Figure with spread legs has had its head sawn off

Sculpture of the "birthing Mary" in Linz Cathedral destroyed

Vienna - Not for the faint-hearted: The figure of the Virgin Mary giving birth with her legs spread apart was supposed to open up a new perspective on the incarnation of God – in St Mary's Cathedral in Linz. She did not survive.

Published  on 02.07.2024 at 08:59  – 

The sculpture of the Virgin Mary giving birth in St Mary's Cathedral in Linz has been destroyed. As reported by the online portal ooe.orf.at and confirmed by the Diocese of Linz, the head of the sculpture was sawn off on Monday morning. The police have been called in. "Whoever removed the head of the sculpture acted very brutally," said the artist of the statue, Esther Strauß. This shows "that there are still people who question women's right to their own bodies. We must take a firm stand against this," said the artist.

The sculpture called "crowning" shows a woman giving birth sitting on a rock on a plinth in a chapel in St Mary's Cathedral in Linz. "Most portraits of the Virgin Mary were made by men and have therefore often served patriarchal interests," said the artist herself, explaining the background to the sculpture, which can no longer be viewed.

Episcopal vicar dismayed

Johann Hintermaier, Episcopal Vicar for Education, Art and Culture, also expressed his dismay in a statement: "We were aware that we were also provoking discussion with this installation. If we have hurt people's religious feelings, we are sorry, but I strongly condemn this violent act of destruction, the refusal to engage in dialogue and the attack on the freedom of art."

The modern statue of the Virgin Mary is part of the "DonnaStage" project, which, to mark the 100th anniversary of the consecration of St Mary's Cathedral, is exploring issues relating to women's roles, family images and gender equality in art installations, workshops and discussions. The sculpture "crowning" was part of a series entitled "Artistic positions on the Holy Family" and should have been on display until 16 July.

According to Martina Resch, theologian and co-initiator of "DonnaStage", the aim of the project is to create a space for critical discourse and to promote the ability of religion and the church to embrace plurality. Art opens up the opportunity to develop new perspectives in order to critically reflect on the foundations of faith. "The sculpture by Esther Strauß is a very poetic work that shows the natural birth of Jesus. Mary is shown in her vulnerability but also in her strength," says Resch. (KNA)