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Posted on on October 30th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Today, Sunday October 30, 2011, the day Europe moves the clock an hour backwards and prepares for the All Saints Holiday, preceded by some American Halloween parties, I went on a tour of inner Vienna City with people from the  Department of Development Studies/University of Vienna, and guests from Thailand.  Appropriately we met at the “Pestsaeule am Graben” the memorial to one of the black plague infestations that are part of the history of Europe.

I knew that this multi level monument was  a thank you note to Heaven for having helped the ruler of the time vanquish the Plague that was brought about as a punishment to the people for having strayed from strict Catholicism. I knew that the target of thanks was the Holly Trinity that is represented on top of the structure with events on earth at the bottom of the structure, and all sorts of angels as the go-in-between part of the column.  But what I did not know, until I heard the explanation from Vienna guide “Elisabeth” was that the column is in effect triangular at its base, and not quadratic as I was given the impression previously.

The number 3 is not only because of the theological Trinity, but what is more important in fact – the three titles of the Habsburg Emperors who Where Archdukes of Austria, Kings of Hungary, and Kings of Bohemia (that is basically the Czech Republic of today). They could not be Kings of Austria because they were already Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and as such rulers of Austria anyway – so they invented the non-existent previously Archduke title just to make sure that their title is more then the usual Duke title of European nobility.  The three countries that were the central kernel of the Habsburg Empire – the future Austr0-Hungarian Empire – have their crests depicted as part of the transition to the central part of the column from the starting triangular base.

Now we see the number 3 in the lower part of the structure morphing into the Trinity 3 of the top and people of the time had to be impressed of this transformation in their reverence of the Emperor who led them out of the misery of the plague.

To end this part of my narrative – let me say here that a fuller description of the Plague-column follows at the end of the posting – but I am sure you guessed that this posting is not about the column, and that I have indeed other things on my mind – but please remember the number 3.

When I saw this political importance of the number 3 I had to say aloud  that is great – it also keeps away the #4 and #5, so let me see how this applies to the Europe of today and the world that wants to see Europe as a united one to go with the G2 (China and the US) in order to turn the geopolitics to the trinity of a G3. And here, Dr. Wolfram Schaffar observed that the EU 27 divides by 3 and I saw the light that 27= 3×3 and I said – voila – this is it – we must get the EU aim at a G3 for its own survival. The plague is at its door if it does not unite.

The truth is that this morning I had a chance to see the papers and read my e-mail before leaving the house. I knew that the so called achievement of a financial rescue is built on the good will of China to fund the Merkel-Sarkozi agreement. But the papers say that Norway, India, Brazil – already said they are not interested in investing in EU paper I.O.Us.

I also read that China did not just buy Volvo, but SAAB as well. Does anyone believe that China will invest in just papers? Will they not require rather a pound of flesh? All this because the EU is not united in a way that tells the EURO-Printer to simply print out money the way the Greeks now say they wish they could still print old Drachma’s? We said this a long time ago that printing Federal Bonds is just a fake way of doing the same thing as printing directly currency. The people of Occupy Wall Street understand this – but the people who inhabit the Wall Street offices do not want to look in that direction because it would turn them back into what they were intended for – plain banks that store money and lend it – that is it. No financial monopoly games in bonds and derivatives of derivatives of loans. But this was not intended as a Wall Street posting. It was an EU Plague-piece inspired by the realization that a United Europe has all the attributes of a global power that has its own economy, currency and market size to sit at the global  table with China and the US, and while understood that India and Brazil will be next to be invited to this table.

You start looking at the economy-change plague caused by the high tech revolution in communication and production by standing on a triangular base (a binary system – based on 2 – is an oversimplification because the real world has further nuances. #3 is the minimum you can stand up with, if you move away from dictatorial #1 systems so the Trinity was a return to humanity from the strict monotheism of the Hebrews).  But let us not get further into this either, as we do not write on theology – but on plain old Europe that is now on the brink of economic extinction. The continent that colonized the rest of the World is about to be digested by others because of its economic fratricide. The papers in Vienna write about the Chinese leader that will be in Austria for two days on the way to the G20 meeting in France. I am sure Austria will role out the golden red carpet for him and take away some of his tourism time with business initiatives to be followed up later. Very good, but the best deals can be had between equals, and Austria is not the equal to China, and Ambassador Mayr-Harting, who represent not Austria anymore but the EU at the UN in New York, has really not a United EU propping him up in World negotiations.


I have seen Halloween spelled here this year as Hell-o-Wien   whatever this party tomorrow at the Ottakring brewery might mean. That is the day the full Boeing 747-400 of Air China will have deposited 160 members of an economic Chinese delegation headed by President  Hu Jintao, accompanied by First Lady Liu Yongqing, who will occupy appropriately the Imperial Hotel for two nights before moving on for a third night to the near SAlzburg Schlosshotel Fuschl that has seen many business meetings in the past. Considering the large presence in Austria of Free Tibet and Falun Gong groups, an entourage of 70 Chinese Security people came along to help direct the whole Austrian security manpower that will lay lame the city for the All Saints day which is not a working day here – but then all Government and Parliament people, not just the Austrian President Hans Fischer, will be at hand nevertheless. So it shall be done to the head of the most important financial Superpower these days. Having seen a photo of a well covered Austrian crack-Security fighter – I will attest that his looks were inspired by the seasoned warriors of the Middle Kingdom – or they got the uniform from the collection of the Museum of Armed Forces. But this was clearly not reciprocated as the Chinese come in a American made Boeing rather then  in an Airbus made in Europe. Maybe China will suggest buying the Airbus line and moving it to China. Actually why not?


The Wiener Pestäule or Dreifaltigkeitssäule can be found in the centre of Vienna?s most exclusive shopping street, the Graben. The word literally means “ditch” and refers to one that ran along the lane during Roman Times. Today, it is a rather strange blend of Gründerzeit villas with boutiques, tons of tourists, and a few Baroque remains.

Apart from a Baroque Palace and the Peterskirche Church, the most central Baroque eye-catcher is a sculpture that many foreigners find very unusual: The Pestäule orDreifaltigkeitssäule (meaning: Plaque- or Trinity Column) is a tower of clouds, saints, angels and Habsburgs (not necessarily in this order). It is the most important example of an entire genre of sculptures all over Central Europe.

At the base – which is triangular in its outlay – you find a kneeling Emperor Leopold I, easily recognizable by his enormous (and enormously ugly) chin. The Vienna Trinity Column is the most famous and oldest piece of a whole genreof columns that can be found in various cities mostly in Austria, Bohemia and Bavaria.

The Origin of the Trinity Column in Vienna

According to legend, its erection is directly linked to one of Vienna?s last really nasty plaque epidemics in 1679. As usual when things turned bad, the Emperor (Leopold I in this case) left the city immediately. But he promised to come back and erect a column to commemorate the events as soon as the plaque would cease. The reasoning was probably something like this: If god really wants a fancy column to his glory, he will stop bugging the Viennese with disease sooner than normal.

I don?t know to what extent this would hold up to contemporary theological concepts, but I do know that even art historians have difficulties with this explanation. In fact, trinity columns were a common tool for the Habsburg propaganda of the counter-reformation. They were built to impress and educate common people: About the glory of (the Catholic) god and why he is directly linked to the Habsburg family.

Back to the original story: Once the plaque had ceased, there was indeed a column erected in 1679. However, it was a very plain wooden one and nothing compared to the Trinity Column you can now see on the Graben. It wasn?t until the end of the Second Turkish Siege in 1683 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire that the Emperor decided to built a proper Trinity Column as a memorial for the Holy Trinity, to commemorate the plaque, the Turkish defeat and his own glory. This was a costly enterprise: Plaque, Turks and Protestant wars (such as the 30-Years-War until 1648) had prevented the Habsburg from accumulating too much wealth.

Pestsäule Vienna: Mother of all Trinity Columns

Between 1683 and 1693, various important artists of the Austrian Baroque worked on the design – most notably Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlachand Paul Strudel. The core of the column was made of brick, but the sculptures and relief structures on the outside are made of (often guilded) marble from the Untersberg in Salzburg. Only the statue of Emperor Leopold I is made of a different kind of marble from South Tyrol. Since the “opening” in 1693, innumerable PhDs were written on the Trinity Column and its implications for the Baroque age and the Habsburg Society.

The Trinity Column of Vienna became an iconic model for many similar projects in other cities of the Habsburg Empire. They are usually dedicated to the virgin Mary – partly because she is the patron saint for times of crisis, but also because the adoration of Mary is a typically Catholic feature. In the days of the counter-reformation, a pro-Mary statement was always anti-Protestant. The Vienna Trinity Column was renovated recently and is now a shiny landmark at the heart of the city just as it was in the 17th century.

Attractions nearby include the Stephansdom Cathedral, the Michaelerplatz and the Hofburg, the Albertina, the Staatsoper, the Minoritenkirche, the…well, it is in the centre of Vienna, so approximately 80 percent of the city?s attractions are within walking distance.


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One Response to “A pre-Halloween Sunday, The Trinity Column in Vienna (Pestsaeule), The European Rescue-Package that must be rescued by the visitors from China and the alternative of a United Europe that adds up to a true Global Trinity – a G3.”

  1. Dollie Says:

    A little rationality lifts the quality of the debate here. Thanks for cortinbuting!

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