In the late seventeenth century, during the reign of Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun, the architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, perhaps the greatest Austrian baroque architect, designed a harmonious ensemble of 12 buildings in and around Salzburg. One of them was the Church of Our Immaculate Lady, also known as the Kollegienkirche due to its use by the Benedictine university in the city. The apse of the church is marked by two enormous free-standing columns which are an iconographic reference to the pillars in front of the Temple of Solomon. The light originally streamed through the window of the apse from the south, alluding to the light of the Immaculate Conception, but this was blocked by a roof added later. Since its construction, despite subsequent repair attempts, water infiltration had stained the interior vaults and rotted the timber roof while air pollution affected the porous building stones and limestone sculptures.
How We Helped
In 2003, an initial conservation program found the structure to be generally sound, and areas of dry rot and water damage were eliminated. After these structural issues were addressed, interior conservation became a priority. In 2008, WMF assisted in the restoration of the apse. Stucco work was restored, and areas of plaster were cleaned and reapplied where necessary. Rust was removed from the metal frames of the leaded windows and broken glass was replaced. An adjacent roof was removed and replaced by glass elements so that the apse window could once again be backlit.
Why It Matters
The Church of Our Immaculate Lady is not only an important work by Fischer von Erlach, but it is arguably one of the most significant examples of baroque architecture within the Habsburg Empire, as it influenced the design of many Catholic churches during the High Baroque Era within the Holy Roman Empire. Perfectly designed to fit into the available building site in Salzburg, the church dominates the historic city center. Mozart, a Salzburg native, conducted his Mass in D-Minor for the first time in the church.