Cistercian Monastery of Stams
Stams, Tyrol, District of Imst, Austria
1615–1620: construction of the monastery building; 1631–1635; 1692–1724: Baroque redesign of the monastery church; 1729–1732
Abbey church, architectural modification attributed to: Georg Anton Gumpp (1682–1754); stuccowork: Franz Xaver Feichtmayr the elder (1698–1763), Johann Michael Fischer (1692–1766); ceiling frescos: Johann Georg Wolcker (1700–1766); high altar: Bartholomäus Steinle (c. 1580–1628/29), Wolfgang Kirchmayr (dates unknown, working up until 1600); royal crypt and crucifixion group: Andreas Thamasch (1639–1697, monastery sculptor in Stams since 1674)Monastery building with “Bernhardisaal”, architecture: Johann Martin Gumpp the elder (1643–1729) and master builder Georg Anton Gumpp (1682–1754); frescos: Franz Michael Hueber (?–1746) and Anton Zoller [n.d.]
Secular architecture (monastery); ecclesiastical architecture (monastery church)
Cistercian Monastery of Stams
The monastery, founded by the Prince of Görz-Tyrol in 1273, was settled by monks from the Cistercian monastery of Kaisheim in Swabia. The Romanesque monastery church was consecrated in 1284. Subject to damage in the 16th century, repair work begun in the early 17th century, i.e. its replacement by new buildings. Features of the monastery church from the first period of interior design work include the high altar (1609–13). Redesign of the royal crypt began in 1677. Comprehensive Baroque redesign of the monastery church was carried out between 1729 and 1734.
The exterior of the monastery building, in parts of compact proportions, is primarily characterised by the work of the family of master builders Gumpp. The elongated west wing, which terminates to the north in two massive corner towers, is composed of the sequence of monastery wing and sovereign’s wing with the festive hall of the Bernhardi wing as an intervening projection. Adjoining to the south is the two-storey church façade structured by columns. The monastery church, redesigned along Late Baroque lines and incorporating the medieval building fabric, still bears witness to the original form of a transept-less, flat-roofed Romanesque pier basilica. The hall is extended by transept-like chapels. Its uniform character is generated by the extensive stuccowork and the cycle of large format ceiling paintings.View Short Description
The Cistercian Monastery of Stams, founded in the late Staufer era, is one of Tyrol’s most important monasteries. The medieval complex was gradually replaced by new building in the Baroque period and the monastery church was refurbished with Early Baroque features before the comprehensive renovation of the 18th century. The appearance of the ensemble, despite a number of medieval architectural elements, is in the Baroque style.
Monastery church, nave vault
Building: 1729–1732; interior work: 1731–1734
Georg Anton Gumpp (1682–1754, attributed to); Johann Georg Wolcker (1700–1766); Franz Xaver Feichtmayr the elder (1698–1763), Joseph Fischer [n.d.]
During the course of the Baroque redesign of the monastery church, which was vaulted between 1607 and 1609, ceiling pictures and stucco were also added to the nave and choir. The picture cycle in accordance with the preferences of the order, depict Marian themes as well as the life of the order’s founder. They are the work of the fresco artist Wolcker from Augsburg which is characterised by audacious illusionistic architecture. The stuccowork of the Wessobrun school is in the late strapwork style, at the transition to Rococo.
Monastery church, west nave
Andreas Thamasch (1639–1697)
Following its demolition in 1677 the crypt chapel of the Prince of Görz-Tyrol was rebuilt and set into the floor of the church so as not to obstruct the view; only the expressive crucifixion group above the crypt altar projects into the space of the church. The masterful craftsmanship of the royal crypt is a major work of the sculptor Andreas Thamasch, a student of Thomas Schwanthaler.
Monastery church, choir (free-standing)
Bartholomäus Steinle (c. 1580–1628/29); carpentry by Wolfgang Kirchmayr (dates unknown, working up until 1600)
The Early Baroque high altar built for the medieval monastery church by the sculptor Steinle from Weilheim is of special art-historical significance. The altar screen, architecturally formed by two columns, is overgrown with thick tendrils, a “Root of Jesse” or “Tree of Life”, springing from the base of the altar with the figures of Adam and Eve ascends via the central figure of the salvational “Immaculata” to the crucifixion as a symbol of redemption. The tradition of Late Gothic branch-motif ornamentation is here combined with Early Baroque forms. Stucco curtain and baldachin from Franz Xaver Feichtmayr added in 1731.
Chapel annex, southwest of the abbey church
Georg Anton Gumpp (1682–1754)
The medieval chapel annex was built before the monastery church in the Baroque style. Of special interest is the cupola structure with shallow tribune erected to replace the former apse. The quarter of the cross vault with chamfered corners and massive piers occupied by pilasters, form four large arcades with wide semicircular arches, which in turn support the cupola. The High Baroque design of the central space is derived from the type of crossing found in St. Peter’s in Rome (cf. Rattenberg).
Central pavilion of the western monastery wing, the so called “Bernhardibau”, Cistercian Monastery of Stams
Johann Martin Gumpp the elder (1643–1729) and Georg Anton Gumpp (1682–1754); Franz Michael Hueber (?–1746), Anton Zoller (1695–1768)
Architecturally, the Bernhardisaal, extending over two storeys, is a simple rectangular room whose distinguishing feature is a rectangular opening in the ceiling with perimeter balustrade, a “hypaethral space” which gives the illusion of an opening onto heaven. It is the wall and ceiling paintings, covering the entire surface, that first turn the room into a ceremonial hall. A sequence of scenes from the life of the founder of the order, St. Bernhard of Clairvaux, culminates in the Christmas vision above the ceiling opening.
Frodl-Kraft, E., Tiroler Barockkirchen, Innsbruck 1955, p. 39f.
Stift Stams/Tirol, 11th edition, Munich, Zurich 1978 (= Schnell, Kleine Kunstführer, No. 289).
Zohner, W., Bartholomäus Steinle. Weißenhorn 1993, pp. 37–51.
Lebersorg, W., Chronik des Klosters Stams, Innsbruck 2000.
Frank Purrmann "Cistercian Monastery of Stams" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;at;Mon11;13;en
Prepared by: Frank Purrmann
Translation by: Colin Shepherd
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: AT 13
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