In my humble opinion the Baroque style is often misunderstood, especially in Bavaria. It is usually considered retrospectively, from the standpoint of its final manifestation, the Rococo. The final, but light-hearted luminescent dream of a disappearing world gaily prancing towards its end. Personally I understand the Baroque, and in particular the Roman Catholic version, as the ultimate attempt to grasp and experience the earth and the sky, including God (one wasnt particularly modest in those days), as a stage and to take it serious as such. All the world was a stage. Role and reality merged into one, so at least it seems to me. Roman Catholic churches became places of ritualistic performances both sombre and sublime, which drew on for hours and in which even the tiniest prop, the smallest gesture had a function and a meaning. Baroque.
It was in Spain where I found the most extravagant stages for such performances. Most impressive when an entire city or town is flooded by ritual in a huge procession. To me, that represents pure high Baroque; to be more precisely Spanish high Baroque. Possibly Velazquez or Greco, accompanied by the dark grandiose majesty of the music by Cristóbal de Morales or Tomás Luis de Victoria. I am well aware that I might broaden the meaning of Barock with those! Enriched by thick clouds of incense wafting around, and ones gaze fixed to a picture of a saint in any of Spains cathedrals filled with Incagold. One imagines the single beat of a drum, soon other drums join in rhythmically, and one is swept away in a procession out of the church and transported on to the uplifting autodafé an act of faith However thats how I picture it. A huge event staged for an execution, maybe, during which some heretic, an apostate or perhaps just a pitiable Protestant is to be reconciled with the only true religion, which of course is Roman Catholicism. An union of the majesty of faith and a societys act of purification, which subsequently and rather nicely turns into a fair. Entirely Baroque.
The Spanish word verdugo means hangman, deathsman (executioner). Interestingly, verdugo originates from the Latin word viridis, which stands for powerful, young, full of sap; the Spanish word for green, verde, has the same Latin root. This certainly is a considerable shift of meaning, especially in regards to the hangmans profession. However, if one considers the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating funerals and the proverbial schöne Leich (beautiful corpse) in Old Bavaria and Austria, which in the face of mortality adds extra spice to the lust for life, then the idea of death being a greengardener in the field of life may not be too far-fetched. I am horrified by this thought. Yet arent the Roman Catholic pictures of saints, from which I can never discern which lust for life they celebrate, also horrible? The official doctrine has it, of course, that it is the bliss of entering paradise, of the ascent to eternal life after martyrdom on earth. However, there has always been another lust, focused on another kind of paradise. It is the one which is quite aptly called little death. Quite flirtatious. And already Rococo.