Saturday, April 5, 2014

St. Charles Church - Vienna

St. Charles Church, or Karlskirche, is considered the best baroque church in Vienna, Austria. It is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, a reformer of the 16th century.
This was our first view of Karlskirche, or St. Charles Church. 
The two pillars and two tower pavilions in front make it very distinctive.
Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, Croatia and Serbia, Archduke of Austria, and father of Maria Theresa, the last of the Habsburg dynasty, decided to build a church for the man he was named after, Charles Borromeo, or in Italian, Carlo Borromeo. The name was particularly apt as St. Charles was known as a healer of plague sufferers and just a year earlier, 1712, a great plague had subsided. An architectural competition was created and the winner, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, created the design. He also designed the Schonbrunn Palace. The facade is modeled after a Greek temple portico. In front are two angels, one each from the Old and New Testaments. The two large columns on either side are modeled after Trajan's Column in Rome. They display scenes from the life of St. Charles in a spiral relief and are representative of the two columns in front of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  Outside them, the two tower pavilions, are influenced by the baroque of the Roman's Bernini and Borromini. 
The Greek temple portico styled front entrance. 
I'd never heard of the difference between Old and New Testament angels. Apparently, Old Testament angels are swift, strong, beautiful, wise and living. They protect, guide and admonish men and are present at times of battle and prayer. They personify virtue, wisdom and love. They appear mainly to warriors, builders, lawgivers and teachers. 
New Testament angels appear in their own personalities. They have free will and intellect and are manifest to execute the divine will. They offer up prayers and intercede for the faithful and incite men to do good and serve them in difficult times. 
The columns modeled after Trajan's Column in Rome.
But representing the columns on the Second Temple in Jerusalem. 
They show scenes from the life of St. Charles Borromeo.
I love this clock with angel wings. 
And more angels frolic along the outside of the dome.
And the architect's prize survives him not only in the design, but by what almost appears to be a medallion hanging from the exterior of the building itself.
St. Charles Borromeo was the cardinal archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584. He was active in the counter-reformation and helped push reforms in the Catholic Church and he was a nephew of Pope Pius IV. He is represented several places in the church. In the dome, one of the scenes shows the intercession of Charles Borromeo, supported by the Virgin Mary. My understanding is that intercession in this context means a prayer for the people of the world, reaching out to others, emulating God's own love for the world. The high altarpiece shows the ascension or apotheosis of St. Charles. My understanding is that this is St. Charles being raised up to a god-like or more than mortal status.
The intercession of Charles Borromeo by the Virgin Mary.
The apotheosis or ascension of St. Charles Borrmeo.
The ascension of St. Charles is the center of this amazingly baroque altar.
Above and to the right of St. Charles are St. Jerome and St. Augustine, two of the four Latin doctors of the Church. St. Jerome is portrayed traditionally as a half-clad anchorite, with a skull, and anachronistically, with the hat of a cardinal at his feet. 
Above and to the left must be the other two Latin doctors: St. Ambrose and Pope Gregory I. 
This apparently represents Yahweh, although a similar triangle on St. Anne's in Budapest represents the Trinity. 
When we visited restoration work was being done in the cupola. We were able to take an elevator, then stairs supported by scaffolding to near the top of the dome. At 236 feet the dome is about 19 stores high (figuring 12 feet per story). What was fun was seeing the bold bright colors so close and with so much clarity. I loved the light greens, blues, pinks, orange and purple. 
The dove at the top of the cupola. Often stained glass, I liked this painted dove.
The bright colors and fanciful paintings in the cupola were very fun.
A band with viola, violin, guitar, bass, organ, flute and other instruments.
Cherubs wrestle with an anchor.
Angels bearing up the cross, spear and crown of thorns.
This reminds me a bit of God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel, but the Adam-like figure here is an angel. 
Madonna feeding the Christ-child. 
A devilish figure with a snake and Miley Cyrus type tongue reacts to something above, along with a woman with a mask and what looks like a mad-theologian.

Dwarf-like figures grab for coins.
I love the representation of wings on the angels. 
Christ in his red robe, perhaps returning to earth during the Day of Judgement.
I've covered the elements of St. Charles Church that I really loved, but I include a few more pictures. St. Stephen's in Vienna is much more historic and famous, but we all loved St. Charles much more.
A close-up of what looks like a painted fake marble pillar. 
A profusion of gold.
The underside of an arch.

The organ - up above a doorway.
The stairways up to the top of the cupola. This is only after taking an elevator ride up to a platform. A long ways up.

St. Charles is taken care of by the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, a religious order which originated in Bohemia (the Czech Republic) which was devoted to offering medical care. The members have traditionally used weapons and it has been recognized as a military order by several popes and several Holy Roman Emperors. It traces its origin to 1233 when some Franciscans attached to a hospital in Prague under a community of Poor Clares, established by St. Agnes, Queen of Bohemia. It is the only male religious order founded by a woman and the only Bohemian founded order. 

1 comment:

  1. The clock with wings--I think it illustrates the phrase "Time flies." I loved this church and am glad we were there during its interior remodeling so that we could take the elevator and stairs to the top of the cupola. Seeing the ceiling paintings up close was fascinating because the distortion the artists used to compensate for curvature and distance was so much more evident. From the ground level the figures look normal, but from a few feet away they are misshapen. Even without the cupola experience, St. Charles Church has a spectacular exterior and interior marked by a profusion of intricate details. Loved it.