Rounding any corner of the city streets brings one face-to-face with a magnificent cathedral or brought unsuspectingly onto the doorstep of a tiny but exquisitely crafted chapel, tucked unassumingly onto some little side-street. If there is ever reason to stand and marvel at the craftsmanship of men long gone us, it must be by gazing upon the any of the chapels and churches scattered across the city landscape of Austria’s capital.
Both inside and out, the interior and exterior of these places of worship reflect countless hours of work – the cumulative common-goal of innumerable craftspeople. From the apprentice just starting out in his trade, to the master who has honed his craft over several decades of practice, every level of tradesman was employed in the making of these buildings, confections of constructions as they are. The architects and builders; the masons and bricklayers; the joiners and carpenters; the roofers and plumbers (and later, electricians); the glaziers and glassblowers; the stucco-artists and sculptors; the lapidarists and the mosaicists; the guilders and the marquetrists; the plasterers and the painters – all working together for a single vision which is simultaneously the combined vision of all those multiple people involved.
I think more than any other building, it is these religious houses of worship which inspire me since I cannot but help think upon how the fashioning of a single structure represents the livelihoods and life’s work of so many people. Essential to what makes these buildings more than just excuses for overly-zealous artistic flourishing is the fact that they are designed precisely as places to worship and give thanks to God. I don’t think that any other reason could be enough to provide sufficient motivation for these labours of love, which required painstaking attention to detail, dedication and patience over extended periods of time. Think of the last time you painted your kitchen or re-wallpapered your living-room: that alone is usually significantly strenuous enough of an undertaking, that we resolve only to do so as infrequently as possible, never mind having to attempt something which these great artisans did!
Perhaps the next time you step into one of these historical gems, allow yourself a moment away from behind the camera and really seek to absorb with your eyes the reality before you: to think for a moment on all those persons who brought these great works of art alive, standing the test of time so that we can still now enjoy it today.