In the darkness of night, while the people of Konstanz, Germany, slept, a 29.5 meter high statue weighing 18 tons was brought to the harbor and erected in mid-August 1993. The statue and design were created by sculptor Peter Lenk and remained physically “under wrap” for five days until April 24 when it was unveiled.
People gathered in the harbor that day and little by little the dark wrapping around the statue revealed a striking woman with a large bust barely hidden by her dress. More scandalous, however, was that she held in her hands two small naked figures: Pope Martin V and Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund.
You could only imagine what was going on in the minds of the people of Konstanz when they saw the statue spinning on its axis, completing a circle in four minutes. Maybe when I heard the statue was called a sex worker Empire things started to make sense.
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Empire is located on the edge of the harbor of Konstanz on Lake Constance, or what the Germans call Bodensee. She is one of the first things people see when they arrive by boat and is eagerly sought out by tourists who come by land. In 2018, Konstanz’s Director of Marketing and Tourism told Südkurier that of the 6 million people who visited the city, 1.6 million visited Empire.
“It is a work of art that arouses curiosity and should not be overlooked. It spins on its axis, making it a moving target for the eyes,” explains Thea Mostyn of the Konstanz Tourism Board to The Daily Beast. “The image is absolutely beautiful and contains an exciting, informative story.”
In the 1990s, the Bodensee Ship company and the tourist association of Konstanz commissioned Peter Lenk to create a statue. Lenk is a German sculptor best known for creating satirical sculptures and art, often related to nudity or human genitalia. His work, such as Friede sei mit Diran artwork depicting the large genitalia of a former newspaper editor on the side of a building in Berlin, and Ludwig’s Erbawith naked German politicians such as Angela Merkel, has sparked controversy and debate across Germany.
“Peter Lenk had not disclosed any details about what exactly [the statue] would be. He invoked artistic freedom and offered to tear it down if he didn’t like it,” Mostyn said.
In 2018, Südkurier reported that 1993 mayor of Konstanz, Horst Eickmeyer, knowing Lenk’s reputation, told the artist: “Do what you want, but please don’t attract naked women.” Lenk promised, but secretly worked on the statue. At the big unveiling, Empire was clearly dressed, but it was what she represented that caused controversy and intrigue in Konstanz.
To understand the meaning behind it Empire, we must look to the past. In 1409 the Roman Catholic Church was with three popes and thus in an era called the “great schism.” After the papal election of 1378, the church split into two factions, each supporting a different pope: Gregory XII in Rome or Benedict XIII in Avignon. The Roman Catholic Church tried to right itself again in 1409 with a new election at the Council of Pisa, but this just resulted in a third pope, John XXII.
Not pleased with the schism, Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund pressured Pope John XXIII to convene the Council of Constance in Constance, Germany. From 1414-1418, the council worked to elect a new pope and reform the church so that a schism would not happen again.
During the four years of the Council of Constance, Catholic priests and cardinals used the services of about 700 female sex workers, according to Ulrich von Richenthal who wrote the council down. (Some sources say it was closer to 1,500 women.) Empire is representative of these sex workers who were paid for their services by the holy men of the council.
Lenk chose the name ‘Imperia’ from Honoré de Balzac, a 19th-century French novelist who wrote La Bella Imperia (or The Honest Empire). The satirical fictional piece tells how priests and cardinals of the Council of Constance visited brothels, mentioning one sex worker, Imperia, in particular.
Balzac described her as such: “Imperia was the most precious, the most wonderful girl in the world, though she passed for the most dazzling and beautiful, and the one who mastered the art of cheating cardinals and softening the most hardened soldiers and oppressors.” best understood. of the people.”
Imperia was a fictional character, but Lenk thought it an appropriate name for his statue. After all, she holds the naked Holy Roman Emperor in one hand and Pope Martin V (who was elected at the end of the council in 1417) in the other, pointing out the irony of this moment in history when holy men did things that considered the church ‘unholy’.
At first, the city’s opinions on the creation of Lenk were divided. “The majority were open-minded and found the figure appropriate and beautiful. A not-so-small minority, mostly conservatives and devout Catholics, refused to accept it and called for the removal of “the thorn in the side,” Mostyn said.
Although there was a brief “battle of letters to the editor in the local press” nearly 30 years later, Empire is now an important and celebrated part of the Konstanz landscape. Her presence no doubt sparks conversations about sex work and how the profession has been around for centuries, serving even the highest levels of the Catholic Church from time to time. It’s no wonder she’s a favorite stop on city tours.
As Mostyn said:Empire has become an essential part of the city’s skyline. Most Konstanzers (even those who originally disapproved of her) wear Empire in their hearts and almost every guest is captivated by her.”