St. John Nepomuk, Würzburg, Photo: Malcolm Wren
St. John Nepomuk, Würzburg, Photo: Malcolm Wren
 Ihr Antlitz wenden
 Verklärte von dir ab.
 Die Hände dir zu reichen,
 Schaudert's den Reinen,       
Those who have been transfigured turn their face away from you.
Those who are pure are too horrified to reach out to you.

It is as if the ‘evil spirit’ who is tormenting Gretchen in the cathedral in Goethe’s Faust is refusing to use the word ‘saint’. The pious girl had turned to the church and to the Virgin Mary for comfort but she is told that none of the host of heaven will intercede for her. It is perhaps not surprising that Goethe (who was raised as a Lutheran and was not noted for devotion to the church) was keen to show that a ‘fallen woman’ could be redeemed without the active intervention of the sacraments or the intercession of saints, but it is more surprising that Schubert, who lived his whole life in Catholic Vienna, seems to have avoided setting poems that involve saints.

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