Friday, November 13, 2015

They Are Watching

Karlovy Vary Spa, Czech Republic
Vienna City Center Skyline
Today is Friday the 13th, and a great date to post on this theme on 'the watchers.' Here is a fun fact, my mom was born on Friday the 13th, not in November, but in January. I actually never knew that until after she passed. Not sure why? But she never mentioned it. It was my dad that said something a few years ago with just a hint of a raised eyebrow as if to say 'well you know why she wouldn't want to talk about it.' Hmmm, actually I'm not in the least bit superstitious. I find the concept to be a complete waste of time. One of my girlfriends growing up had a habit of not wanting to walk on either side of a pole. So if for some reason we got out of the car and I was on one side of the parking meter with her on the other, she'd come around to my side and say 'bread and butter." Can someone please explain what exactly that corrects in the world of superstition?

So the watchers. We found statues everywhere we went in Europe, but one of the most curious places was on top of buildings? They appeared to be teetering on the edge of the roof, as though they might take one more step and come tumbling down? We saw them all throughout our trip. We saw them in every country we were in. We saw them on top of buildings, on the front of them, above the doorways, on the sides, between windows. They seem to be a very common architectural design.

Austrian Parliament Building
I went in search of why exactly they would be so popular. The best answer I got was that during the Middle Ages as churches were being built statuary became a popular architectural design element. They used the buildings themselves as a canvas for a range of subjects from complex theological ideas to biblical tales to whimsical creatures. And I would say we saw all of this from the building in Rothenburg with the seven deadly sins in the facade, the castles of Bavaria, many of the buildings in the old center of Vienna, to the spa in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. They were simply everywhere.

The one in Rothenburg took over the entire front of the building called Baumeisterhaus or the Master-Builder's House. The facade includes the seven virtues (kindheartedness, motherliness, gentleness, temperance, courage, justice and wisdom - yes I had to look that up) as well as the seven deadly sins (gluttony, deception, falsehood, greed, lust, sloth and vanity - yes also looked this up). Gotta love a good medieval statue series to play out a few biblical stories. Particularly when it is now on the front of a restaurant to remind you of the sin of gluttony before you walk in the front door?

You can see the influence of Romans and Greeks in many of the statues, particularly in Vienna. Ah, Vienna. I believe it was my favorite city of the trip. It has such style, elegance and beauty. Dave and I absolutely fell in love with this city. I captured just a small sample of all the statues like this random blue Greek God (perhaps Hercules?) on a corner building, or like the Caryatid Pillars on a side entrance of the Austrian Parliament building. Vienna is a city of statues, and they were stunning.

The picture at the top of the post is one of the 12 statues representing the months of the year, which sit on top of the Mill Colonnade in central Karlovy Vary. You can read more background on the town in one of my previous posts. So why 12 statues representing months? I have no idea. None of the history to the town told me why the architect (Josef Zitek who also designed Prague's National Theater) decided to include them. Zitek was known for his Neo-Renaissance style; popular in the 19th Century throughout Europe for important public buildings like opera houses, theaters and palaces. Sometimes my study of history gives me the answers I'm looking for, and sometimes it doesn't. I don't think I really got a straight answer on all these watchers, but I did really love seeing and photographing them.


  1. My mom's city has lots of those statues on top of significant buildings...maybe I should research them like you did! The city center of Vienna is so grand. Love it!

  2. The watchers are so neat! I love that there is so much meaning behind the statues. I never quite understood superstitions either!

  3. I didn't know there were watchers! It's pretty cool in a creepy way! :) I don't get superstitions either and have never heard of the pole thing or saying 'bread and butter'. Interesting!

  4. You must have loved history classes in school! you always do your homework, thanks for sharing :)

    I never cared much about superstitions really! There is a saying in Spanish that goes like this:

    En martes ni te cases, ni te embarques ni de tu familia te apartes.

    Translates to this: Tuesday - neither should you marry, or ship out (take a trip) and neither be separated from your family.

    I believe it refers to 13 falling on a Tuesday it makes a nice rhyme in Spanish lol!

    Anyways enjoy your weekend my friend!

  5. I would have a field day shooting pics over there. And Friday the 13th is only bad luck if you are a Knight Templar. Although I will admit that I am a superstitious sports fan. If my team starts on a winning streak or wins in the playoffs to advance, I will have to do the same things and fix the same foods for each game thereafter. Last year I made Seahawks coloured cupcakes for every playoff game & drank Jones Green Apple Soda.

  6. I am not superstitious either (proving this fact is that I had to look up in your post how to spell the word- ha!) The watchers - I always thought - using only my theory as research, which is never enough! - that the statues were there to simply provide protection... Hmmm.... Regardless, I am always wowed by the intricate detailed carvings in these "monuments". One of your links stated that the artists were never swayed by the size/weight of the stone, and the engineering required to have it placed in its final destination. I find that fact alone fascinating!

  7. I know some people who are very superstitious, but it's never been for me!

    Very neat photos. I love all the sculptures and statues high up on buildings in Europe.

  8. Great post!!! Nice statues!!!
    Besos, Marcela♥

  9. I adore statuary! The myths and history behind them is always so interesting. Great post!

  10. I don't think my comment went through! I love this post! I love the sharing of all the history! I am not scared of friday the 13th. I think it's lucky! Hugs ;o)


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