The city of Laa an der Thaya lies on the northern border of Austria, which is one of the oldest borders in open landscape of Europe. It was built in the 13th century on rectangular floor plan with four large squares, which were intended as a rallying point for the Austrian troops. The Romanesque parish church, the fortified tower of the castle, the old town hall and the hospital also date back to this epoch. The squares are decorated with artistic monuments. One of the most striking was the oriel on the blunt southwest corner of the main square No. 8, the oldest inn in the city, also known as “The Golden Rose”. It was built right on this corner so that you could monitor the two main visual axes to the two most important city gates, which had been demolished between 1850 and 1860.

Underneath this round-arched bay two stone reliefs of a man and woman were differently placed which are called herms. They served as consoles of the two ribbed stone shells of the bottom of the oriel. The special feature of these sculptures were their attributes: for neither did their gestures nor the zodiac signs attached to their bodies correspond to the familiar religious or profane themes of the baroque: this suggests that they did not serve for the general public, but were intended as a power sign of a particular person. In the turbulent history of the city there was only one personality who could be considered for the construction of such a powerful facility: it was Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, Duke of Austria, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Silesia, and Margrave of Lusatia. He was the first monarch north of the Alps who consistently and radically transposed the ideas of the Renaissance in his empire, just as he was obsessed by astrology. He conquered the city of Laa in 1486 and had it “calibrated” by the visual axes emanating from the bay window which served to mark his domain. Also, the style of the two reliefs of Laa points to Giovanni Dalmata, the court sculptor of the king who previously was employed by pope Paul II. in Rome.

Decorative element from the tomb of Pope Paul II. © Louvre Paris.

The assignment to Mathias Corvinus would not only clarify the strategic importance of this place, but also reveal the peculiarity of the arrangement of the two herms. For these can be traced back to the six polarities which mutually condition each other. With these qualities this monument proved to be one of the most significant examples of contrasting meanings in art, forming the main access to the similar structures of Haggenberg Castle.

1. SPACE> POSITION: man in the niche inside – woman on the wall outside
2. PICTURE> GENDER: man – woman,
3. ARRANGEMENT> PAGES: man left – woman seen from the right.
4. ORIENTATION> VIEWS: man from South to North – Woman from East to West
5. EXPRESSION> GESTURE: man one-armed – woman arms crossed:
6. TIME>ZODIAC SIGNS: Lion Midsummer – Capricorn Winter.
The ruling planets are Sun and Saturn
7. POWER> SHELL: connection of the pair through love as the greatest force of universe.

The oriel of Laa no longer exists: On November 2, 2017 the two sculptures were chiselled out of the wall, and on January 25, 2018 without further contest the building as a whole was torn down including its enormous love-shells ending up in the debris. The two statues now stand inside the newly erected coffee shop as display. For me, this outline reflects the ignorance of our time over naturally grown art and culture – comparable to the destruction of the eponymous “Golden Rose” synagogue in Lwiw, the former Austrian city of Lemberg in the Ukraine in 1941. With the same slogan of purge – ” Outdated and obsolete conceptions are bound to make room for new ones”, this was generally approved the authorities and the public without even suspecting that something was at stake.

June 18th 2019 – Market day in Laa an der Thaya © Initiative Hagenberg

June 18th 2019 © Initiative Hagenberg

May 18, 2019 The two Herms hewn out of the bay window, cleaned and degenerated into display dummies. © Initiative Hagenberg. Note the incredible depth of the carved sculptures from her back !

HAGGENBERG CASTLE is the place, where reality and dream merge:
„Here is it, the true art that reveals our confused ignorance, our abominable arrogance, and our usual damnable error. This art is the clear light that graciously invites us to look at it, to illuminate our clouded eyes; Those who reject it remain blind, although their eyes remain wide open. This is the accuser of this criminal greed, who rapes and devours all virtues, the worm that gnaws constantly in the hearts of those he has captured, the cursed obstacle and the destroyer of gifted minds, the deadly enemy of good architecture, the hideous one Idol, which adores our century so unworthily and damn. Oh, deadly poison! In what misery is left the one you have seized! How many great works have been partially or completely destroyed?“

Quote Hypnerotomachia Poliphili 1499, the trend-setting dream book of the Renaissance.