May 3, 2017
Back when I was a student one of my summer jobs was working for a painting company in Horn, Lower Austria. Among other things the company specialized in the restoration of churches, and the project I was assigned to was the restoration of the inside of the ''Maissau Pfarrkirche'', the church of the parish of Maissau.
The whole inside of the church was scaffolded and most men were working on restoring the ceiling paintings and carefully ''washing'' old huge paintings on the walls.
My job was to remove the angels and other gilded items from the baroque altar, clean and polish the gold leaf finish, and then reinstall them (click on last image to enlarge). This was a rather delicate and laborious job, and details about how this was done and my interaction with the parish priest are in the notes below.
So what does that have to do with wine you ask?
Well, there is a fair amount of wine growing around Maissau, and every day the men working in the church sent out an apprentice to the vintners with the mission of getting free wine. The apprentice was instructed to use a ''You want to get a really nice church, don't you?'' argument. It worked. There was not a single day when the apprentice did not come back with at least one ''Doppelliter'' (two liter bottle) which we then enjoyed with dinner.
This ''blackmail'' worked - the church turned out beautifully!
The cleaning and polishing of old gold leaf covered artifacts works like this:
First you clean the gold using a clover brine solution applied with a soft brush and then you rub it off carefully with the soft inside of dark bread so as to not damage the delicate gold leaf. Then you polish it with a rounded agate stone mounted on a handle. Needless to say this created a lot of wasted bread.
One day, as I was sitting on the communion rail with an angel in my lap and surrounded by a thick layer of breadcrumbs all over the floor, the priest came out of the sacristy, looked at the mess and said ''I think it's a sin to waste so much bread.''
I replied ''Well, do you want shiny angels or not?''
''Carry on.'' he said and left.