Built to honor the spot on the river Enns where St. Florian was drowned by pagans in 304 (he is still considered the protector against fire and flood by many Austrians), the Stift St. Florian over the centuries came to comprise one of the most spectacular baroque showpieces in Austria, landmarked by three gigantic "candle-snuffer" cupolas. In 1686 the Augustinian abbey was built by the Italian architect Carolo Carlone, then finished by Jakob Prandtauer. More a palace than
anything else, it is centered on a mammoth Marmorsaal (Marble Hall)—covered with frescoes honoring Prince Eugene of Savoy's defeat of the Turks—and a sumptuous library filled with 140,000 volumes. In this setting of gilt and marble, topped with ceiling frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte, an entire school of Austrian historiographers was born in the 19th century. Guided tours of the abbey begin with the magnificent figural gateway, which rises up three stories and is covered with symbolic statues. The Stiegenhaus, or Grand Staircase, leads to the upper floors, which include the Kaiserzimmer, a suite of 13 opulent salons (where you can see the "terrifying bed" of Prince Eugene, fantastically adorned with wood-carved figures of captives). The tour includes one of the great masterworks of the Austrian baroque, Jakob Prandtauer's Eagle Fountain Courtyard, with its richly sculpted figures. In the over-the-top abbey church, where the ornate surroundings are somewhat in contrast to Bruckner's music, the Krismann organ (1770–74) is one of the largest and best of its period, and Bruckner used it to become a master organist and composer. From mid-May through mid-October, you can attend a 25-min organ concert, held on Sun., Mon. and Wed.–Fri. at 2:30. Another highlight is the Altdorfer Gallery, which contains several masterworks by Albrecht Altdorfer, the leading master of the 16th-century Danube School and ranked with Dürer and Grunewald as one of the greatest northern painters.