Gothic Gargoyles in a Snowy Graveyard
January 15, 2013
Long-time readers with good memory may perhaps recall a post I wrote ages ago, way back in December 2010, which was called White Hanukkah. It talked about some of the amazing 19th century tomb monuments and mausoleums in Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof [Central Cemetery] and featured pictures of them under masses of freshly fallen snow. The original plan for that post had been to take photos of one monument in particular, the mausoleum of the Gutmann family, a fine Gothic Revival building which I figured would look pretty in the snow. However, when I got to the cemetery it turned out that the Gutmann mausoleum was in the course of restoration and looked like this:
As you can imagine, this wasn’t quite the picture I had had in mind, so I resorted to taking pictures of all the other monuments nearby. Well, not all of them, because there’s an incredibly large number of them in the Zentralfriedhof…
Since then, however, the restoration of the mausoleum has long been completed, and so, after we had some massive snowfall on Sunday night / Monday morning, I decided that it was finally time to complete the task I had set myself back in 2010. So without further ado, let me present to you the Gutmann mausoleum in the snow:
Like many of the other monuments I talked about in that old post of mine, this fine piece of architecture is situated in the old Jewish section of the cemetery and was designed by architect Max Fleischer (1841-1905). As you may recall, Fleischer was pretty much the hero of the White Hanukkah post, but since it’s more likely that you do not recall, let me repeat some of the stuff I wrote about him previously:
“Between 1883 and 1903 [Fleischer] designed no less than three Neo-Gothic synagogues for Vienna’s then large and prospering Jewish community, and several more for other cities of the Habsburg Empire. Most of these buildings, of course, didn’t survive the bestial vandalism of the Nazi Regime, and today we only know about their appearance from pre-war photos, architectural drawings and virtual reconstructions.
So today, if you want to get an impression of Fleischer’s work in Vienna the best address is none other than the Zentralfriedhof. For Fleischer didn’t only provide the city’s Jewish community with places of worship but also with individual burial places in a wide range of architectonical styles. The most famous and also the most beautiful among those tomb monuments is certainly the Neo-Gothic mausoleum of wealthy entrepreneur Wilhelm von Gutmann, designed by Fleischer around 1892/93.”
Indeed, the Gutmann mausoleum not only stands out among Fleischer’s works but among all of the monuments found in the Zentralfriedhof. This is partly due to its extraordinarily large size: With its three open arcades it is one of the largest tomb monuments in the cemetery. But it is also due to its fine craftmanship and its richness in architectural detail, including crockets and pinnacles, tracery and blind tracery…
…and, as in any proper Gothic Revival building, an abundance of gargoyles:
Speaking of the Gothic Revival, the choice of style may seem somewhat odd since both Fleischer and Gutmann were Jewish. “Gothic Revival architecture, on the other hand, when it first became fashionable in Austria in the mid-19th century, was clearly denoted as being a decidedly Christian building style. By the end of the century however, this particular style had mostly lost its Christian connotations and was embraced by all members of the bourgeois upper class regardless of their religious affiliation.” (The bit in quotation marks is, once again, taken verbatim from that 2010 post…)
To conclude, here’s one more picture of the mausoleum in the snow:
P.S.: Yes, I’m aware that in my last post I mentioned something about not wanting this blog to turn into The Snow Blog. Well, can we just pretend I never said that?