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October 11th, 2010 by Leo Plaw

Ernst Fuchs Klagenfurt Apocalypse Chapel Completed

Ernst Fuchs Apocalypse Chapel

Ernst  Fuchs Apocalypse Chapel

After 20 years, the Apocalypse Chapel of Ernst Fuchs is finally completed. Klagenfurt has been enriched with a fascinatingly beautiful attraction. The completion was celebrated on the first of October with an official ceremony.

It is more than half a century ago, Ernst Fuchs, one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, first entered the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem to begin a depiction of the “Last Supper”. When he once again, decades later, visited the Holy Land to continue his monumental work, he met at the Tel Aviv airport, the Carinthian theologian Karl Matthew Woschitz. From the chance meeting developed a friendship, which had lasting impact upon Klagenfurt.

From 1989 onwards, Fuchs would spend two to three months a year in Woschitz’s home parish to attack his masterpiece. In Jerusalem he was occupied with Jesus’ Last Supper, while in Klagenfurt it was the Apocalypse. In the converted weekday chapel of St. Egid, Fuchs found the perfect setting for his apocalyptic vision, which was closest to his heart. On his 80th birthday, Fuchs had said of the chapel mural and the monumentalLast Supper also hanging there, “I had resigned myself to the thought that I would complete them both that so too my life would come to an end; or rather a new life would begin. There is no death.

His herculean task is now complete. Approximately 160 square meters of oil painting engulfs the viewer, providing eerily beautiful views of a, “world behind the mirror in the unconscious and archetypal, in the sublime spaces and depths of the human soul“, as Karl Woschitz puts it.

“High drama” says the artist of the grand finale of world judgement and redemption, rendered in in translucent egg tempera. He is not concerned about the work being seen as a theatrical gesture or a stage prop. On the contrary, Fuchs in his 1966 book, “Architectura Caelestis” clarified the aim of his painting as to portray, “all the glorious kitsch, which has been banned by the trend dictators“. And indeed it abounds in the chapel, as the vibrant colourful characters next to the alter demonstrate, being familiar, yet surprising.

There are many angels among them“, explains Markus Mair, the town priest, whose features the artist has prominently immortalized. In a corner of the cavernous chapel, he is depicted as the prophet John busy with a long scroll, the Book of Revelations. Not far away there is a doomsday scenario: jet planes roar through the sky illuminated by Christ, as the Titanic and other ships perish in the sea. There upon the canvas mounted to aluminium frames, is a lively juxtaposition of biblical and secular figures. Directly below the Whore of Babylon loll provocative pin-ups next to a motorcycle, astronauts pose in front of a massive rocket. The father of 17 children knows only too well the human condition.

Except for the sacrifice of Isaac, all the scenes of the Apocalypse are represented: the heavenly Mother, the Book of the Seven Seals, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the New Jerusalem, and Archangel Michael, who thrusts his lance into the seven-headed beast.

The complete work, which was presented to him in a “mystical vision”, is an act of devotion to God. He even designed the undulating floor of Carrara marble, which flows out from the altar. Father Mair: “He drew the pattern on a napkin in a Viennese restaurant. Such a genius has done the Apocalypse of St. Egid a great honour “. “It’s even better than I had imagined“, says Fuchs, who counted Salvador Dali among his fans, and similarly the Parisian writer Julien Green, who was laid to was by no small coincidence in St. Egid.

Source: kleinezeitung.at
Photos: Maria Antonia Gigi Schramek

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