Austro-Hungarian empire, funeral rites, traditional sculpture

In Pictures: Kaisergruft, Vienna

November 30, 2011

An inscription reads Silentium and it is almost tempted to leave this post right there and allow these snapshots to speak for themselves. They are not a sight for chatter.

But I wanted to share the impression made on me by these tombs in the Austrian capital. It was like encountering a fleet of dark limos or a batallion of war machines.

Riding in these chariots to the afterlife are former members of the Imperial Hapsburg dynasty. They fill more than 100 ornate, unique sarcophagi dating back to 1633.

The death rituals in this family would make those of, say, mine look as lightweight as cremation to the sound of Robbie Williams with a balled up pastel Kleenex.

Hapsburgs cut out the heart and entrails of their deceased and buried them under two major places of worship. Only then was the corpse clamped in metal here.

Towers in the sky characterise most cities today. But it may be crypts and cemeteries which provide them with gravity.

Christ on the cross takes second place to a positively grinning skull with a broadsword.

Maybe Robbie’s Angels would be an appropriate tune, but preferably a death metal cover.

Another skull. You would think this sort of thing would be upsetting for the surviving family members.

It was said the sun never set on the Hapsburg empire. Mexican influence, perhaps.

Ornamentation piled on. Not hard to see what local architect Adolf Loos was reacting against.

Shame about the scaffolding. But needless to say there were no whistling builders.

The spookiest detail was this woman in a veil, wandering endlessly with the shades.

Kaisergruft is at 1, Tegetthoffstrasse, Vienna. Open 10am-6pm daily.

2 Comments

  • Reply Pastor Tom Hughes August 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Mark Seerin can I have your permission to publish these pictures in my book on skull and crossbones as a Christian symbol?
    Thanks
    Tom Hughes

    • Reply Mark Sheerin August 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Tom,

      I should think that would be okay. I’ll email you with a couple of questions about the book.

      Best,
      Mark

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