Austria – Part Eight

21 Aug

Twenty years ago on vacation with our friends, we made a stop for one day in Innsbruck, but having three children with us aged from 3 to 7, we just visited the Alpenzoo. Now it was finally the time for a long visit to the city…..Sorry, long post….

Innsbruck is the capital city of the federal state of Tyrol (Tirol). It is located in the Inn Valley at the junction with the Wipptal (Sill River), it lies about half way between Munich (Germany) and Verona (Italy). Located in the broad valley between high mountains, the so-called North Chain in the Karwendel Alps (Hafelekarspitze, 2,334 metres or 7,657 feet) to the north, and the Patscherkofel (2,246 m or 7,369 ft) and Serles (2,718 m or 8,917 ft) to the south. Innsbruck is an internationally renowned winter sports centre, and hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics as well as the 1984 and 1988 Winter Paralympics. Innsbruck also hosted the first Winter Youth Olympics in 2012. The word bruck comes from the same root as the modern German word “Brücke” meaning “bridge” which leads to “the bridge over the Inn”.

Earliest traces suggest initial inhabitation in the early Stone Age. Surviving pre-Roman place names show that the area has been populated continuously. In the 4th century the Romans established the army station Veldidena (the name survives in today’s urban district Wilten) at Oenipons (Innsbruck), to protect the economically important commercial road from Verona-Brenner-Augsburg. The first mention of Innsbruck dates back to the name Oeni Pontum or Oeni Pons which is Latin for bridge (pons) over the Inn (Oenus), which was an important crossing point over the Inn river. The Counts of Andechs acquired the town in 1180. In 1248 the town passed into the hands of the Counts of Tyrol. The city’s seal and coat of arms show a bird’s-eye view of the Inn bridge, a design used since 1267. The route over the Brenner Pass was then a major transport and communications link between the north and the south, and the easiest route across the Alps. The revenues generated by serving as a transit station enabled the city to flourish. Innsbruck became the capital of all Tyrol in 1429 and in the 15th century the city became a centre of European politics and culture as Emperor Maximilian I also resided in Innsbruck in the 1490s. A regular postal service between Innsbruck and Mechelen was established in 1490 by the Thurn-und-Taxis-Post. In 1564 Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria received the rulership over Tirol and other Further Austrian possessions administrated from Innsbruck up to the 18th century. Up to 1665 a stirps of the Habsburgian dynasty ruled in Innsbruck with an independent court. In 1669 the university was founded. During the Napoleonic Wars Tyrol was ceded to Bavaria, ally of France. Andreas Hofer led a Tyrolean peasant army to victory in the Battles of Bergisel against the combined Bavarian and French forces, and then made Innsbruck the centre of his administration. The combined army later overran the Tyrolean militia army and until 1814 Innsbruck was part of Bavaria. After the Vienna Congress Austrian rule was restored. Until 1918, the town (one of the 4 autonomous towns in Tyrol) was part of the Austrian monarchy. The Tyrolean hero Andreas Hofer was executed in Mantua; his remains were returned to Innsbruck in 1823 and interred in the Franciscan church. In 1938 Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in the Anschluss. Between 1943 and April 1945, Innsbruck experienced twenty-two bomb attacks and suffered heavy damage.

The Triumphpforte, also commonly known as Triumphal Arch, is one of Austria’s treasured gems, built in 1765. In the spirit of greatness, the Triumphpforte harks back to the aesthetic of the mighty Roman Empire. Empress Maria Theresa would have nothing less than great because the Triumphpforte was originally commissioned to commemorate the matrimony of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, who would eventually be known as Emperor Leopold II, with Princess Maria Ludovica from Spain. While the Triumphpforte was originally intended to be a monument of joy, the Triumphpforte would go on to take another meaning. During the marriage festivities, Empress Maria Theresa’s husband, Kaiser Franz I, died. The occasion quickly took on a somber tone. The Triumphpforte captures both emotions effectively. The northern façade of the monument is dedicated to mourning the late Kaiser Franz I. The southern façade is dedicated to the nuptial union. A marble relief of the late Kaiser Franz I was created on the east façade of the monument; a marble relief of Empress Maria Theresa is on the west façade.

Maria-Theresien-Strasse, Innsbruck’s main street, was named after the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1717 – 1780). The street is equitably shared by pedestrians, trams and cyclists….

Almost halfway of the street, there’s one of the most interesting and noticeable landmarks of Innsbruck, Annasaule (St. Anna’s Column). This column was erected on St. Ann’s Day in July 1703 to commemorate the historic liberation of the region from Bavarian troops during the Spanish War of the Succession. The column was built by Christoforo Bendetti, a famed Italian sculptor. In addition to its historic significance, the statue itself is an impressive vision. Its towering presence boasts a red marble column with a Corinthian style. While the statue’s name is derived from the day the column was dedicated, a statue of St. Mary stands on top of the column. Angelic cherubs surround the central area of the column, and the base of the statue is surrounded by statues of Saints George, Ann, Kassian and Vigilus. In 1706, Prince Bishop of Brixen Kaspar Ignaz Count Kunigl took the opportunity to bless the statue. It remained relatively untouched for centuries until it was renovated in 1958. During this renovation, the statue of Saint Mary at the top of the column was replaced by a duplicate statue borrowed from the Abbey of St. Georgenberg. However, the original Saint Mary statue was restored to its former position in October 2009.

The church in the photo below is the Spitalkirche, which was built in its present form from 1701 to 1705, though there was a church here as early as 1320. The Roman Catholic Hospital Church of the Holy Spirit is mentioned since 1326 as a city hospital, then located because of the risk of infection even outside the city walls. The hospital itself was in 1888 moved to its present location. The church was built from plans by Johann Martin Gumpp the Elder constructed to replace an earlier building Gothic. Both portals have intricately carved doors, the interior is dominated by rich stucco. The frescoes were repaired after air raids of World War II in 1962 by Hans Andre. In the high altar of 1705 a Gothic crucifix (around 1500) is integrated.

Obviously, the always present Swarovski store……and hubby…

The original structure of the Helblinghaus was built in the fifteenth century, but evolved significantly with new architectural styles in subsequent centuries. Originally constructed as townhouses, the Helblinghaus was shaped by its early Gothic styles and Baroque façade. The “icing-like” Rococo stucco decorations added in the early eighteenth century—the bows, window frames, oriels, tympana, masks, sculptures, and shells—contributed to creating this unique building, whose design helps to capture the light. The Helblinghaus was completed in 1732 by Anton Gigl. The building was named after Sebastian Helbling, who owned the building from 1800 to 1827.

The building that bears the Goldenes Dachl (golden roof) was constructed by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early fifteenth century as the residence of the Tyrolean sovereigns. Emperor Maximilian I commissioned the loggia in 1493 from Nikolaus Turing the Elder, the Innsbruck court builder, at the time of his marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza, his third wife. It was Turing who designed and built the “golden” roof with its 2,738 fire-gilded copper tiles. The Goldenes Dachl was designed to serve as a royal box where the Emperor and his imperial entourage could sit in state and enjoy festivals, tournaments, and other events that took place in the square below. Not wishing to alienate the allies gained by his first marriage, to Maria of Burgundy, he had an image of himself between the two women painted on his balcony. The entire oriel window is decorated in sculpted reliefs and mural paintings. The first-floor balustrade is adorned with eight sculpted coats of arms, six facing the square and two flanking panels, representing Maximilian’s territories. Above the coats of arms are frescoes by Jörg Kölderer, painted in 1500, showing two knights bearing heraldic flags representing the Holy Roman Empire and Tyrol. The second-floor balustrade is decorated in eight sculpted reliefs, six facing the square and two flanking panels, depicting various images associated with Maximilian’s life. The two central reliefs show Maximilian. The one on the left shows the Emperor with his second wife Bianca Maria Sforza on the left holding an apple, and his beloved first wife Maria of Burgundy on the right. The other central relief shows the Emperor with his court jester and his chancellor. The flanking reliefs show Moorish dancers engaged in “acrobatic and grotesque dancing”—a common form of popular entertainment of that time. The dancing shown in these outer reliefs is of Andalusian origin.The frescoes that adorn the interior of the loggia were also painted by Jörg Kölderer and show scenes from the aristocratic life of that time. All of the decorations on the current structure are carefully executed replicas. The original reliefs are on permanent display in the Tyrolean State Museum, known as the Ferdinandeum.

The Tyrolean State Museum or Ferdinandeum was founded in 1823.The main collections of the Tyrolean State Museum cover history from prehistoric times through the Roman era to the Early Middle Ages, Art and crafts from Romanesque through Gothic to Modern, and the library whose main emphasis is the Tyrol

The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) is a former Habsburg palace and considered one of the three most significant cultural buildings in the country, along with the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. The Hofburg is the main building of a large residential complex once used by the Habsburgs that still includes the Noblewomen’s Collegiate Foundation, the Silver Chapel, the Hofkirche, the Theological University, the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, Innsbruck Cathedral, the Congress, and the Hofgarten (Court Garden). The original Hofburg palace was constructed from several elements under Archduke Sigismund around 1460. This structure included sections of medieval fortifications that ran along the eastern city wall. The building incorporated the Rumer Gate, which was later converted into the Heraldic Tower in 1499 by Jörg Kölderer under Emperor Maximilian I. The palace was expanded several times during the next 250 years. Between 1754 and 1773, the Hofburg palace underwent two stages of Baroque structural changes under Empress Maria Theresia: the south tract was constructed (1754–1756) on the Hofgasse according to plans by J. M. Gumpp the Younger, and the main façade was added (1766–1773) on the Rennweg according to plans by C. J. Walter. During this period, the Giants’ Hall was completed with ceiling frescoes by F. A. Maulbertsch, and the Imperial Chapel was built (1765) in the room where Maria Theresa’s husband Emperor Francis I had died. Today, the Hofburg contains five themed museum areas: Maria Theresa’s Rooms from the eighteenth century, Empress Elisabeth’s Apartment from the nineteenth century, a Furniture Museum, an Ancestral Gallery, and a Painting Gallery. These themed museum areas illustrate various aspects of the political and cultural history of the former imperial palace, which remained in the possession of the Habsburgs for more than 450 year. We weren’t really interested in visiting the palace having seen already others in Austria, but there were only a few rooms open to visitors due to some event and that day the entry was free, so….

The magnificent Giants’ Hall….

Outside, near the palace there’s the Hofkirche (Court Church) a Gothic church built in 1553 by Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564) as a memorial to his grandfather Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), whose cenotaph within boasts a remarkable collection of German Renaissance sculpture. Although Maximilian’s will had directed that he be buried in the castle chapel in Wiener Neustadt, it proved impractical to construct there the large memorial whose plans he had supervised in detail, and Ferdinand I as executor planned construction of a new church and monastery in Innsbruck for a suitable memorial. In the end, however, Maximilian’s simple tomb remained in Wiener Neustadt and the Hofkirche serves as a cenotaph. The church was designed by architect Andrea Crivelli of Trento in the traditional German form of a hall church, consisting of three naves with a setback three-sided choir, round and pointed arch windows, and a steep broken hip roof. The church interior contains galleries, high slender colonnettes of red marble with white stylized Corinthian capitals, and a lectern. The gallery’s original ribs made from sandstone from Mittenwald have been preserved, but after the main vault was damaged by earthquake in the 17th century, it was rebuilt in the Baroque style.

Emperor Maximilian’s ornate black marble cenotaph occupies the center of the nave. Florian Abel, of the Prague imperial court, supplied a full-sized draft of the high tomb in the florid style of court Mannerism. Its construction took more than 80 years. The sarcophagus itself was completed in 1572, and the final embellishments—the kneeling emperor, the four virtues, and the iron grille—were added in 1584. Trento mason Hieronymus Longi directed construction of the tomb proper. The base of the tomb consists of Hagau marble, a Jurassic limestone found in the North Tyrol and used as a building stone throughout western Austria. The bronze relief frieze of trophies includes vases, suits of armor, weapons, shields, musical instruments, etc., and above that two rows of white marble reliefs. The 24 reliefs were created by the artist Alexander Colin, based on woodcuts from the The Triumphal Arch (Ehrenpforte) by Albrecht Dürer, with four stone bas-reliefs each on the tomb’s ends, and eight on its longer sides. They depict events from Maximilian’s life. The tomb is enclosed within a fine wrought iron grille created by Jörg Schmidhammer of the Prague court, and capped with statues of the four virtues and kneeling emperor cast in Mühlau from models by Alexander Colin. The cenotaph is surrounded by 28 large bronze statues (200–250 cm) of ancestors, relatives and heroes. Their creation took place over between 1502-1555, and occupied a number of artists including the most famous at the time. The gallery contains 23 small statues (66–69 cm) of the Habsburg patron saints. They were designed by court painter Jörg Köldere around 1514/15, and carved into wood and then wax by Leonhard Magt. The church also once contained a number of busts of Roman emperors. Andreas Hofer, Tirol’s national hero, is also buried within the church. Sculptor Johann Nepomuk Schaller made his statue; Josef Kliebercreated the relief of the “Fahnenschwur” (Swearing on the flag) based on a sketch by Josef Martin Schärmer. Luckily even if the church was crowded, some custodians let few persons at time inside to take photos (I hate when people crosses my path while I’m shooting) and I’m really glad of that because the inside is nothihng I’ve seen before….

It was very late for lunch, but we saw in Maria-Theresien-Strasse a Nordsee restaurant……

After lunch it was time for a visit to the Cathedral of St. James an eighteenth-century Baroque cathedral. Based on designs by the architect Johann Jakob Herkomer, the cathedral was built between 1717 and 1724 on the site of a twelfth-century Romanesque church. The facade, which faces west over the Pfarrplatz, is constructed of Hötting breccia and Hagau marble and is dominated by its two towers. The round arched wall niches in the concave curve of the façade contain limestone statues of saints from the Tyrol: Hartmann, Cassian, Ingenuin, Albuin, Notburga, Romedius, Magdalena of Austria, and Heinrich von Bozen. These statues were created between 1941 and 1960 by Hans Andre, who also created the statue of the Virgin in the façade gable and the equestrian statue of Saint James above it.

The cathedral interior projects a severe monumentality based on a series of heavy pillars that create a repeated triumphal arch motif. The cathedral interior receives its characteristic appearance from the frescos that decorate the vaulting, with their color fully realized by the abundant natural light from the clear windows. The frescos were painted by Cosmas Damian Asam from Bavaria. The cycle of four frescos he created for the cathedral celebrate the life of Saint James, son of Zebedee, the patron of the church. The stucco work by the artist’s younger brother, Egid Quirin Asam, reflects the visual vocabulary of the Renaissance in both form and color, and supports the dominant presence of the paintings. In concert with the harmony achieved between the frescos and stucco, and between the natural light and color, the design of the floors and walls plays a special supporting role. Consisting of an imaginative display of geometric patterns, the marble floors of the cathedral—considered among the finest in Austria—were designed by Christoforo and Theodoro Benedetti from the Trentino region. They also designed the nine cathedral altars, all made entirely of multicolored Trentino and Veronese marble, as well as the pilasters in the nave, for which they chose Hague marble. The imposing marble structure of the high altar contains the cathedral’s most precious treasure, the painting Maria Hilf (Mary of Succor) by Lucas Cranach the Elder from c. 1530. The painting, which typifies the Baroque veneration of the Virgin Mary, was a gift from John George I, Elector of Saxony to Archduke Leopold V, and has resided in the church since 1650. On workdays, it is framed by Joseph Schopf’s 1789 painting of Saint James and Saint Alexius venerating the Virgin Mary. On feast days, the painting is surrounded by silver angels and golden rays. The pulpit by Innsbruck sculptor Nikolaus Moll is a Baroque masterpiece from 1725. Gilded and silver-plated throughout, the pulpit is adorned by three divine virtues supporting the base, symbols of the four Evangelists, and a host of angels and cherubs on the sounding board. Moll also carved the magnificent organ front, which dominates the west end of the cathedral. Serving as a pendant to the high altar, the organ’s richly gilded casing, with its rigorous carving work and top piece with figure decorations, is regarded as one of the loveliest Baroque organs in the Tyrol.

Late afternoon but still sunny, so we walked around a little more …..

…to the Hofgarten (Court Garden) a protected park covering an area of 10 hectares (25 acres), and borders on the Hofburg, the Kongresshaus, and the Tyrolean State Theatre. The Hofgarten was originally laid out on the site of a river meadow under the direction of Archduke Ferdinand II in the sixteenth century. During its 600-year history, it was turned into a Renaissance garden, a French formal garden and, since 1858, an English landscape garden

We decided to have dinner in a biergarten in the park, and then, tired but very happy, we drove in the night till our hotel….



1 Comment

Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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One response to “Austria – Part Eight

  1. ionuca

    August 22, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I had no idea that Innsbruck is so wow! 🙂


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