Saint and Martyr, John of Nepomuk

The Charles Bridge has 30 statues that line the balustrades on each of its sides. The statue pictured here is that of Saint John of Nepomuk; it was installed in 1683 and is the oldest statue on the bridge.

John was born in a small town in Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic) in the 14th century. He studied canon law in Prague and Padua in Italy, and eventually became the head vicar of a large cathedral in Prague. At this point, John ran afoul of Wenceslaus IV, the king of Bohemia, over the appointment of an abbot to a powerful abbey in Bohemia. To add some spice to the stew of religious nonsense that John got caught up in, there were two popes at the time, one in Rome and one Avignon, France. Naturally, the two popes were antagonists quarreling over the kind of stuff that religious types always seem to be fighting about; you know, god, beliefs, doctrine, all of which generally boil down to money and power. In the case of the abbot’s appointment, the king’s man was favored by the pope in France, while the choice of the Archbishop of Prague, John’s boss, was supported by the pope in Rome. In the event, John appointed the archbishop’s nominee. The king threw a hissy fit and, on 20 March 1393, had the hapless head vicar tortured and thrown off the Charles Bridge to drown in the Vtlava River. John was canonized some 300 years later; there was only one pope in Rome at the time.

Belvedere Garden, Vienna

Belvedere Garden is based on the design of the French garden at Versailles. The Garden slopes down gently from the Upper to Lower Belvedere, which is the building with the red roof at the end of the promenade. The Garden has great water features featuring classical or mythical characters spouting fountains of water high into the air. The domed building on the right belongs to a Catholic church, which is not part of the Belvedere.

Vienna is full of statues of mythical, bare-breasted female figures. The statues are highly stylized and, I assume, not expected to be taken seriously as representations of women. What an arm! Looks like this girl could bench press a couple of hundred pounds without taking a deep breath. This statue and a partner out of the frame to the right sit in front of the main entrance to the Upper Belvedere pictured here.

A sign tells visitors this is one of several fountain statues called the Large Cascade. Apparently, when the Garden was built some 300 years ago, a complex system of pipes was installed to force water out of the mouths of the fountains, and keep it flowing downhill towards the Lower Belvedere. Today, I presume electric pumps are doing the heavy lifting.

The Upper Belvedere from the southern entrance to the Garden. I really could not have asked for a nicer day to visit this place.

The main entrance to the Lower Belvedere is shown here. Prince Eugene, the military leader who had the entire Belvedere complex built to serve as his residence in Vienna, used this building as his house; I wonder if he ever set foot in all of the rooms the place has during the years he lived here. I have no idea what he did with the Upper Belvedere. Maybe he had a big family. Today, both facilities serve as museums.

At play in front of the Lower Belvedere.

Ludwig von Beethoven in Bronze, Vienna

The Beethoven Monument pictured here was unveiled in 1870 and is the centerpiece of Beethovenplatz. Beethoven was one of several musical geniuses who spent some or most of their lives in Vienna. In fact, a plaque on the wall of the school overlooking the statue informs us that Franz Schubert was a student at this gymnasium. I came upon this tribute to Beethoven by accident while walking from the Stadtpark subway station to the Hofburg and other historical monuments to Vienna’s glory days. Excellent way to start my walk.