Sculpture of the Virgin Mary giving delivery is beheaded in Austrian cathedral | EUROtoday

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A sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary giving delivery to Jesus has been destroyed simply days after it went on view at a cathedral in northern Austria and drew criticism from some Catholics, who condemned it as sacrilegious.

The Catholic diocese of Linz mentioned in an announcement that the Virgin Mary’s head was sawed off early Monday morning in an act of vandalism. The work, titled “Crowning” by Austrian artist Esther Strauss, is not on view, and the incident has been reported to the police, the diocese mentioned.

Johann Hintermaier, episcopal vicar for training, artwork and tradition, apologized to these whom the piece could have offended however denounced “in the strongest possible terms this act of violence and destruction,” calling it an “attack on artistic freedom.”

Strauss mentioned the vandal “acted very brutally.”

“For me, this violence is an expression of the fact that there are still people who question women’s right to their own bodies,” she mentioned within the diocese assertion.

Organizers behind an internet petition calling for the sculpture’s elimination write that the delivery of Jesus is taken into account sacred and such an specific depiction “destroys precisely this sacredness.” The petition has obtained greater than 12,000 signatures.

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“Crowning” went on view at St. Mary’s Cathedral on June 27 as part of a wider undertaking taking a look at ladies’s roles and gender equality in honor of the a centesimal anniversary of the cathedral’s consecration, the diocese mentioned.

Developed particularly for the house, the sculpture referenced a Nativity scene on the cathedral created by Sebastian Osterrieder. It supposed to indicate the delivery of Jesus from a feminist perspective, in keeping with the diocese’s web site.

After the incident, Alexander Tschugguel, a traditionalist Catholic and conservative Austrian activist identified for throwing statues of the Andean deity Pachamama into the Tiber River, celebrated the sculpture’s destruction, calling the work “blasphemous” in a submit on social media.

Tschugguel additionally shared an announcement he claimed was from the perpetrator, wherein he mentioned that he tried and did not get in contact with the diocese to precise his disapproval. “In view of this abominable and blasphemous caricature, urgent and decisive action was required,” the assertion mentioned.

Strauss isn’t the primary modern artist to face controversy for an of-the-moment tackle a biblical determine. In 1999, then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to terminate the Brooklyn Museum’s lease for displaying a Chris Ofili portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with elephant dung. Earlier this yr, greater than 22,000 individuals signed a petition protesting what they noticed as a “homoerotic” portray of Jesus commissioned to rejoice Easter within the Spanish metropolis of Seville.

Strauss’s work is a major departure from imagery historically related to the Virgin Mary, who’s extra generally seen being visited by the angel Gabriel, holding the infant Jesus or immersed in prayer. “Crowning,” in contrast, reveals her within the throes of childbirth.

“Most images of the Virgin Mary were crafted by men and have therefore often served patriarchal interests,” Strauss mentioned within the assertion. In this work, Strauss added, “Mary gets her body back.”

Martina Resch, a theologian on the Catholic Private University of Linz and one of many organizers behind the show, confused that guests had been launched to the sculpture “very gently.” When they entered the room, they first noticed Mary’s again and “had to approach her and find their own perspective,” she mentioned.

Resch mentioned the piece captures Mary in her uncovered state, “but also in her strength.”

Kate Brady contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/07/03/virgin-mary-birth-sculpture-beheaded/