Three Things Thursday

It’s time again for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Psychology of Baroque Art and Architecture

I never took an art appreciation course in college. Over the years I picked up on the fact that Baroque art and architecture are heavily ornate and complex, but on this trip through the heart of Europe I learned why.

The lovely Baroque churches of Europe were created to demonstrate visually for a mostly illiterate populace the grandeur of God and His heaven.

(Click on images to see a larger version.)

1. Ceiling of Benedictine Abbey Church, Melk, Austria

Our tour guide at Melk’s Benedictine Abbey explained that the church was built as an audience for God. The ceiling presents a portrait of the beauty of God’s Heaven.

Ceiling, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria
Ceiling, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria

2. The Pillars in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

The bottoms of the church’s pillars are ordinary, unadorned, to demonstrate the plainness of everyday existence on earth.

St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau, Germany
St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

3. Top of Pillars and Ceiling, St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The bottoms of the pillars suggest the drabness of human existence on earth, but as congregants look upward, they see the beauty and grandeur of Heaven in the gilt and ornamentation higher up. This use of decoration served to remind people that Heaven is better than earth and that they should follow the church’s teachings if they wanted to end up in Heaven.

Ceiling, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau, Germany
Ceiling, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

Bratislava, Vienna, Melk

(Click on photos for larger version.)

June 3, Bratislava

In the 16th century Slovakia became part of the Hapsburg Monarchy and benefited from the enlightened reforms of Maria Theresa (1740–1780) and her son, Joseph II (1780–1790). In 1919 Slovakia joined with Czechia to form Czecho-Slovakia, a nation whose independence was limited by its strong economic, military, and political dependence on Germany.

Castle, Bratislava
Castle, Bratislava

It was later conquered by the Soviets, who turned Czechoslovakia into a pro-Soviet Communist country, which lasted until the fall of Communist in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. In 1993 the Slovaks and Czechs into separate countries, a peaceful agreement known as the Velvet Divorce. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

Statue of Napoleon, Bratislava
Statue of Napoleon, Bratislava

June 4, Vienna

Austria continues to honor Maria Theresa, the last Austrian Hapsburg, who died in 1780. Although the family no longer rules, several family members are active in both politics and business in Europe.

Statue of Maria Theresa, Vienna
Statue of Maria Theresa, Vienna
Early Gate, Vienna
Early Gate, Vienna

Vienna prides itself as a city of music. On the evening of June 4th we attended a chamber music performance featuring music of Mozart and Strauss. For me, the highlight was the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.

Chopin plaque, Vienna
Chopin plaque, Vienna
Ticket sellers in Mozart dress, Vienna
Ticket sellers in Mozart dress, Vienna

June 5, Melk, Austria

The Benedictine Abbey at Melk, built between 1702 and 1736, sits on a hill high above the Danube River. It originally contained a royal wing, kept ready for the possibility of a royal visit. Monks lived in other parts of the abbey. The monastic community of Melk is more than 900 years old. Today about 30 monks live there and run a monastery school with more than 700 students.

Royal Wing, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria
Royal Wing, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria

The monastery’s library contains more than 80,000 medieval manuscripts on a variety of subjects. The interior of Abbey Church is an amazing display of Baroque art.

Interior, Abbey Church, Melk, Austria
Interior, Abbey Church, Melk, Austria