Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
Župna crkva sv. Marije Sniježne
Belec, Krapinsko-zagorska County, Croatia
1739: church; 1740s: furnishing of the interior
Painters: Ivan Krstitelj (Johann Baptist) Ranger (1700–1753); sculptors: Joseph Schokotnigg (active 1700–1755), Ivan Adam Rosemberger (d. 1758), Ivan Pittner (active c. 1721–1745), the circle of sculptor Filip (Philipp) Jakob Straub (1706–1774), Joseph Weinacht (active 1744–1750), Ivan Jakob Altenbach (active c. 1675–1678)
Religious, monastic church and interior furnishing
The parish priest, Pavao Kunek, and parishioners (pulpit); under-governor Baltazar Bedeković and Helena Rozalija Somogy (high altar), Count Ivan Franjo Čikulin (Altar of St. Joseph), Zagreb under-sheriff Nikola Vojković (Altar of St. Barbara), Archbishop of Kalocsa, Count Gabrijel Herman Patačić of Zajezda (Altar of the Holy Rosary), Bishop Stjepan Puc (Altar of St. Stephen Protomartyr)
Countess Elizabeta Keglević commissioned the church in around 1676 on the foundations of an older Gothic building. Probably with the help of donations from under-governor Adam Najšić, it was given the Baroque treatment in 1739 when the chapels and sacristy were added to it and the covered walkway was built. The wall painting and inventory of the church date to the 1740s. The pulpit, erected in 1742 with contributions from the parishioners and constructed under the auspices of parish priest, Pavel Kunek, has polychroming and gilding undertaken in 1743, thanks to a donation from Second Lieutenant Ignac Bedeković. While the local community financed the pulpit, representatives of the Croatian aristocracy were among the donors for the rest of the furnishing, as detailed above under “patrons”.
The most valuable part of the church is its interior furnishing. The illusionist wall painting (1740–1743) is a highly accomplished work by the Paulist painter, Ivan Krstitelj Ranger, from Tyrol. Along with scenes relating to the titular saint, Mary, Ranger painted the ceilings and walls of the church with numerous saintly and allegorical figures as well as scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Although the pulpit has been identified as the work of the Graz sculptor Joseph Schokotnigg, it is stylistically reminiscent of Johann Baptist Straub's of 1730 in Schwarzspanierkirche in Vienna (today in Laxenburg Church). The same sculptor is ascribed the altars of St. Joseph and St. Barbara (1742–1743; gilded 1761), located alongside the triumphal arch of the church; an analogy is noted in the very distinctive compositional approach, similar to that seen in the Altar of the Immaculate Conception in Krakaudorf (Styria). The architecture and decoration of the high altar of 1743 is more traditional. With the exception of the earlier statue of Mary the Immaculate in the central intercolumniation (by the local sculptor, Ivan Pittner and derivative of the earlier high altar of 1729), the remaining sculpture is related stylistically to the work of Philipp Jakob Straub.
The side chapel altars are more modest architecturally and hold works of the local sculptor, Ivan Adam Rosemberger, among others. There are some works connected with J. Schokotnigg's oeuvre (St. John Nepomuk and St. Francis Xavier on the Altar of the Holy Rosary of around 1743–1744), and some by F. J. Straub (St. Andrew, St. Stephen and St. James on the Altar of St. Stephen).
Although more modest in terms of sculptural achievement, the interior of the Church of Our Lady of the Snow was completed with the addition of the choir rail in 1742. Here, sculptures of the Annunciation have been identified as the work of Zagreb sculptor, Joseph Weinacht. Finally, the Pietà group placed in a niche on the church façade (end of the 17th century) is by the Varaždin sculptor, Ivan Jakob Altenbach. All of which gives insight into the broad range and quality of Baroque sculpture in Croatia – comprising works that range from those created by top Central European artists to the more modest works of local and domestic sculptors.
The interior of the Pilgrimage Church of Our Lady of the Snow is among the most complete, representative and beautiful Baroque interiors in northern Croatia. With the harmony of the motifs, the wall painting and the church furnishing, it is an outstanding example of a Baroque Gesamtkunstwerk, or complete work of art. It was furnished and decorated in the 1740s, mainly due to donations from the Croatian aristocracy, who commissioned the region's leading artists.
Archival sources, a description of the church in 1758, and a date on the high altar.
North side of the nave, Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
Attributed to Joseph Schokotnigg (active 1700–1755)
A creative reinterpretation of the pulpit by J. B. Straub of 10 years earlier, it stands out in the pantheon of Baroque sculpture in northern Croatia at a time when sculpture and imaginatively and skilfully executed ornamental work were on the threshold of the Rococo.
Along the southern side of the triumphal arch, Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
1742–1743; gilding 1761
Attributed to Joseph Schokotnigg (active 1700–1755)
Like its match, the Altar of St. Joseph, it is framed with a trompe-l'œil painting of luxurious drapery rather than architectural elements. The role of the structural parts, overtaken by decorative and figural motifs such as volutes and putti, makes for the altar's picturesque and extremely dynamic sculptural programme.
Presbytery, Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
Circle of the sculptor Filip (Philipp) Jakob Straub (1706–1774)
Built thanks to the generosity of Viceroy Baltazar Bedeković and his wife, Helena Rozalija Somogy, the main altar's massive construction meets the full width and height of the sanctuary. According to the inscription on the cartouche at the top of the retable the altar was completed in 1743, although the sculpture of Immaculate Mary at the centre belonged to the old dismantled main altar made in 1729.
Central inter-columnation of the Altar of St Stephen (south chapel), Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
1742–1743; gilded 1761
Circle of the sculptor, Filip (Philipp) Jakob Straub (1706–1774)
The young deacon, Stephen, is shown in a scene of apotheosis, surrounded by a wreath of clouds and a halo.
Ceiling, Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow
Ivan Krstitelj Ranger (1700–1753)
In the painted medallion are the kneeling figures of Adam Najšić, the chief notary of the Banovina of Croatia, and his wife, both of whom were donors of the church. Above them, on a cloud, sits Mary of the Snow with Christ on her lap. Below her, in the centre of the composition created as a skilful trompe-l'œil, is the Roman Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in outline.
Vukičević-Samaržija, D., Gotičke crkve Hrvatskog zagorja, Zagreb, 1993.
Mirković, M., "Zidno slikarstvo u kontinentalnoj Hrvatskoj", in Hrvatska i Europa: kultura, znanost i umjetnost, sv. III.: Barok i prosvjetiteljstvo (XVII-XVIII stoljeće), Zagreb, 2003, pp. 663–674.
Baričević, D., Barokno kiparstvo sjeverne Hrvatske, Zagreb, 2008.
Vlasta Zajec "Parish Church of Our Lady of the Snow" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;hr;Mon11;11;en
Prepared by: Vlasta ZajecVlasta Zajec
AFFILIATION: Institute of Art History, Zagreb
TITLE: PhD, Scientific Consultant
Vlasta Zajec was awarded her BA in Art History and Comparative Literature from Zagreb University (Faculty of Philosophy) in 1989. In the same year she began work at the Institute of Art History. She was awarded her MA in 1995 (17th-Century Wooden Altars in Istria), and her PhD in 2001 (17th Century Wooden Sculpture in Istria). She has spent brief periods of study in Italy (Udine, Venice and Trieste) and Germany (Munich). Her areas of research are wooden and marble altars and 17th- and 18th-century sculpture in Istria and North Croatia.
Translation by: Graham McMaster
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: HR 13
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Discover Baroque Art Exhibition(s)Devotion and Pilgrimage | Places of worship Languages of Baroque | Illusion, gesture and movement Ephemera, Festivals and Theatrical Representation | The theatre of the Church
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