Saturday, January 15, 2011

Art and Shiny Things

The Taking of the Christ - Caravaggio
You want great art and historical relics?  We got 'em.

Yesterday I made it to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (see an excellent photo, obviously not mine, here), an imposing edifice jam-packed with hundreds of works by great masters, especially Rubens.  As I'm a big fan of Caravaggio (see right), it was a nice surprise that the museum focused several rooms on the three works of his they have, and a number of other artists influenced by him.

The other major stop yesterday was at the Schatzkammer, the royal treasury of the Hapsburgs.  Now, I'm not big into looking at jewelry, royal gowns, and whatnot, but my goodness, some of the items they made and put together were pretty stunning.

The highlight was a viewing of the relics of the Holy Roman Empire, which has figured prominently in a couple of books I've recently read.  You'll see three of the items below, including the Holy Lance (left), which the first emperors believed made them invincible in battle (and seemed to for a while).

The museum also featured a number of relics (crosses, stands, etc.) purporting to contain pieces of Christ's crucifixion cross, John the Baptist's tooth, and the like.  Most if not all of these are fakes, if only because the sources of these relics wouldn't have provided enough material to make all of them.  But, in Medieval times, having a relic in one's church or town was of immense value to raising money and rallying people around the banner of the faith.

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