Born: February 20, 1872, Tallinn, Estonia
Died: October 31, 1942, Minusio, Switzerland
Lived: Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion, Minusio (6648)
Buried: Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion, Minusio (6648)
Buried alongside: Eduard von Mayer
Find A Grave Memorial# 176225946
Around 1900, many neo-religious groups expressed their desire for a new beginning in mostly utopian architectural plans. Apart from serving as visualisations of a disengagement from institutionalised churches, these designs were also intended to turn new devotional rituals into a collective experience. Although many designs for temples emerged, only three were implemented and have survived until today: Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum in Dornach, the Bossard Art Centre near Jeesteburg – and the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion in Minusio.
Address: Via Rinaldo Simen 3, 6648 Minusio, Switzerland (46.17375, 8.8105)
Type: Administrative Building (open to public)
After the original plans to build a “sacred castle” to Clarism in Eisenach failed in 1925, the Sanctuarium was built in Minusio in 1926 and extended by a rotunda in 1939. The building’s façade features skilful references to temple designs of the day, and to Italian baptistery architecture of the Renaissance, but also to the palace architecture of Palermo. The visit to the Sanctuarium was planned as a pilgrimage with the railway station as the starting point. The cultic structure that determined the further progression first became apparent in the entrance area inside the building. This order primarily reflected aspects of the Claristic faith. In analogy to contemporary Percival productions, visitors were guided through a confined “tomb bridge” into the light-flooded last building where “Die Klarwelt der Seligen” (The Clear World of the Blissful) awaited them. In his will (1960), Eduard von Mayer left the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion and all its contents to the Canton of Ticino and the property to the municipality of Minusio on condition that the gardens should be made accessible to the public. It was not until 1968, after the canton had initially rejected the donation that the community decided to accept this gift. The material that is necessary for a better understanding of the pictorial and philosophical oeuvre was to be kept in a cupboard on the ground floor. The paintings, the urns with Elisàr von Kupffer and Eduard von Mayer’s ashes, and family heirlooms were to remain in the building. Furthermore, the gardens were to be maintained. Today the men’s legacy is distributed across different places in the community. Most of the surviving paintings, fragments of the former library, and the literary remains can be found in a room of the former sacred building. The inventory in its entirety has yet to be undertaken. Thanks to Harald Szeemann, it was possible to save the monumental cyclorama “Die Klarwelt der Seligen (The Clear World of the Blissful)” from destruction. Two decades ago, it was installed at Monte Verità where it can be visited under provisional circumstances. The Centro Culturale Elisarion opened in 1981. The institution’s programme is dedicated to cultural projects in the community of Minusio.
Who: Elisar von Kupffer (February 20, 1872 – October 31, 1942)
Elisar von Kupffer was a Baltic German artist, anthologist, poet, historian, translator, and playwright. He used the pseudonym 'Elisarion' for much of his writing. At the age of nineteen, Eilsàr was sent to the German St. Anna School in Saint Petersburg where he concluded his schooling. In the nearby village of Levashovo he met Eduard von Mayer who, like Agnes von Hoyningen-Huene, a girl of the same age, was to become an important friend, and later on, also his life partner. He studied at St. Petersburg and then Berlin. After travels in Italy from 1902 to 1915, he established himself as a fine-art painter and muralist in Locarno, Switzerland, with his partner the historian and philosopher Eduard von Mayer. From 1925 to 1929 they transformed their Minusio villa (at the Lake Maggiore) into an opulent collection of art, the 'Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion'. From 1981 this has been a Museum dedicated to von Kupffer's work. The couple were at the heart of a religious movement called the Klarismus (in English: 'Clarity'). In 1899/1900 Adolf Brand published von Kupffer's influential anthology of homoerotic literature, “Lieblingminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur” in Berlin. The anthology was reprinted in 1995. The anthology was researched and created, in part, as a protest against the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde in England. His work was also published and reviewed in the gay magazine Akademos published by Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen. He was also a photographer, making photographic studies of boys for use in the creation of his paintings, but more often his own rejuvenated form can be seen as a subject of his art works. Eduard von Mayer was born in Analowo near Saint Petersburg as the seventh child of Charlotte von Mayer and the physician Dr. Karl von Mayer, founder of the protestant hospital of Saint Petersburg. The von Mayer family was of German descent and belonged to the Ukrainian aristocracy. On 15 August 1891 — by this time he had already finished school — he became acquainted with Elisàr von Kupffer in the garden of his parents’ villa. Elisàr later described him as “completely wound up in his feelings, very hospitable, but unapproachable. It was this acquaintance that finally helped Eduard von Mayer to distance himself from his pietistic upbringing and to pursue his interests in theatre and fine arts. From 1897 onwards, the events in his life coincided almost completely with those in Elisàr von Kupffer’s life. Together they developed and corroborated in the theoretical writings on Clarism. In spite of — or in his opinion — because of his highly developed intellect, Eduard decided to defer to Elisarion’s work and to withdraw his authorship. “That which I came to understand and herewith affirm” he wrote “is the fruit of life from Elisarion’s tree.” Eduard von Mayer spent the years after Elisarion’s death in 1942 documenting and securing their communal achievements. During four years of work, he not only assessed the library of the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion, but also created an inventory of the surviving letters, sketches, drawings, plans, and paintings which included 2400 items.
Queer Places, Vol. 3 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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