Helnwein: I spent a large part of my childhood in a fog of incense in the naves of cold churches, surrounded by martyrs writhing in ecstasy and covered in blood, flaming hearts wreathed in thorns, crosses, instruments of torture, mystical stigmata and dying virgins gazing in rapture towards heaven. The ‘bible picture book-comic’ the ghostly flickering red lamp, the Latin murmurings of the priest and the monotonous whispering of litanies and rosaries, the mummified corpse in faded brocade behind semi-opaque windows, the High Mass and processions accompanied by the ringing of bells – all this dug its way deep into my childhood soul!
Christianity is the first religion to have put pain, bleeding and death at the centre of its spirituality. For the first time, God is not only associated with triumph and cosmic power, but with human wretchedness, agony, fear, indignity, suffering, failure, succumb and death. Christianity has influenced the history, art and culture of the last 2000 years like no other ideology. But very early on I encountered a totally different, huge, new culture, which resulted in a culture shock to me: I met the man, that changed the course of my life: Donald Duck.