Photo: The Angles descent in the Stephansdom.
Early June, I passed Stephansdom at about 9.30 pm, and I noticed that the cathedal gates were wide open. I stopped and had a look inside, ad as soon as I passed the threshold, the view was out of this world. Heaven, it seemed, has descended to earth.
In fact, the seating area was, except for services held, fully accessible that night, and people wondered about, stood in amazement or just contemplated in the dimmed light. I entered the main nave and was immediately caught by the calm atmosphere, created by the partial illumination of statues and baroque side altars, underlined with medieval chant – as it turned out, not live sung, but played unobtrusively from loudspeakers.
Only when I approached the front towards the magnificent high altar, built in exquisite marble in the 17th century, was completely covered by white panels. As I looked closer, I realized that those large panels had the shape of a dove or an angel. Preceding the sanctuary, there were more triangular panels hanging up a few meters above the ground between the massive, Gothic columns, and images close-up faces were projected onto them, fading in and after a few seconds fading out.
While I am standing in amazement and watching the light-sculpture evolve, I received a tab on my shoulder and one of the church wardens handed me a leaflet, which, he indicated with a gentle gesture, referred to this event.
‘Es müssen nicht Männer mit Flügeln sein, die Engeln’ (It does not to be men with wings, the angels) is the title of this project, realised by German artist Stefan W. Knor, and on display from May 30 to June 29, 2008 after the late evening mass from 8.00 – 10.00 pm every day. Admissions is free, and the project is formally, of course, an independently sponsored event. The timing, however, considering with the European Football Championships taking place right now, is not entirely accidental.
The warden explains that this temporary installation, is an addition to the ongoing football events and hopes to invite spiritual contemplation for some of the 100,000s visitors. And, of course, they cathedral hopes to raise more small donations for its refurbishment.
However, I wonder what the face projection means and what the relation is to the angel symbolism. As I glance through the leaflet, I find the explanation for the concept in a foreword by clergyman Toni Faber, when he says:”that even we as ourselves can be angels for other human beings.” He invites all everyone “to discover and experience the cathedral in a new, different way: Heaven and Earth touch each other there.” So, I sit down on on one of the wooden benches and imerge in the spiritual atmosphere.
This is an excerpt, the full article will be published in July 2008 in The Vienna Review.