Altötting, Bavaria, Germany.

Another personal fascination is for religious, particularly catholic ephemera and kitsch.  I have been visiting cathedrals, shines, collections and museums across the world for over 30 years and have built a collection of statues, prints, paintings and votives.

In the pursuit of extending my experience and collection a friend took me to the small town of Altötting, about 80 minutes east of Munich, the scene of religious pilgrimages by Catholics for over 500 years. Over one million pilgrims and visitors each year go to see the “Black Madonna” kept in the octagonal Chapel of Grace.

For me, the most fascinating aspect of the shrine is the hundreds of ex-voto paintings coating every inch of the exterior of the chapel.  They span hundreds of years, including one depicting an iron lung and several from WWII.

Altötting also has the ‘Jerusalem Panorama Crucifixion of Christ’. Housed in an unassuming, white, circular building is a monumental installation, a huge cylindrically shaped painting comprising 1,200 square meters. Constructed in 1902/3 by history painter Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939).  You view the painted scene from a central platform and the illusion is accentuated by full size scenery placed in the foreground.  You can view the construction by going below the platform and seeing the original rough wooden framework and plaster and scrim rocks etc.  Also intriguing is the construction of the roof; a circular canopy limits the light in the center of the space but allows natural light to fall on the painting.  This is the only light and therefore the weather and time of day outside, directly effects the atmosphere of the installation.

And if all this was not enough there is also the Mechanical Crib featuring 130 tiny automated figures, created in 1926-28. Housed in a small house down a side street, it depicts the story of Christ’s birth and other scenes from Bethlehem.