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Austria: Stamp overprinted with new design ‘Basilisk’

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The Euro 0.51 definitive depicting Vienna's "Schonlaterngasse" (Beautiful lantern alley) is to become the first definitive with the new standard value of 55 cents to be artistically overprinted. For the new stamp the artist Adolf Tuma has designed a small portrayal of the alleyway's emblem, the basilisk, and placed it the centre of the house above the old price. The overprint was made in a special fluorescent colour.

Although the alley takes its name from the "Beautiful Lantern" which is depicted hanging on the house opposite the "Basilisk House", it is the basilisk house itself which is the best-known sight in the charming little old-Viennese alleyway. The house originates from the 13th century and is reputed to have had this name since 1212. The legend of the basilisk probably came about as follows: in the course of excavating wells the top stratum of the ground on which Vienna stands was breached. From the sand stratum immediately below acrid gasses may have escaped, which would explain the myth of the basilisk's poisonous breath. The emergence at the same time of a grotesquely shaped block of sandstone, typical of the kind found in the Viennese Basin, would have sufficed in those days of superstition and fears to give rise to the tales of the terrible monster with the poisonous breath lurking at the bottom of the well.

A large depiction of the basilisk appeared on the ATS 10, - definitive in 2000, today a smaller version adorns the "Schonlaterngasse" Euro-stamp.

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