St. Jacob’s Cathedral
Catholic Provost Parish Church of St. Jacob the Elder
Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria
Architecture: Johann Jakob Herkomer (1648–1717), Johann Georg Fischer (1673–1747); stuccowork: Egid Quirin Asam (1692–1750); altar builder: Christoph Benedetti [n.d.], Theodor Benedetti [n.d.]; sculptor: Dominikus Molnig (1691–1761), Nikolaus Anton Moll (1676–1754); frescos: Cosmas Damian Asam (1686–1739); paintings: Josef Schöpf (1745–1822), J. G. Grasmair (1691–1751), Egid Schor (1627–1701)
Ecclesiastical architecture (parish church)
Provost of St. Jacob, Provincial Governor Karl Philipp von der Pfalz
Even before the founding of Innsbruck in 1180 there existed a building on this site. The forerunner of today’s church originates from the High Middle Ages. Earthquake damage meant a new building was required, an undertaking supported by the Provincial Governor Karl Philipp von der Pfalz. Herkomer from Allgau was appointed architect and began work on the building in the year of his death, 1717, which was subsequently completed by his pupil Fischer in 1722. Stucco and frescos were executed by the brothers Asam in 1722/23; the consecration took place on 9 September 1724. Altars and further interior work were added between 1725 and 1732. Bomb damage occurred in 1944 and reconstruction was undertaken between 1949 and 1952. The church was elevated to cathedral status in 1964.
The church is a cross shaped longitudinal building with a succession of four spatial units with shallow dome vaulting. The nave with two horizontal oval dome bays is followed by the crossing, also in horizontal oval form, to which transept-like side apses are appended, the choir is quadratic. The spatial impression is largely formed by the sequence of dome bays in the Venetian tradition. Massive pilasters form the supporting structure and determine the spatial prospect, at the centre of which is situated the high altar with the miraculous picture Mariahilf (Mary Help).View Short Description
Innsbruck Cathedral is considered the first major building in Tyrol in the mature Late Baroque style. It is a product of the Füssen school of architecture, conceived by Johann Jakob Herkomer and enriched with new forms by his pupil, Johann Georg Fischer. The stuccowork and frescos were also executed in accordance with contemporary forms by the brothers Asam and are of the highest quality.
Exterior, west side
Johann Jakob Herkomer (1648–1717); Johann Georg Fischer (1673–1747)
The double-tower façade of St. Jacob is a Late Baroque interpretation of a basic plan based on the Salzburg Dome. The projecting towers – which form a unit with the two-storey middle section – are characteristic. In contrast to Salzburg the transitions are more fluent, employing concave wall sections. The vertical oval windows of the upper storeys establish a number of thematic accents. The towers’ upper storeys are also more powerfully built than in Salzburg.
Choir, St. Jacob’s Cathedral
High altar 1726–1729
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553); Cristoforo Benedetti (1660–1735), Theodor Benedetti [n.d.]; Josef Schöpf (1745–1822)
The high altar is one of the most important examples of the Baroque staging of an older sacred picture. The miraculous picture Mariahilf from Lucas Cranach was originally housed in Dresden and found its way to Innsbruck as a gift to Archduke Leopold V. It has been on display in the parish church since 1650. It became the most widespread picture of the Virgin Mary in the alpine region. It was integrated into the high altar, built in 1726, as a “picture within a picture” (with exchangeable frames, which during Lent displays a picture from Josef Schöpf, at all other times a silver frame). The high altar is flanked by statues of the patron saints of the Diocese of Brixen, Ingenuin and Albuin.
Ceiling fresco, western nave cupola
1722–1724 (restored/reconstructed 1949/50)
Cosmas Damian Asam (1686–1739); Egid Quirin Asam (1692–1750)
The fresco cycle from Cosmas Damian Asam has the work of the church’s patron saint as its theme. Asam painted illusionistic architecture in the shallow cupolas, a task which he solved differently in each scene. There are no references to real built architecture. In the centre of the perspectively exaggerated depiction a statue of the apostle can be seen. Supplicants from all estates are gathered around him, while Jacob implores God for heavenly assistance.
North-eastern nave pillar
Nikolaus Anton Moll (1676–1754)
The pulpit from the sculptor Moll from Innsbruck is an especially opulent example of a Baroque pulpit. The richly curved forms of the foot, parapet and baldachin feature a wealth of figures and symbols, including personifications of the divine virtues at the foot of the cupola and evangelist symbols on the baldachin.
Left transept apse, St. Jacob’s Cathedral
Hubert Gerhard (c. 1545–1623); Caspar Gras (1585–1674); Heinrich Reinhart (1575–1629)
The bronze mausoleum, part of the inventory of the previous building, was designed by Hubert Gerhart from Munich and was completed by Caspar Gras of Innsbruck. It is one of the most important early Baroque mausoleums, with lifelike expressiveness, above all in the depiction of the Archduke who was Grand Master of the German Order of Knights, and St. George, the order’s patron saint. The superstructure is formed of four spiral columns ranked with vines, populated by all manner of animals.
Dussler, H., Der Allgäuer Barockbaumeister Johann Jakob Herkomer, Kempten 1956.
Weingartner, J., Die St. Jakobskirche zu Innsbruck, 2nd edition, Munich 1956 (= Schnell und Steiner Kunstführer No. 287).
Sauermost, H. J., Der Allgäuer Barockbaumeister Johann Georg Fischer, Augsburg 1969, pp. 27–44.
Bushart, B., Rupprecht, B., Cosmas Damian Asam 1686–1739, Leben und Werk, Munich 1986, pp. 223–6.
Rupprecht, B., Die Brüder Asam. Sinn und Sinnlichkeit im bayerischen Barock, 3rd edition, Regensburg 1987, pp. 124–7.
Frank Purrmann "St. Jacob’s Cathedral" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;at;Mon11;2;en
Prepared by: Frank Purrmann
Translation by: Colin Shepherd
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: AT 02
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