Journal ARS 53 (2020) 2
The Choir of St Maurice in Olomouc in the Interplay of Architectural Innovations of the Late Medieval Central Europe. Old Observations and New Results
This paper casts new light on the building history of the choir of the parish church St Maurice in Olomouc. By using information taken from written sources relating to the evidence of the church’s fabric, it was possible to date the outer walls of the choir to the first phase of the late medieval rebuilding project. Due to the results of a stylistic, typological and archaeological analysis, the edification of this early period of work can be proposed to the second half of the fourteenth century and the first third of the fifteenth century. This thesis revises the traditional dating of the choir between 1453 and 1483/1492 and, thus, places the beginning of the choir into a different political and cultural context. At that time it was the wide-ranging contacts of Olomouc’s bishops – due to their expanding estates – that enabled inter-regional connections not only to Bohemia, but also to Silesia. These circumstances made it possible, that the goundplan adopted at this stage – a middle main choir, which is accompanied by side-shortening secondary choirs – was influenced by the older choirs from the same type in Wrocław (St Mary on the Sand, St Elisabeth) and Namysłów (St Peter and Paul). Previous research literature, however, came to another conclusion: the architectures in Steyr (St Egidius and Koloman) and Prague (Church of Our Lady before Týn) was regarded as archetypes of this building. Evidence suggests that the masons incorporated new and innovative designs in the groundplan, as well as in the details: Important paralles found in some church architectures in todays Austria. In addition to the re-dating of the outer walls of the choir, this paper also reaches a different conclusion in terms for the final decades of the rebuilding work (c. 1450–1520). Following a construction break in the years between 1412/35 and 1453 (during that time, work was done at the nave and the northwestern tower), attention turned back to the sanctuary. This resulted in a shift of stylistic orientation: Particularly in the high vaults, as well as in the wide columns, and further, shown in the inventive forms of tracery and portal jambs. The second phase shows a new approach to design. Almost every aspect of the new design represents close relations to solutions that had been developed in previous works on some of the most innovative lodges of the time in Central Europe during that time, for instance Brno and Vienna. It is necessary to enhance that the second phase is not only notable for its regional artistic connections (especially to the innovative architecture of St James in Brno); rather, it also suggests a particular kindship with Viennese lodge projects, such as St Stephan’s in Vienna or the parish churches in Steyr, Eggenburg and Znojmo. Therefore, the choir of St Maurice in Olomouc must be recognized as work of international standing.