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Karlskirche


A Vienna landmark: The Church of St. Charles of Borromeo, commissioned by the Habsburg emperor Charles I, designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, finished in 1639. The official reason for the choice of a patron saint was that St. Charles helped to fight the plague. The disease “visited” Vienna twice in less than thirty years. Of course, the match of the saint’s name and the emperor’s did not go unnoticed: most of the iconography and symbology is double-sided, at once suggesting the power of faith in God as a path to salvation and asserting the God-given right of Charles to govern the Habsburg empire. The church is a gem of Baroque architecture (if you go in for that kind of thing): puttis on pink and white clouds rise in grand spirals toward the pastel-blue sky, they raise the saint toward the trinity bathed in golden light, and the beauty of faith (symbolized by the chalice) spurns the dark demons that are being cast down from the height of the marbled columns topped with gilded capitals and burns sacrilegious books (there’s alwas something evil about too much knowledge, isn’t there?), etc. And sarcasm aside, it is an awing building in its sheer size. The real highlight is that visitors are now, during a multi-year project to restore the majestic frescos that adorn the main dome, able to ride a “panorama lift” up from the floor of the dome to the ceiling. This allows one to investigate the giant frescos at close range. It is fascinating to compare the view from the floor with that from the scaffold. For example, the faux statues that surround the base of the dome appear well-lit and marbled from the floor; at close range one sees the large "detail work," large dots of gold leaf that make the frescos appear luminescent. At the end of the tour, you can climb a final staircase to the lantern of the dome for a wonderful view of central Vienna, as well as a close-range view of the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit and the Pollock-esque column decoration that looks "marble" from the floor. Definitely recommended as a stop on your tour of Vienna.


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