Jana Gunstheimer. Artist. Germany.

watercolor on paper.
Canonization (recognized as a saint)/Heiligsprechung (German-term of the Catholic church)
State Authority for National Heroes
In 1976 the Austrian federal government decided to create an institution that would be responsible for canonization as part of the celebration of 1000 years of the country’s existence. Exceptional people would be granted access to high public esteem and entry in the annals of popular or national heroes. The real reason for creating the institution was to generate high revenues, supplied voluntarily by the Austrian people- careful consideration of every application, expert reports, witness’ expenses, the provision of documentation, printing costs and room decoration during ceremonies etc. in fees and taxes was calculated to cost at least 120’000 Austrian shillings. The Authority received over 1’000 applications in its first year. However, none of the applicants in the first year was deemed worthy of elevation to this rank. In fact, during its investigation of applicants, the institution discovered that the majority were not only not popular heroes, but ironically enough they were also criminals (All applicants had to disclose personal information and allow the institution to investigate them.) Essentially, citizens were paying $$ to the state while simultaneously reporting their own crimes to the police. After enraged protest from the Austrian people, the institution shut down in 1981. By then, 8’625 applications had been received. Today they are held in a storage shed in Vienna.

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