Saturday, 5 August 2017

Karlskirche, Vienna

The Karlskirche is one of the iconic buildings of Vienna. When plague struck Vienna in 1713 and took nearly 13000 Viennese victims, this part of Vienna was wooded meadows alongside the Wien river. Today it is the axis of a huge open space in central Vienna. Indeed planners have argued over the centuries how to organise the huge space with this gigantic masterpiece as a backdrop. Johannes Brahms lived just round the corner from it. The famed Musikverein concert hall is within easy walking distance. Yet the first time I saw it back in the late 1960s it seemed to be out on a limb and rather dingy. Inside seemed too short and dark. In fact it is 262 feet long and 197 feet wide.Today is very different..
Emperor Charles VI pledged this church for the plague victims and dedicated it to St Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584 a former Archbishop of Milan and saint of plague victim). In the contest to design it, the victor was Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. He worked on it until his death in 1723 and his son finished it in 1737.
The building symbolises Church and Emire with the cross on the dome the power of God and the two triumphal arches the power of the Emperor. The porch is like a Greek temple and the huge columns remind one of  the column of Trajan in Rome. The two huge bell towers have even been said to be pagoda like.
Inside the 236 foot dome Gaetano Fanti created trompe l'oeil paintings at the lower edge and Johann Michael Rottmayr, in 1725-30, the huge fresco of St Borromeo begging the Trinity to end the plague. Rottmayr also did the smaller paintings in the choir vault, chapels and above the organ.Back in 2007 major work was being undertaken in the dome. Our photos show the restoration of the frescos. A huge platform has been erected and visitors can still  use this to get astounding closeup views of the ceiling. of the dome as the restoration continues.
The high altar was designed by Fischer von Erlach shows Borromeo rising through the clouds toward the Divine Light. This and other stucco work is by Albert Camesina.
During our visit this spring in 2017 we went to Saturday night Mass where local soldiers were having a special occasion in full uniform and the organist entertained us with music in the best possible taste (some doubtful vibrato effects).

Dome view

Dome view

Borromeo in the dome

Another view of the dome

High altar

High altar

View into dome with scaffolding

Another view of the scaffolding

St Peter's Vienna

This exuberant Baroque masterpiece right in the centre of Vienna is on the site of a 4th century church. It was commissioned in 1703 by Emperor Leopold I and designed by a number of architects - notably Gabrieli Montani. However it was completed by 1733 under the supervision of the great Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and it is with his name that the church is usually linked. It can be viewed as a triumphant remodelling of St Peters in Rome.
The wonderful fresco of the Assumption in the dome is by Michael Rottmayr.The pulpit is by Mathias Steindll. The statue of St John Nepomuk to th eright of the choir is by Lorenzo Mattieli. The painting above the high altar of the healing of hte lame man at the Beautiful Gate by Peter and James is by MartinoAltomonte.
My memories of  it include a Sunday Mass concluded with Bach Fantasia in G BWV572 : it doesnt get better than this! Then at Christmas they have a display of historic and new cribs in the crypt.
To get the atmosphere try the  first video below starting with bells, then the horse drawn carriages and the church interior - brings it all back so vividly. The other video is a rehearsal for Bach Christmas Oratorio.

                                                      Bach Christmas oratorio

Jesuit Church Vienna

We first discovered this church in the Old City in November 2007 and went back to hear a liturgical performance of a Mozart Mass with orchestra. It was packed. This was founded as the University Church when Emperor Ferdinand II entrusted the Jesuits with the University. It was built 1623-31 and remodeled by Andrea Pozzo 1703-5. In particular he added the twin towers and modified the front.
This early Baroque church faces an imposing square. and can be found in the narrow streets near the St Stephen's Cathedral. The interior is notable for the tromp l'oeil effects in the main nave by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709). His most famous work is the dome effect in St Ignacio in Rome - possibly the greatest piece of illusionistic painting ever achieved. Therefore it is great to see his dome here at the Jesuit church painted on a flat surface! Almost unbelievable but this is kind of effect is a key element in some Baroque buildings He also integrates his painting of the Assumption into the architecture of the building and ensures it is lit by cunning narrow window openings. Alas I was unaware of the authorship of these masterpieces when last I visited earlier in 2017, We shall return. The photos are ours except for the two from Wiki Media Commons.

Pozzo's dome. Photo from Wiki Media Commons
Assumption behind high altar by Pozzo from Wiki Media Commons

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

St Michaelis Hamburg

Last chorus from JS Bach St John Passion

The "Michel" is the most famous church and landmark in Hamburg. Its 436 foot high spire makes sure of that. This Baroque version of the church on this site was begun in the 1750s after a major lightning strike destroyed the previous one in 1750. The architects were Johann Leonhard Prey  and Ernst Georg Sonnin.Then there was a major fire in 1906 followed by a replica rebuild in 1912 and destruction in the Second World War. Therefore what we saw in December 2014 was a modern reconstruction in the original 1750 Baroque style. The huge pillar free nave seats 2500. The white and gold decorations are uplifting, particularly as there was a large choir and orchestra rehearsing in the gallery. No idea what it was but it was one of those heavenly moments : pity my little video below  is so poor in quality but it gives a flavour...There are no less than 5 organs in the church! It is possible to go up the tower and remarkably we did not do it. We are the veterans of so many towers (Cologne, Prague etc etc) and I read that it is amazing so maybe we shall return. I am so pleased that I have been in the city where Georg Philip Telemann was the Musical fountain head. Apparently CPE Bach is buried here. I missed that : he is much more highly regarded and recorded in Germany.


Friday, 14 July 2017

St Peter's Munich

St Peter (Alter Peter)  is the oldest parish church in Munich and somehow I always end up going inside every time I visit. The first building on site was in the 12th century. The second was consecrated in 1294. A major fire in 1327 left only the western section and it was reconsecrated in 1365. It was constantly being extended. Externally the stumps of the earlier towers were kept witha new central tower with cupolas added. The view today is brilliant.There was a Gothic altar by Peter of Straubing in 1376. The present cupola over the high altar was completed in 1621. In 1630 the old Gothic choir was demolished and replaced by the present 3 leafed clover style with 3 conches. The nave was revaulted in the 1650s and by 1654 the external appearance was as today.A new high altar was designed by Nikolaus Gottfried Stuber. The old statue of  Peter by Erasmus Grasser (1492) is surrounded by the four Church Fathers by EQ Asam (1732). The cupola above the choir has work by Nikolaus Gottfried  Stuber, rfeworked by JBZimmermann. The interior was badly damaged in the last War and restored in the 1980s. The central aisle now resembles a street of triumph : Gothic with embellishments : a successful merger of styles.JBZimmermann was buried in the chiuurchyard. His frescos dedicated to Peter were reconstructed by Hermenegild Peiker 1998-2000. There is a Klais organ from 2003 which no doubt speaks loudly down the nave, I look forward to hearing it one day!

High altar (Flickr Benedict Koehler)

External view of tower  (Flickr Roger W)

View over toward Heilige Geist Church

View toward Old Town Hall

The nearby market is full of unresistable treasures


Sunday, 14 May 2017


In June 2016 we were touring North Germany and came across references to the Baroque churches of the Altes Land near Hamburg. This is Protestant country and I did not know what to expect. We drove through  a small town with rain bucketing down. I had to use an umbrella just to walk a few feet to enter a centrally placed church. Imagine my surprise seeing this church interior ! Galleries and wonderful wooden decoration! The organ was being tuned - alas!St Martin and Nicholas goes back to 1148 and was unusual  because it was built of stone (hence Steinkirchen) not the usual wood. A major reconstruction took place 1687-1785 with its Baroque make-over. The galleries come from this time  and a wooden bell tower in 1696. The organ by Arp Schnitger was inaugurated in 1687, replacing one from 1581. This Schnitger gem has 5 registers from previous organs.

 Lübeck - Praeambulum in F - S. Tcherepanov

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Berg am Leimer

In December 2015 we had our Christmas Market 'fix' in Munich. The markets certainly brought out the crowds and a highlight was to attend Mass in the wonderful Asamkirche St Johann-Nepomuk about which more one day! I wanted to get out of the centre and see the former Court church of Berg am Leimer, as a contrast to the bustle of the city. This fine church was built 1737-57 for Clemens August, Archbishop of Cologne for his nearby Landschloss. The architect was Johann Georg Fischer.Now it is a simple parish church in a suburban outer area of Munich. We arrived as Sunday morning Mass was finishing and it was hard to get a decent look because the local official was keen to lock up the gates at the centre of the screen at the back of the church. This is quite common for Baroque churches to have a fine metal screen at the back which allows worshippers to pray without penetrating the body of the nave.What a joy to be able to worship in such a church every week!

There is stucco work and ceilings of the life of St Michael by JB Zimmermann, and with altars by the studio of JB Straub. Appropriately the high altar has a painting of St Michael overcoming Satan by Johann Andreas Wolff. The pulpit is crowned by a statue of ST Micael with the Bavarian flag, by Benedikt Hasler. Technically it is a wall pillar church with octagonal nave, narrower octagonal choir and transversly elliptical sanctuary of the same width.

The twin western towers are fine and present a dignified appearance - at least to this Baroque starved Englishman!

The photos are our own - the weather was beautiful.