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Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach


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Distinguished Austrian Baroque architect. He studied in Rome from 1671, where he became acquainted with the work of Bernini and Carlo Fontana, and developed an interest in Antique objects and architecture. After the defeat of the Turks in 1683 and the rise of Austria as a European power, Fischer settled in Vienna. He designed Schloss Frain, Moravia (1688–95), with its elliptical hall clearly influenced by his Roman stay, and shortly afterwards he developed the theme in his three Salzburg churches. At the elliptical Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity Church—1694–1702) the long axis is that of the entrance-high-altar, while (owing a debt to Guarini) twin towers flank a concave front (a theme derived from Borromini and Rainaldi's Church of Santa Agnese, Rome, although the middle of the façade was influenced by the work of Hardouin-Mansart, and the basic plan by Vignola's Santa Anna dei Palafrenieri, Rome). His mastery of synthesis was demonstrated, and he may also have been influenced by Zuccalli's Salzburg churches. Then came the Kollegienkirche (College or University Church—1694–1707—a mixture of the longitudinal and central church-plan, with a soaring cupola over the central space) and the Johannesspitalkirche (St John's Hospital Church—1699–1704—where influences from Borromini are again apparent). While in Salzburg he designed the exquisite high-altar (1709) for the Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church). The Ursulinenkirche (Ursuline Church—1699–1705) is also attributed to him. These Salzburg buildings, in a sense, were trial runs for the Karlskirche (Church of St Charles), Vienna (from 1715), with its Antique Roman portico, biblical allusions to the Temple of Solomon (enhanced by the twin Trajanic columns doubling as the Pillars of Hercules and Jachin and Boaz), elliptical central space crowned by a cupola, and wide front, one of the most original and powerful designs of the entire Baroque period. Mention should also be made of his Electoral Chapel next to the choir of Breslau (now Wroław) Cathedral (1715–24): it mixes Palladian and Borrominiesque themes, again exploiting the ellipse.

His secular architecture includes the Town Palace of Prince Eugen of Savoy (1663–1736) in Vienna (1696–1700), influenced by Bernini and Le Vau, the Palais Clam-Gallas, Prague (1713–c.25), designs (only partly realized, and much altered) for Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna (from 1696), and the Hofbibliothek (Court Library), Vienna (1722–30), one of the finest Baroque rooms in Europe. At both the Karlskirche and the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) much of the work was carried out by his son, Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (1695–1742). Johann Bernhard's Entwurff einer historischen Architektur (Outline of Historical Architecture—1721) appeared in English as A Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture in 1730, and was among the first books to include illustrations of Egyptian and Oriental buildings, although the images were fanciful in the extreme. Nevertheless, they had a profound influence on later generations, and especially on Boullée.

H. Aurenhammer (1973);Bourke (1962);Brucker (1983);J. Curl (2005);Fischer von Erlach (1964);Fuhrmann (1950);Lorenz (1992);Polleross (1995);C. Powell (1959);Sedlmayr (1996)

Plan of Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Salzburg, showing the concave front and elliptical body of the church.

Plan of the Karlskirche, Vienna, showing the wide front withtowers and Solomonic/Trajanic columns, prostyle hexastyleportico on a podium, and central ellipse.


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