Thomas Frognall Dibdin.

A bibliographical, antiquarian and picturesque tour in France and Germany online

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visit some consecrated spot, for the purpose of fulfill-
ing a vow or performing an annual pilgrimage. I
stopped the carriage, to take a survey of so novel a
scene ; but I confess that there was nothing in it which
induced me to wish to be one of the party. If I mis-
take not, this was the first pilgrimage or procession,
of the kind, which I had seen in Austria, or even in
Bavaria. It was a sorry cavalcade. Some of the men,
and even women, were ¥dthout shoes and stockings ;
and they were scattered about the road in a very
loose, straggling manner. Many of the women wore
a piece of linen, or muslin, half way up their faces,
over the mouth ; and although the road was not very
smooth, both men and women appeared to be in ex-
cellent spirits, and to move briskly along — occasionally

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singing, and looking up to the crucifix — ^which a stout
young man carried at the head of them. They were
moying in the direction of the Monastery of Gottwic.

It was cold and cloudy at starting ; but on leaving
the main road, and turning to the left^ the horizon
cleared up — and it was evident that a fine day was in
store for us. Our expectations were raised in pro-
portion to the increasing beauty of the day. The road,
though a cross one, was good ; winding through a
pleasant country^ and afiTording an early glimpse of
the monastery in question — ^at the distance of at least
ten miles — and situated upon a lofty eminence. The
first view of it was grand and imposing, and stimulated
us to urge our horses to a speedier course. The
country continued to improve. Some vineyards were
beginning to shew the early blush of harvest; and
woods of fir, and Uttle meandring streams running be-
tween picturesque inequalities of ground, gave an ad-
ditional interest to every additional mile of the route.
At length we caught a glimpse of a crowd of people^
halting, in all directions. Some appeared to be sit-
ting, others standing, more lying ; and a good number
were engaged in devotion before a statue. As we ap-
proached them, we observed the statue to be that of
St. Francis ; around which this numerous group of
pilgrims appeared to have marshalled themselves —
making a halt in their pilgrimage (as we afterwards
learnt) to the monastery of Gottwic.

The day continued to become more and more bril-

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liant, and the scenery to keep pace with die weather*
It was evident that we were nearing the monastery
very rapidly. On catching the first distinct view of
ity my companion could not restrain his admiration*
At this moment^ firom the steepness of the ascent, I
thou^t it prudent to descend, and to walk to the mo-
nastery. The view from thence was at once com-
manding and enchanting. The Danube was the grand
feature in the landscape ; while, near its very borders,
at the distance perhaps of three EngUsh miles, stood
the post town of Chrems. The opposite heights of
the Danube were well covered with wood. The sun
now shone in his meridian splendour, and every fea-
ture of the country seemed to be in a glow with hia
beams. I next turned my thoughts to gain entrance
within the monastery, and by the aid of my valet it
was not long before that wished for object was accom-
plished. The interior is large and handsome, but of
less architectural splendor than Molk or even St.
Florian. The librarian, Odilo Klama, was firom home.
Not a creature was to be found ; and I was pacing
the cloisters with a dejected air, when my servant an-
nounced to me that the Vice Principal would receive
me, and conduct me to the Head or President.

This was comforting intelligence. I revived in an
instant; and following, along one corridor, and up
divers stair-cases, I seemed to be gaining the summit
of the building, when a yet more spacious corridor
brought me to the door of the President's apartments :

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catching views, on my way Ailher, of increasing
extent and magnificence. But all consideration of ex-
terior objects was quickly lost on my rec^ptbn at
head quarters. The Principal, whose name is Axt*^
MANN, was attired in a sort of half-dignity dress ; a
gold chain and cross hung upon his breast, and a
Uack silk cap covered his head. A gown, and what
seemed to be a cassock, covered his body. He had
the completie air of a gentleman, and might have turned
lus fiftieth year. His countenance bespoke equal in^
teDigence and benevolence : — ^but alas ! not a word of
French could he speak — ^and Latin was therefi)re ne*
cessarily resorted to by both parties. I entreated him
to forgive all defects of composition and of prommdai-
tion ; at which he smiled graciously. The Vice Prin-
cipal then bowed to the Abbot and retreated ; but not
before I had observed them to whisx>er apart — and to
make gesticulations which I augured to portend some^
thing in the shape of providing refireshment, if not
dinner. My suspicion was quickly confirmed; for^
on the Vice Principal quitting the apartment, thc^
Abbot observed to me — " you wiU necessarily partake
of our dinner — which is usually at one o'clock; but
which I have postponed till three, in order that J ibay
conduct you over the monastery, and shew you what
is worthy of observation. You have made a long
journey hither, and must not be disappointed."

The manner in which this was spoken was as cour-
teous as the purport of the speech was hospitaUte»

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^^ Be pleased to be covered (continued the Abbot) and
I will conduct you forthwith to the Library : although
I regret to add that our Librarian Odilo is just now
from home — ^having gone, for the day^ upon a botanical
excursion towards Chrems — ^as it is now hoUday time***
In our way to the Ubrary^ I asked the Principal re«
specting the revenues of the estabUshment and its
present condition — whether it were flourishing or
otherwise — adding^ that Chremsminster appeared to
me to be in a very flourishing state." *' They are
much wealthier (observed the Principal) at Chrems*
minster than we are here. EstabUshments like this^
situated near a metropoUs^ are generaUy more severely
visited than are those in a retired and remote part of
the kingdom. Our very situation is inviting to a foe,
from its commanding the adjacent country. Look at
the prospect around you. It is unbounded. On yon
opposite wooded heights^ (on the other side of the
Danube) we all saw, from these very windows, the fire
and smoke of the advanced guard of the French army,
in contest with the Austrians, upon Bonaparte's first
advance towards Vienna. The French Emperor him-
self took possession of this monastery. He slept here,
and we entertained him the next day with the best
dejeune h la fourchette which we could afford. He
seemed well satisfied with his reception ; but I own
that I was glad when he left us. Strangers to arms
in this tranquil retreat, and visited only, as you may
now visit us, for the purpose of peaceful hospitality^

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it agitated us extremely to come in contact with war-
riors and chieftains."

The preceding was not delivered in one uninter-
rupted flow of language ; but I only string it together
as answers to various questions put by mysel£ '* Ob-
serve yonder" — continued the Abl)ot — *' do you notice
an old castle in the distance, to the left, situated
almost upon the very banks of the Danube?" "I
observe it weD," replied I. *' That castle, (answered
he) so tradition reports, once held your Richard the
First, when he was detained a prisoner by Leopold
Marquis of Austria, on his return from the Holy-
Land." The more the Abbot spoke, and the more I
continued to gaze around, the more I fancied myself
treading upon faery ground, and that the scene in
which I was engaged partook of the illusion of romance.
*' Our funds (continued my intelligent guide, as he
placed his hand upon my arm, and arrested our pro-
gress towards the Ubrary) need be much more abun-
dant than they reaUy are. We have great burdens to
discharge. All our food is brought from a consider-
able distance, and we are absolutely dependant upon
our neighbours for water, as there are neither wells
nor springs in the soil." " I wonder (repUed I) why
such a spot was chosen — except for its insulated and
commanding situation — ^as water is the first requisite
in every monastic estabUshment !" ^'Do you then
overlook the Danube .^"—resumed he — " We get our


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fish from thence ; and^ upon the whole, feel our wants
less than it might be supposed.**

In our way to the Library, I observed a series of
(mI paintings along the corridor — which represented
the history of the founder, and of the foundation, of
the monastery.* T^e artist*s name was, if I remember

* This history has come down to us from well authenticated
materials ; howerer, ia the course of its traasmission^ it may
have been partially coloured with fables and absurdities. The
Founder of the Monastery was Altmann, Bishop of Passau ;
who died in the year 1091, about twenty years after the founda-
tion of the building. The two ancient biographies of the Foua-
der, each by a Monk or Principal of the monaster)', are intro-
duced into the collection of Austrian historians by Peg ; vol. i.
col. 1 12 — 162. Stengelius has a bird's eye view of the monastery
as it appeared in 1638, and before the principal suite of apart-
ments was buUt. But it is yet in an unfinished state $ as the
view of it from the copperplate engraving, at page 248 ante,
represents it with the intended additions and improvements.
These latter, in all probability, will never be carried into effect.
This monastery enjoyed, of old, great privileges and revenues.
It had twenty-two parish churdies — four towns — sereral vil-
lages, &c, subject to its ecclesiastical jurisdiction ; and these
parishes, together with the monastery itself, were not under
the visitation of the Diocesan (of Passau) but of the Pope him-
self. Stengelius {Monasteriologia, sign. C) speaks of the mag-
nificent views seen from the summit of the manastery, on a
clear day ; observing, however, (even in his time) that it was
without springs or wells, and that it received the rain water in
leaden cisterns. "Caeteriim (adds he) amoenissimum et pland
aspectu jucundissimum habet situm." Toward the middle
of the seventeenth century, this monastery aj^ears to have
taken the nqble form under which it is at present beheld.
It has not however escaped from more than one severe visitation
by the Turks.

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rightly, Helgendoeffer — or scoiething like it. Many
of the subjects were curious, and none of them abso-
lutely ill executed. I observed the devil, or some
imp, introduced in more than one picture ; and re-
marked upon it to my guide. He said — " where wiD
you find truth unmixed with fiction?*' My observa-
tion was adroitly parried; and we now found our-
selves dose to the library door; where three or four
Benedictins, (for I should have told you that this
famous monastery is of the order of St. Benedict) pro-
fessors on the establishment, were apparently waiting
to receive us. They first saluted the Abbot very re-
spectfully, and then myself — ^with a degree of cheer-
fiilness amounting almost to familiarity. In a remote
and strange place, of such a character, nothing is more
encouraging than such a reception. Two of our newly
joined associates could luckily speak the French lan-
guage, which rendered my intercourse with the Prin-
cipal yet more pleasing and satisfactory to myself.
The Ubrary door was now opened, and I found myself
within a long and spacious room — of which the book-
shelves were composed of walnut tree — ^but of which
the architectural ornaments were scarcely to be en-
dured, after having so recently seen those in the li-
brary of Molk. However, it may be fSsurly said that
the Library was worthy of the Monastery : well stored
with books and MSS., and probably the richest in
bibliographical lore in Austria, after that at Vienna.
.We now entered the saloon, for dinner. It was a

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large, light, and lofty room. The ceiling was covered
with paintings of allegorical subjects, in firesco, de-
scriptive of the advantages of piety and learning.
Among the various groups, I thought I could discern
— as I could only take a hasty survey diiring my meal
— ^the apotheosis of the founder of the monastery.
Perhaps I rather wished to see it there, than that it
was absolutely depicted. However, we sat down, at
the high table — ^precisely as you may remember it in
the halls at Oxford — to a plentiful and elegant repast.
The Principal did me the honour of placing me at his
right hand. Grace was no sooner said, than Mr.
Lewis made his appearance, and seemed to view the
scene before him with mingled delight and astonish-
ment. He had, in &ct, just completed his sketch of
the monastery, and was well satisfied at seeing me in
such quarters, and so occupied. The brethren were
also well pleased to receive him, but first begged to
have a glance at the drawing — ^with which they were
highly gratified.

My companion having joined the festive board, the
conversation, and the cups of Rhenish wine, seemed
equally to circulate without restraint. We were
cheerful, even to loud mirth ; and the smalfaiess of the
party, compared with the size of the haD, caused the
sounds of our voices to be reverberated from every
quarter. Meantime, the sun threw his radiant beams
through a window of noble dimensions, quite across
the saloon — so as to keep us in shadow, and illumi-

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nate the other parts of the room. Thus we were
cool, but the day without had begun to be sultry.
Behind me, or rather between the Abbot and myself^
stood a grave, sedate, and inflexible-looking attendant
— of large, square dimensions — habited in a black
gown, which scarcely reached the skirts of his coat.
He spake not ; he moved not ; save when he saw my
glass emptied, which, without any previous notice or
permission, he made a scrupulous point of filling . .
even to the very brim ! . with the most highly flavoured
Rhenish wine which I had yet tasted in Germany.
Our glasses being of the most capacious dimensions,
it behoved me to cast an attentive eye upon this re-
plenishing process ; and I told the worthy master of
the table that we should be quickly revelling in our
cups. He assured me that the wine, although good,
was weak; but begged that I would consider myself
at liberty to act as I pleased.

In due time, the cloth was cleared ; and a dessert,
consisting chiefly of delicious peaches, succeeded. A
new order of bottles was introduced ; tall, square, and
capacious ; which were said to contain wine of the
same quality, but of a more deUcate flavour. It proved
indeed to be most exquisite. The past labours of
the day, together with the growing heat, had given a
relish to every thing which I tasted; and, in the full
flow of my spirits, I proposed — a sentiment, which I
trusted would be considered as perfectly orthodox —
** Long life and happy times to the present members, ^

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and increasing prosperity to, the monastery of Gott*
wic" It was received and drank with enthusiasm.
The Abbot then proceeded to give me an account of
a visit paid him by Lord Minto^ some years ago» when
the latter was ambassador at Vienna; and he spoke
of that nobleman's intelligent conversation, and amia-
ble manners, in a way which did him great credit.
" Come, Sir ;" said he : '^ you shall not find me un-
grateftiL I propose drinking prosperity and long
life to every representative of the British nation who
is resident at Vienna. May the union between your
country and ours become indissoluble." I then re-
quested that we might withdraw; as the hours were
flying away, and as we purposed sleeping within one
stage of Vienna on that same evening.

^* Your wishes shall be mine," answered the Abbot.
Whereupon he rose — ^with all the company — and step-
ping some few paces backwards, placed his hands across
his breast upon the gold cross ; half closed his eyes ;
and said grace — ^briefly and softly ; in a manner the
most impressive which I had ever witnessed. We
then quickly left the noble room in which we had
been banquetting, and prepared to visit the church
and what might be called the state apartments, which
we had not before seen. After the rooms at St. Flo-
rian, there was not much particularly to admire in
those of Gottwic : except that they appeared to be
better lighted, and most of them commanded truly
enchanting views of the Danube and of the surround-

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ing country. In one room, of smaller dimensions^ or-
namented chiefly in white and gold (if I remember
rightly) a Collection of Prints was kept ; but those
which I saw were not very remarkable for their anti-
quity, or for their beauty of subject or of impression.
The sun was now getting low, and we had a stage of
at least fourteen miles to accomplish ere we could
think of retiring to rest.

" Show us now, worthy Sir, your crypt and chiurch ;
and then, with pain be it pronounced, we must bid
you farewell. Within little more than two hours,
darkness will have covered the earth." Such was my
remark to the Abbot; who replied: "Say not so:
we cannot part with you yet. At any rate you must
not go without a testimony of the respect we entertain
for the object of your visit. Those who love books,
will not object to increase their own stock by a copy
of our Chronicon Gotwicense — commenced by one
of my learned predecessors, but alas I never completed.
Come with me to my room, before we descend to the
church, and receive the work in question." Upon
which, the amiable Head of the monastery set off, at
rather a hurried pace, with myself by the side of him,
along several corridors — ^towards his own apartment,
to present me with this Chronicle. I received it with
every demonstration of respect — ^and entreated the
Abbot to inscribe a *^ dono dedif' in the fly leaf, which
would render it yet more valuable in my estimation.*
* On my arrival in England, I was of course equally anxious

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He cheerfiiUy complied with this request. The cour-
tesy, the firankness, the downright heartiness of feeU
ing with which all this was done — together with the
value of the present — rendered it one of the most
deUghtiul moments of my existence. I instinctively
caught the Abbot's arm, pressed his hand with a cor-
dial warmth between both of mine — and pausing one
Uttle moment, exclaimed " Dies hie omtUno comme"
morcttione dignus r

A sort of sympathetic shouting succeeded ; for, by
this time, the whole of our party had reached the
Abbot's rooms. I now requested to be immediately
taken to the church ; and within five minutes we were

and happy to place the Chronicon Gotwicense in the library
at Althorp. But I have not, in the text above^ done Aill justice
to the liberality of the present Abbot of the monastery. He gave
me, in addition, a copy— of perhaps a still scarcer work—- enti-
tled " NQtitia Auitria Antiqu€C et Mediae seu tarn Norici FeterU
quam Pagi et Marcha, &c/' by Magnus Klein, Abbot of the
monastery, and of which the first volume only was published
''typis Monasterii Tegemseensis,'' in 1781, 4to. This appears
to be a very learned and curious work. And here ... let me be
allowed for the sake of all lovers of autographs of good and
great men — to close this note with a facsimile of the hand
writing (in the '* dono dedit" — as above mentioned) of the
amiable and erudite donor of these acceptable volumes. It is
faithfully thus : — ^the arigimU scription will only, I trust, perish
with the book :

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in the crypt. It scarcely merits one word of descrip-
tion on the score of antiquity ; and may be, at the
furthest^ somewhere about three centuries old. The
church is small and quite unpretending^ as a piece of
architecture. On quitting the church, and passing
through the last court, or smaller quadrangle, we came
to the outer walls : and leaving them, we discerned
— ^below — ^the horses, carriage, and valet . . waiting
to receive us. Our amiable Host and his Benedictin
brethren determined to walk a little way down the
hill, to see us fairly seated and ready to start. I en-
treated and remonstrated that this might not be ; but
in vain. On reaching the carriage, we all shook hands
very cordially together, but certainly I pressed those
of the Abbot more earnestly than the rest. We then
saluted by uncovering; and, stepping into the car-
riage, I held aloft the first volume of the Gottwic
Chronicle — exclaiming . . " Valete^ Domini eruditis-
simi : dies hie eommemorcUione dignus ;" to which the
Abbot replied, with peculiarly emphatic sonorousness
of voice, ^^ Viile : Deus te, omnesque tibi charissimos,
eanservet" They then stopped for a moment . . as
the horses began to be put in motion . . . and retrac-
ing their steps up the hill, towards the outer gate of
the monastery, disappeared. I thought — ^but it might
not be so — that I discerned the Abbot, at the distance
of some two hundred yards, yet lingering alone — with
his right arm raised, and shaking it as the last and
most affectionate token of farewelL

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The evening was serene and mild ; and the road,
although a cross way, was perfectly sound — ^winding
dirough a country of fertility and jHcturesque beauty.
We saw few vineyards : but those which met bur eyes
showed the grape to be in its foil purple tint, if not
beginning to ripen« I had resolved upon stopping to
sleep at Sirghartskirchen within two stages of Vienna
— ^thus avoiding the post town of PerschUng, which is
situated in the direct road to Vienna from St PoUen
— ^which latter place, as you may remember, we had
left in the morning. Before the darker shades of
evening began to prevail, we turned round to catch a
farewell glance of the hospitable monastery which we
had left behind — and were lucky in viewing it, (scarce-
ly less than seven or eight miles in our rear) just as
the outline of its pinnacles could be discerned against
a clear, and yet almost brilliant, sky.

It was quite dark, and nearer upon eleven than ten
o'clock, when we entered the insignificant post town
i>{ Sirghartskirchen — ^where we stretched our limbs
rather than reposed ; and after a hasty, but not very
ill provided breakfast, the next morning, we pushed
on for Burkersdorf, the last post town on that side of
Vienna. It may be about nine EngUsh miles fircnn
Burkersdorf to the capital ; of which the greater part
is rather agreeable than otherwise. It was here, as
in approaching Strasbourg, that I turned my eyes in
all directions to catch an early glimpse of the tower of
St. Stephen's Cathedral, but in vain. At lengdi, to

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the right, we saw the magnificent chateau of Schon-

The road now became flat and sandji and the plains
in the vicinity of the capital destitute of trees. ** Voila
la Cathedrale !" shouted the yalet. It was to the left,
or rather a little in firont : of a tapering, spire^like
form : but, seeing only a small portion of it — ^the lower
part being concealed by the intervening rising ground
— I could form no judgment of its height. We now
neared the suburbs, which are very extensive, and
swarming with population. I learnt that they entirely
surrounded the capital, in an equal state of populous-
ness. The barriers were now approached : and all
the fears, which my accidental travelling acquaintance
at Augsbourg had put into my head, began to revive
and to take possession of me. But what has an ho-
nest man to fear ? ^^ Search closely (observed I to
the principal examining officer) for I suspect that
there is something contraband at the bottom of the
trunk. Do you forbid the importation of an old Greek
manual of devotion?** — said I, as I saw him about to
lay his hand upon the precious Aldine volume, of
which such firequent mention has been already made*
The officer did not vouchsafe even to open the leaves

Online LibraryThomas Frognall DibdinA bibliographical, antiquarian and picturesque tour in France and Germany → online text (page 15 of 29)