From 1650 to 1652, Abbot Valentin Embalner had a wine cellar carved out from the solid rock face beneath the current priory and the Abbey Park kitchen. The two enormous barrel vaults of the cellar remain preserved today as the “Large Baroque Cellar”. Between 1713 and 1714, Jakob Prandtauer added further cellar space to the west, underneath the priory and the prelature – the “Small Baroque Cellar”. In 1718–1720, the building above the cellars created by Abbot Embalner was torn down and replaced. In order to ensure the new building’s stability, Jakob Prandtauer reinforced the vaulting between the two cellars. Some original, unreinforced arches still remain. Later, in 1868–1869, Abbot Clemens Moser remodelled the wing above the Abbey kitchens, that is, the current joiner’s workshop, incorporating new classrooms into the Abbey’s school. Further (rectangular) columns had to be set up in the cellar to support the arch. These cellar rooms had various purposes over time. During the Turkish siege in 1683, for example, the citizens of Melk took refuge here from the invading troops. Melk Abbey was besieged by around 1,000 French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars. They forced their way into the cellar and supposedly drank the Abbey’s wine stores dry. According to an entry into the Abbey chronicle from this time, Napoleon said that in Melk the wine cellar was so large that one could travel through it four-abreast. In the Second World War, the cellar was an air-raid bunker for the population of Melk. The Large Baroque Cellar was a wine cellar up until the 1970s. After the vineyards were leased out, it was used as a store room for all kinds of items, especially materials for the great restoration of the Abbey; sometimes they were piled ceiling-high. Finally the space was repurposed to hold functions. The smaller cellar built under Jakob Prandtauer remained a wine cellar until the renovation in 1998, and a small part was used as a tasting room until 1965.

Between 1998 and 2000, in preparation for the Lower Austrian state expo in 2000, both cellar areas were renovated (under the supervision of Johann Kräftner). A steep staircase was supplemented with a lift with exits at the level of the Prandtau cellar and at the lowest level. In addition to the existing staircase, a second was built on the other side of the cellar. During the construction work, the old exit into the prelate’s court was found; the new staircase was partially incorporated into this. During the works in 1998-2000, a corridor was excavated above the ice house and through the rock. This leads to a lift in the south wing of the Abbey. The project included a restoration and revitalisation of the cellar space. This meant it could be used to house part of the Lower Austrian expo “The Search for Lost Paradise: European Culture as Reflected in the Monasteries” in 2000; since 2001, it has been used for various cultural events organised by the Abbey and its school.

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