Mausoleum of Duke Karl II, Seckau Abbey

Styria, Austria


Karl II, Archduke of Austria and ruler of Inner Austria (r. 1564-1590), chose Seckau Abbey as the final resting place for himself and his wife, Maria Anna von Bayern. He commissioned a substantial mausoleum in 1581, with work beginning in 1587 under the direction of Alexander de Verda and concluding under the oversight of Sebastian Carlone in 1612. The mausoleum contains an important selection of statuary and paintings, many executed by court painter Teodoro Ghisi. The mausoleum is considered an important monument of the early baroque, illustrating a clear transition from Renaissance and mannerist styles. The structure became the burial site for a number of members of the Habsburg dynasty. Karl II, younger brother of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, was a noted benefactor of the arts. He founded the University of Graz in 1585 and had a keen interest in music, but is perhaps best remembered for creating the Lipizzan breed of horses, whose stallions are still prized today.

How We Helped

The mausoleum of Karl II suffered deterioration over time from unstable climatic conditions. There was also significant water infiltration, primarily caused by leaks from the roof and rising damp saturating the walls that marred surface decorations. Beginning in 1999, WMF analyzed conditions and surveyed damage to ceiling paintings, walls and lunettes, and stucco decoration. Conservation work beginning in 2000 improved overall conditions and created a more stable environment to protect the works of art. The project finished successfully in 2001.

Why It Matters

Archduke Karl II was a central figure in Austrian history and his mausoleum reflects the wealth, power, and taste befitting the son and brother of a Holy Roman Emperor. Seckau Abbey, as with many religious structures in Europe, spans hundreds of years of religious practice, reformation and counter-reformation. The earliest structures at the site date from the twelfth century and changes continued well after Karl II’s death in 1590. The archduke’s mausoleum represents one of the artistic treasures of the complex and its conservation allows visitors to continue to admire its beauty and its role in the evolution of the abbey through the ages.

Last updated: October 2015.

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