St. Julianus in the abbey church in Schlierbach
The visit to the Abbey in Schlierbach and the bones of Saint Julianus reminded me of an article about death that my students had to read for a response essay. The article was called “Death Is Having a Moment” and discussed the emergence of Death Salons around the Western World – see link to article: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/death-is-having-a-moment/280777/
The article mentioned a talk about bejeweled skeletons, especially popular in Bavarian, Austrian, and Swiss cultures it seems. A topic that was not surprising to me really shocked some students; most could not imagine what such a bejeweled skeleton could look like. A search online for jeweled skeletons provided images, plenty of examples of splendid pieces of art decorating the bones of mostly saints (for example, see this article with detailed pictures of skeletons: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/05/world/gallery/beauty-from-the-crypt/ ).
Interior of the abbey in Schlierbach
I did not expect to see a skeleton/saint in Schlierbach; it was not advertised in any way I noticed. But there he was, right up front but to the side of the main altar, not as bejeweled as some of the more spectacular examples online, but still impressive. None of the Austrians visiting the church with me paid much attention to the saint. It made me wonder whether Austrians are more open to discuss death and accept death as a natural part of life and culture as indicated by the article.
For an excellent online media tour of the abbey, go to: http://www.stift-schlierbach.at/fileadmin/panoramatour/index.html
Steeple of the church in Schlierbach
Ceiling of the Pilgrimage Church Stadl-Paura, a Baroque church built in the early !8th century since the town was spared the Plague
I’ve realized again on this visit that if you are not sure what sights exist in a town or if there is anything worthwhile visiting, you can always count on churches: even the smallest village seems to have one and I have never seen a church yet that was not rather amazing inside. Another advantage is that the church is also easy to find – easier than most other sights: it is in the center of town/village and/or on a hill with the best view, and if everything else fails, just follow the church steeple. It is usually the first sign that any type of residential area is nearby.
In Upper Austria, Baroque seems to dominate the interiors. Even churches that were built long before the time of Baroque often were retrofitted/redecorated to fit the new Baroque taste. Baroque is not everyone’s taste admittedly, but I am fascinated by the amount of details and gold; it seems that the architects thought “What else can we include? Where is another open square inch for a little cherub or a carved ‘curl’ in the pattern?” I can always discover something new no matter how long I am in the church.
Interior of the Abbey by Lambach, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1040 and remodeled in the Baroque style in the 17th and 18th centuries
Another detail of the interior of the Abbey In Lambach
I grew up with Baroque churches; deep down it was engrained in me by visiting just those types of churches that a “real” church needs to look ready to burst with decorations. I “blame” the experience with Baroque style for my decorating style at home – yes, more is better. What others might see as clutter and too much of ____, I see as normal. My adversity towards sparse spaces might have nothing to do with growing up around Baroque churches, but it is as good a cause as any.
Interior of the Abbey in Schlierbach, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1355 and rebuilt in the Baroque style 1672-1712
Outside of the Abbey in Kremsmuenster, a Benedictine monastery founded in 777; the church was completed in 1277 and 1680-1720 remodeled in the Baroque style.
The Interior of the Abbey in Kremsmuenster