The weight of history
ON Monday night, I found myself celebrating the eve of the Feast of St Benedict with a community of monks in upper Austria. What more perfect proof—if proof were needed —that COUNTRY LIFE can take you anywhere? Kremsmünster Abbey is now well into its second millennium of existence and sprawls magnificently across a hillside. The festivities took the form of a barbecue eaten within the shelter of a broad, arcaded garden loggia. As the warm evening closed in, a storm approached across the mountains, animating the scene with flashes of lightning.
It was a memorable occasion and surprising at almost every turn. One monk at my table, for example, revealed that he had recently made a round trip by train to North Korea.
Later in my visit, I had the opportunity of seeing the great heirloom of the monastery, a copperand-silver chalice presented by Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria. He founded the Abbey a breathtaking 1,250 years ago and was deposed by no less a figure than Charlemagne. As I marvelled at this beautiful and ancient object, I felt that some reaction was called for. All I could manage, however, was the inconsequential observation that it was much heavier than I’d expected. JG