Parish Church of St. James
Župna crkva sv. Jakova
Prelog, Međimurska County, Croatia
1758 (church); 1765–1767 (high altar)
Sculptor: Veit Königer (1729–1792); cabinetmaker: Josip Herman (active c. 1750)
Religious, parish church, interior furnishing
The church: the citizens of Prelog and the parish priest, Ivan Mihovil Smrekar; the high altar: Abbot Josip Gradičaj
The parish priest, Ivan Mihovil Smrekar who was educated in Graz and in Vienna, commissioned the church in 1758. The citizens of Prelog paid for it with alms. In little over a decade (1765–1767) a monumental three-part high altar – a documented work of the sculptor, Veit Königer, and cabinetmaker, Josip Herman of Graz – furnished the altar financed by Abbot Josip Gradičaj. It is likely that the community were able to engage the outstandingly important sculptor, Königer, because of family connections in Croatia – his sister was married to the Varaždin sculptor, Josip (Josephus) Schranz – after whose death she married the sculptor Leopold Mayrhofer (active c. 1771).
The high altar, a monumental and typologically rare composition consisting of three altars architecturally connected, is a documented work by Styria's most important sculptor of the time, Veit Königer. His work betrays a clear and persistent element of Classicism, linked to his artistic training at the Vienna Academy, along with Rococo elements. The central altar is dedicated to the titular saint of the church, St. James, while the side altars are dedicated to St. Joseph and St. John Nepomuk. The central part of the Altar of St. James is accentuated by a pair of columns the width of which, on the mensa, a monumental tabernacle is placed adorned with a row of angels. Alongside the columns are imposing figures of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, the handling of which draws closely on the sculptures of the same saints on the Altar of St. Ignatius in Graz Cathedral. An imposing Holy Trinity in a sunburst halo crowns the altar. On the side altars, the placing of the ornamentation is more marked, aspiring to the picturesque. This outstanding sculptural achievement was an important stimulus for the leading Maribor sculptor, Joseph (Jožef) Holzinger (1735–1797), an inspiration seen in the disposition of his sculptures on the side altars of the church in Polenšak (Slovenia). A pulpit was installed in the church in Prelog before the altar (1760 is mentioned). According to stylistic analysis, the pulpit reliefs are likely to have been by Königer.View Short Description
The Parish Church of St. James lies at the centre of the not very large town of Međimurje. Architecturally, it has an interesting nave vaulted with a sequence of four shallow domes separated by bands. Inside the church is an altarpiece of note with sculptures by Veit Königer – an important Styrian sculptor of the time. Created at the pinnacle of his career, the sculptures are included among his finest work. The whole is an outstanding example of the theatrical stage setting that is so typical of the Baroque.
Attributed to Veit Königer (1729–1792)
An elongated and elegant saintly figure with his head thrown back, it is a characteristic example of Königer’s sculptural idiom with its typical lyricism, suffusing the usually more robust figures of the two leading apostles with a pronounced spirituality.
Horvat, A., (ed) “Barok u kontinentalnoj Hrvatskoj” in Barok u Hrvatskoj, Zagreb, 1982.
Vrišer, S., Jožef Holzinger, Maribor, 1997.
Baričević, D., Barokno kiparstvo sjeverne Hrvatske, Zagreb, 2008.
Vlasta Zajec "Parish Church of St. James" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;hr;Mon11;32;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 46