Cathedrals as Monuments (4)
Hold-to-light postcards were very popular at the turn of the century, especially for Christmas cards, or those with pictures of important sights and monuments. In this image of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, light streams through the windows of the church and the surrounding buildings, as well as from the moon and stars in the sky above it. Aside from the monumental nature of the church's neo-gothic architecture, the cathedral appears to dominate its surroundings, offering the greatest source of light in the image. As in other pictures of cathedrals, people seem to be included to underscore the church's massize size.
The somewhat contemporaneous hold-to-light postcard below contains a number of contradictory elements, at least for the modern viewer. It seems fashioned for Christmas greetings, but shows German troops marching triumphantly into Warsaw on August 5, 1915 in the foreground, while a cathedral is burning in the background, the flames being rendered by the hold-to-light portion of the card. Nationalistic touches are furnished by the German imperial flag in the center of the image, as well as the strips of bunting with the colors of the victors' flags in the lower left-hand corner of the card (Austro-Hungarian colors) and encircling the wreath in the upper left-hand corner (German colors). The juxtaposition of both the hold-to-light effect and Christmas theme with the burning cathedral and victorious soldiers seems odd to the modern viewer, but no doubt served to boost morale in wartime. In addition, the fact that the Germans used cathedrals in overthrown towns as focal points in their military postcards suggests the monumental status such churches possessed.