Vienna:: day trip to Geras Abbey (1:30 hour drive) and tour/travel back to Vienna/wine vineyard Austrian dinner/hotel in Vienna
This morning we had a come-and-go-as-you-please breakfast at the hotel and we jumped on the bus. There was a short walk to the bus today—I guess Hans didn’t feel like parallel parking a tour bus on a one lane one-way street, again.
We received great St. Norbert College news this morning! Tom Kunkel, President, has been interviewed by the BBC about his book, “Man in Profile.” Apparently, they’re anticipating 6-7 million listeners! We’re hoping to track down the interview later. If we track it down I’ll post it.
At Geras—we will be introduced to a bi-ritual (a word I’ve never hear before) Abbot, in Byzantine and Latin traditions. Founded as a double monastery, Pernegg and Geras were connected at one point. Pernegg began as a convent and has changed into an educational facility today. This is probably less visited as an Abbey due to size, location and resources. But never-the-less, it has the same sorts of stunning Baroque work inside. This Abbey has been torn down and rebuilt a few times. Their architecture tells the story of almost all recorded art history. It spans from before Medieval through Baroque with subtle and obvious examples of each of those styles, and some in between.
The church was built as Gothic, and was severely damaged. It was and later rebuilt in the 1600s. While rebuilding, the interiors were transformed into a Baroque space. The walls are polished stucco that appears to be marble upon first glance. There is an uncommon movement through the ceilings—the thicker sections cover old Gothic relief work in the architecture; the thinner sections are now plastered instead of stone and have frescoes in every opening. I found this transformation particularly interesting, once told about it, suddenly all the Gothic scrolls are noticeable and peeking out below the trompe l’oeil (trick the eye, painting 2D as 3D complete with perspective and shadows) columns in fresco. The fresco columns have a similar scroll painted on top, in a forced perspective.
We toured though the facility with the Abbot and they are most well known for Jakov Kern, who was Beatified by a former Pope. Jakov is from and his remains are at Geras. He was ordained priest but died on the day he was to take his Solem Vows.
We moved through the buildings looking at art and the library, chambers, the Byzantine chapel, church and so much more. They have a Byzantine chapel with Medieval Icons down the hall and all over the altar covering. There is a rather romantic description of the difference between iconography and that of perspective. Our guide describing perspective as the convergence of the orthogonals (lines of perspective) in one point on the canvas where with icons, the convergence happens at the one point of the viewer and spans out around the art, flattening it. There’s layers to the altar space, a screen of sorts covers the area from which the “Easter Light” comes from. The screen has areas of openings that allow you to peek into the back section, symbolic of the already here and not yet presence of the Easter Light.
They had many stories about their art and the movement through the pieces. One ceiling was rimmed with figures nearer and farther from Jesus. The Abbot told us this was an allegory of life and that it tells about how our lives are richer and better nearer to Christ. This ceiling mural was painted like a traditional painting at the boarder and as you looked toward the center, opened up toward the heavens, with figures reaching down into space. An angel holding the end of a cord in the mural, ended to be the chandelier in the room.
They also have the Guinness world record holding wooden chain, all from the same piece of wood, strewn throughout the building. It goes up and down the stairs, in piles in corners, and along the ceiling on the second floor. But don’t ask the Abbot about it, he asked it be removed a year ago, he told us with a chuckle.
Story upon story upon story there, no real surprise with a rich and long history. I’m sure I will be retelling them for a long time.
Today ended with a vineyard dinner in an authentic Austrian style. The food pallet, although delicious, was brown. Everything was deep-fried from pork and chicken to mushrooms and cucumbers.
The evening with live on in infamy in my mind–a relentless accordion player made it memorable for the entire group.
Tomorrow we take a river boat on the Danube to Bratislava and get on the bus there. We’ll travel to Trnava Abbey and Convent and then back to Vienna.