is, consequently, one of the most precious relics in the Roman Catholic church. As part of its “Religious art in Austria” series, Austrian Post is presenting the Melk Cross on a special engraved stamp. The particle of the True Cross, as splinters from the cross of Jesus are called, was donated to the Babenbergs, who resided in Melk Abbey, in 1040 by Margrave Adalbert. The Melk cross has had a chequered history. In 1169 it was stolen by a cleric and subsequently reappeared in the Vienna’s Scottish Abbey. According to the legend, as the interested parties could not agree on who the cross now belonged to, the cross returned, as if of its own volition, to the abbot at Melk following a judgement by God. A boat with the cross on board miraculously sailed upstream along the Danube from Vienna, and the cross was thus eventually restored to Melk. In 1362 Duke Rudolf IV commissioned the current exquisite housing for the cross. Whilst this was being made, the valuable wooden fragment was stolen yet again, but this time the thief was caught and the relic returned to the Abbey. The new housing was artistically fashioned from silver-gilt and richly decorated with precious stones, cameos, enamel and pearls by Viennese goldsmiths. The four evangelists are depicted at each end of the cross on the reverse, with the crucified Christ depicted in the centre. The back of the housing can be removed to reveal the fragment of the True Cross, for which reason the precious stones have been fashioned as screws. Melk was a centre of the Babenbergs’ power as early as A.D. 1000. Leopold II founded the abbey in 1089 and gave it to the order of Benedictine Monks, who still manage it today. Even in the 12th century the abbey had its own school and scriptorum, where valuable manuscripts were created. In 1297 fire destroyed the entire abbey, and for a long time afterwards it struggled to survive, eventually, however, becoming a centre for the counter-reformation. During the 18th century, the abbey, which had previously only undergone essential repairs, was completely rebuilt under the direction of the Baroque architect Jakob Prandtauer. Artists such as Paul Troger and Johann Michael Rottmayr were responsible for the frescoes in the interior. Melk Abbey, prominently positioned on a mountain high above the banks of the Danube, thus became one of the most important Baroque buildings in Austria. The impressive Abbey library, with its ceiling fresco by Paul Troger, houses valuable manuscripts from the Middle Ages, including a fragment from a manuscript of the Song of the Nibelungs dating from the 13th century. Melk Abbey is also home to the tomb of St. Coloman.


Product information

Release Date
Number of Copies
Print Style
 Kombinationsdruck, Etch-Art By OeSD
 Peter Sinawehl
 Special issue series
Printed by
 Österreichische Staatsdruckerei GmbH