Vienna in 2010

THE PLAGUE MONUMENTS

IN VIENNA AND BADEN

In both Vienna and Baden these stele are on the busiest thoroughfares of the towns, in the very hearts of these two cities: the next two photos show the setting of the Vienna stele-

and these photos show the setting in Baden:

In order to better understand these two monuments I consulted a 1966 article from a Royal Society of Medicine journal by Harold Avery ["Plague churches, monuments and memorials". Proc. R. Soc. Med. 59 (2): 110–116., click the link to read it yourself]

Avery says this about the Vienna monument:

The Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity was founded in Austria in 1652 to minister to the sick and plague-stricken and to spread and consolidate the worship of the Trinity. Through its influence during the plague that broke out in Vienna in 1679 a wooden structure was erected in the Graben consisting of a pillar surmounted by a group of the Trinity and with angels at the base. The Emperor Leopold I in 1687 replaced this wooden monument by a magnificent ornate stone structure to commemorate the end of the epidemic. It is known as the 'Pestsaule' or Plague Column . . . .

This Pestsaule of Vienna is the most ornately baroque of all the many plague columns which are to be found in Austria. Its general shape is that of a pyramid. At the base a group of figures represents the Victory of Faith over the Plague . . . Fides. a woman holding the Cross. stands over the prostrate figure of an old hag. On the next tier is the kneeling figure of the Emperor Leopold I praying to the Trinity to save his people; around him are the crests of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia. From this base rises a great pyramid of clouds with nine large and a great number of small angels. On the top are the figures of the Father and the Son and the Dove representing the Holy Ghost.

There are other figures on this monument, and we will use clues in the Avery article to identify one or two of them after we look it over in some detail, from top to bottom (keep Avery's description in mind):

I tried my best to get a clear shot of the Trinity on top but could not.  I had better luck with the Baden plague monument. We see its top, front and back, in these next two photos:

The back side of the Baden monument has a happy Mary Magdalene in a grotto setting, as you can see above.  We will return to this scene later.

The lower front side of the Baden monument has this depiction:

I thought this was Mary adoring her crucified Son, but it is a happy woman, representing Faith Triumphant acknowledging the basis for itself, adoring Jesus as her savior from the plague.

Now let's turn back to the front side of the Vienna monument.  I was NOT expecting this depiction of the plague as an old wrinkled up hag:

Does the fact that Faith-triumphant is depicted by a nice-looking female undo the sexism, if not misogyny, implicit in this depiction?  Evil is here embodied, symbolized, as an old, ugly, but powerfully built woman.  

[Until I read Avery, I thought the woman-angel duo were Mother and Son just as I thought the woman in Baden was also Mary, but, I was wrong on both counts {don't let the filenames mislead you if you download these photos}.]

I expected a monster, a dragon, to be slayed in this depiction. Not an ugly, old, wrinkled but not actually misshapen woman.  I feel that this is a "foul" depiction.  I wonder how an old, wrinkled woman would perceive this part of this monument?

Contrasting this horrific depiction with the almost happy and soothing Faith-triumphant scene in Baden makes me heavily favor the Baden monument.  I like the Baden monument's relieved, happy, exultant, positive attitude.

Who are some of the other notables on these monuments?

In Baden the one tied to a tree with all the arrows in him is Saint Sebastian, who miraculously survived numerous arrows. He was later killed by a deadly blow to the head, but the miracle stands.

In Baden I like this old saintly man with the dog, could it be St. Francis the animal lover? I don't know.  He has a walking staff in his left hand.

The Baden monument in one of its three main displays at the lower level shows a man, presumable a saint, praying.  I believe it is supposed to be Noah because there is a plaque with Noah's name on it nearby.  Also because this disaster is reminiscent of the Noachian disaster which Noah survived because he had faith. There is not a direct counterpart on the Vienna stele:

The Baden monument has been cleaned.  What was once yellowish is now very white.  This is especially noticeable when comparing the photos of Mary Magdalene in her grotto from this year and from 2003:

That is not just a difference in lighting.  I suspect it was very lovingly and thoroughly scrubbed.

Seeing the smiling Mary Magdalene again makes me smile, and also makes me wonder what this smile is all about.  And that is the subject of an addendum to this page, it compares this smiling woman in a grotto with other artistic depictions of Mary Magdalene in a grotto.

The skull supposedly signifies her direct association with Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus was crucified. (The addendum page may not be suitable for immature viewers).

     Discuss paintings of Mary Magdalene in a grotto

Arrive in Vienna once more

Repeat your walk in the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods)

Repeat your underground boat ride in the Seegrotte

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