The Benedictine monastery Admont Abbey in Salzburg, Austria, is home to one of the largest and most breathtaking libraries on earth. It’s often been compared to the storied library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast—which, as every Disney fan knows, is one of the biggest signs the film gives us that Belle and her prince are totally meant to be.
But until now, no one has ever been allowed into the monastery to do a creative photoshoot before. So when Disney fan and photographer Benjamin Von Wong finally received an invitation to be the first, he knew he had to make the most of the opportunity. Featuring costumes from world-renowned designer Agniezka Osipa, Von Wong gathered a crew for a photoshoot intended to homage one of his favorite films as well as one of Europe’s most beautiful real-life spaces.
Like Admont Abbey, the design of the Beast’s castle features ornate Baroque architecture and design. The library and the ballroom in particular utilize many elements of the period, including heavy furnishings, a clean, opulent style blended with intricate detail, and ceiling frescos. Here’s a visual comparison of the library at the Abbey with the library from Beauty and the Beast and the ceiling of the castle’s fabled ballroom:
The library at Admont Abbey is not only a work of art, it’s the oldest monastic library in the world, as well as the second-largest of its kind.
“Never before had a creative photoshoot been done in the Admont Abbey, the oldest monastic library in the world… yet here I was, standing at the entrance of what can only be described as the most magical mix of architecture and art I had ever experienced,” Von Wong wrote of his fantastical experience.
Von Wong envisioned a photoshoot with model Jen Brook, who joined with Von Wong in posting detailed behind-the-scene accounts to their blogs of the event. Brook uploaded a panoramic shot of the two of them dancing together in the open hall, a regular Disney pairing for our time:
In a previous behind-the-scenes video for a different elaborate photoshoot, Von Wong stated that he “thrives” on doing elaborate and complicated shoots in out-of-the-ordinary locations around the world. To bring his vision of the Beauty and the Beast setting to life, he contacted multiple locations over a long period to find one that matched the aesthetic he wanted. He wrote that after a long search, the monks of the abbey embraced his project with open arms:
Doing a photoshoot in a library like Stift Admont had been a dream of mine that, for the longest time seemed completely unachievable. Preliminary emails and calls out to similar locations were consistently met with flat out rejections or exorbitant shooting rates. Just when all hope seemed lost, we received a positive reply from Brother Maximillian, welcoming us with open arms to come, create and share the magic of the abbey with the world.
Growing up, Beauty and the Beast had been one of my favourite films from Disney. I had watched it countless times as a child, and never once, did I imagine that I would find myself inside a fairytale myself, creating a Disney princess of my own surrounded by priceless frescos adorning the ceilings, marble floors beneath my feet and the soft musty smell of old books.
In addition to the extra photos and behind-the-scenes pictures of the crew Von Wong included on his blog, the crew also filmed a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot, in case you just can’t get enough:
All photos courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong