Vandal Decapitates Controversial Mary Sculpture in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Linz

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Centuries-old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Linz, Austria, is the setting of a recent, grave act of vandalism. A sculpture capturing the divine moment of the Virgin Mary’s birth to Jesus has been vandalically decapitated. Displayed within the cavernous Cathedral, this piece provoked controversy among certain factions of the Catholic faith who deemed it blasphemous.

The desecrated sculpture was part of a larger artistic endeavor, exploring poignant themes such as gender equality, familial imagery, and the multifaceted narrative of women. Linz diocese had acknowledged this alarming incident last Monday and has since enlisted the involvement of local law enforcement.

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The identity of this rogue iconoclast remains shrouded in mystery, however, notable Austrian traditionalist Catholic, Alexander Tschugguel, has claimed interaction with the alleged culprit. In 2019, Tschugguel himself was embroiled in vandalism controversy during the Vatican’s Amazon synod, an event now known as the “Pachamama” incident.

Lauding the so-called “Hero of Linz,” Tschugguel shared an anonymous statement on social media, allegedly conveying the assailant’s motivation behind the act. In this message, the culprit expresses disillusionment at the diocese’s perceived dismissal of their emailed and telephoned complaints, thus prompting their brazen act of “necessary and urgent action.”

In defending his act, the vandal stated that the decapitation served as the quickest method to deface the sculpture so that it would no longer bear resemblance to Mary.

Rev. Johann Hintermaier, the episcopal vicar for education, art, and culture within the Linz diocese, has publicly impugned this act of desecration. While acknowledging the provocative nature of the artwork itself, he stands staunchly against this violent form of disagreement and assault on artistic liberty.

The violated sculpture portrayed Mary mid-birth, located centrally upon a pedestal within the cathedral, symbolically positioned to echo the manger scene. The Mariendom, another name for the cathedral, had marked this link in its official statement.

The artistic mind behind the contentious “crowning” sculpture, Esther Strauss, has joined the chorus of voices deploring the destruction.
Her aim behind the creation of the sculpture was to return bodily authenticity to Mary, countering the trend of male artists using Mary’s image to uphold patriarchal perspectives.

Strauss found the act of violence on her sculpture to be emblematic of the continued resistance to acknowledging women’s bodily autonomy, a stance she is ardently against.

Tschugguel, known for his notorious role in the 2019 act of thieving Amazonian statues from a Vatican church and pitching them into the Tiber River, is once again close to controversy. Delegates representing the Amazon in the Pope’s meeting brought the statues to Rome as indigenous faith symbols, however the traditionalist saw them as sacrilegious.

Ultimately, Italian law enforcement managed to retrieve the discarded statues and return them to the Vatican, drawing an apologetic response from the Pope towards the wronged Amazonian delegates. The statues were reinstated for the conclusion of the synod, highlighting the clashing ideologies within the Catholic church.