Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Author's note: I'm just back from my long weekend in Budapest, but I never got a chance to blog about my weekend in Vienna in October with my old friend MJ, so the next few posts may jump around a bit.

In the past 18 months, I have visited more churches then I can count. Although I'm closer to agnostic than believing in any particular faith, and I rarely enter a church for a religious service, I can never pass a church or synagogue without wondering what it looks like inside. I'm fascinated by the effort and devotion that the building of these churches must have required and by the beliefs that sustain them.

While wandering around Vienna with MJ a few weeks ago, we stumbled across the Karlskirche. Although it's monumental and one of the top landmarks of Vienna, it hadn't really been on our radar (Vienna is all about the art of Gustav Klimt for me), and it was a surprise to see it looming over the landscape.

Naturally, I had to go in. Normally, I am not crazy about the monumental, grandiose churches, instead preferring the smaller and more intimate buildings, but everything about the interior of Karlskirche won me over. Somehow the architect was able inject enough natural light into the building to create a warm glow in the space. The rosy pink and gold interior is welcoming and although the the church is huge, the decor is light enough to make it feel airy instead of cavernous.

Karlskirche is still undergoing restoration of its beautiful ceiling, which allowed us to take an elevator up to the dome.

The elevator let us out onto a temporary scaffolding structure at the widest part of the dome. Just being at that level was enough to make me gasp with pleasure at the close up views of the paintings meant to be seen from the floor of the cathedral several stories below.

The visit got even better when I realized I could climb another temporary staircase to the top of the dome. I had butterflies in my stomach as I started the ascent, when every step brought me closer and closer to the ceiling and the paintings.

I was still giddy with the proximity of the art as I descended the stairs, and going down my senses were working on overdrive as I felt like I was walking straight into the air - not an experience for those afraid of heights!

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