At the time around 1760 when Josef Stammel was working on his group of figures for ‘The Four Last Things’ he was also busy with another sculpture: his so-called ‘Universum’ ‒ the Universe. On completion, this was displayed under the central cupola of Admont Abbey library. Documentary evidence shows that, for unexplained reasons, the sculpture was removed from the library in the early 19th century to be replaced by Stammel’s ‘The Four Last Things’. Together with archaeological, ethnographic items and artworks that had been collected at Admont, the ‘Universum’ was transferred to a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ that had been set up by Abbot Gotthard in the North Tower. However, the ‘Universum’ and the cabinet of curiosities were destroyed in the 1865 fire at the Abbey.
This sculptural group, some 4 meters in length, was unique in the annals of Baroque iconography. With its wealth of figures and reliefs, it offered a miniature representation of the world with all its phenomena and manifestations. It can be seen as an interpretation in sculptural form of the knowledge of the time, a counterpart to the repository of knowledge in which it was originally on display. This ‘microcosm’ conforms to the intellectual ideals of the Enlightenment. A contemporary of Abbot Gotthard wrote: “He (the Abbot) deserves to be remembered for his efforts to bring light to the Abbey through encouraging the spirit of enquiry.”
Around 1860 ‒ just 5 years before the major fire ‒ a series of stereoscopic images of the more outstanding features of the Abbey were prepared. One of these shows Stammel’s ‘Universum’.
Today, visitors can admire this historic image in 3D with the help of a stereoscope viewer in the Abbey library.