July 14, 2013
So, yesterday I went to the mountains… Rather than enjoying the lovely summer weather by engaging in some outdoor activity, though, I spent most of my time there in dusky old churches, taking photos of medieval wall-paintings. The bulk of my trip was spent in the small village of Pürgg in Styria:
With its old houses and its blossoming front gardens, Pürgg really is the epitome of a picture-postcard village. And the landscape around it isn’t bad either – especially the Grimming, an isolated peak rising to the height of 2351 metres (about 7711 feet):
Indeed, the entire region is well worth seeing – the region, by the way, being the Enns Valley which the knitters among you may have heard about. The Enns Valley has its own tradition of twisted-stitch knitting, and in 1982-1985 a local school-teacher, Maria Erlbacher, published three volumes of traditional knitting patterns from that region.* Erlbacher’s books have been reprinted several times, the latest edition dating from 2004/5, and since 2009 a one-volume English-language edition is available from Schoolhouse Press**, the specialised publisher on knitting founded by Elizabeth Zimmermann.
Some samples of Enns Valley knitting are on display in the local museum at Trautenfels Castle which is only a few kilometres from Pürgg. Unfortunately, though, I was too busy with my wall paintings to find time for a visit to the museum. The closest I came to anything knitting-related on my Saturday trip was therefore this 12th century wall painting…
…in St. John’s Chapel in Pürgg. This chapel houses one of the most important sets of Romanesque murals in Austria and here, as you can see, in the Annunciation the Virgin Mary is shown spinning, a detail which one finds quite frequently in medieval depictions of the scene.
And while I’m tempted to show you some more of the hundreds of photos I took of medieval wall paintings, I believe it’s perhaps better to conclude this with another view of the stunning Enns Valley landscape:
** Maria Erlbacher, Twisted-Stitch Knitting: Traditional Patterns & Garments from the Styrian Enns Valley, Cary Bluff – Pittsville: Schoolhouse Press, 2009. More details on Ravelry (link) and on the Schoolhouse Press website.
April 26, 2013
Last weekend I was in Carinthia, to do what art historians generally do, i.e. look at paintings and other old stuff in churches. Ok, not all art historians generally do things like that, but for those of us specialising in the Middle Ages it is pretty common…
One of the churches on my list for the weekend was the parish church in the small town of Althofen (pictured above). However, I got there on Sunday morning, and that is always a bad time to visit churches. It’s that time, you know, when stubborn priests and parishioners will often insist on actually using the church for mass and worship rather than leaving it to roaming art historians. How dare they!?
Thankfully, though, in the course of the last couple of weeks, winter has finally given way to summer in our parts (while spring seems to have taken a sabbatical this year). This meant that waiting outside the church for mass to be over was actually quite nice. It was warm and sunny, and as an added bonus there were some lovely flowers to look at. Behold, yellow poppies:
And for quite a while, a bee, a poppy and a zoom lens was all it took to keep me entertained:
And, in case you’re wondering, I did finally make it into that church. Which was quite cool and well worth the wait:
In some respects, though, the parish church at Althofen is also slightly weird. While it is essentially a late medieval structure, extensive “restoration” work has been carried out at the beginning of the 20th century, and it seems that they didn’t quite manage to put all the pieces back in their original places. But the weirdest bit was probably this:
I mean, installing modern lamps in a gothic vault can sometimes be unavoidable, but seriously, what were those people thinking?