Imperia * Cristine Bo


The statue of the medieval prostitute Imperia by Peter Lenk is situated at the harbor of Konstanz in Southern Germany, only a few hundred meters away from the art border to Switzerland. The art border was - and probably still is - the first border marked only by artwork, underlining the possibility to take a stroll through a park from one country to the other (even from the EU to Non-EU territory) without any official intervention by border patrols whatsoever. Unfortunately, during the Corona lockdown, even this part of the German–Swiss border was closed for several weeks, which means it became instantly a meeting place for now separated friends, lovers, families to talk, have a drink and even make music across the two fences that were being set up. The voluptuous statue of Imperia tells a story of an even more open and international city: From 1414 until 1418, the Council of Constance took place here – a gathering for clergymen from all over Europe to decide which of then 3 popes should be the only ruler of the Catholic Church. This meant that during these years the red-light district grew immensely, with some prostitutes having a certain influence on their religious visitors and the decisions they made in the council. Balzac himself wrote down the story of one of them: Imperia. I think the mask she wears these days (which was put up overnight, nobody knows by whom and how, as the statue is 9 meters tall and slowly rotates) stands not only for the obvious, but also for the fun part of life – being close to others, having a chat, enjoying a night out and partying – which these days came to a sudden necessary but at the same time very unpleasant halt.