Trinity ChurchParish and Pilgrimage Church Stadl-PauraPaura Church
Pilgrimage Church dedicated to the Holy Trinity
Stadl-Paura, district Wels-Land, Upper Austria, Austria
1719–23: fresco paintings cupola and walls
1720–24: painting Holy Spirit altar
1721–22: painting altar of the Father
1722–23: painting altar of the Son
1723–24: altar of the Father
1738: putting up of the (earlier finished) Son and Holy Spirit altars
Architecture: Johann Michael Prunner (1669–1739); interior overall design, fresco paintings cupola and walls (architectural part): Francesco Messenta (about 1675–1745); fresco paintings cupola and walls (figural part): Carlo Carlone (1686–1775); altar paintings: Martino Altomonte (1657–1745), Carlo Carlone (1686–1775) and Domenico Parodi (1672–1742); statues, altars and tabernacles: Joseph Matthias Götz (1696–1760)
Benedictine Abbot Maximilian Pagl from Stift Lambach erected the church – referring to an oath he had made – to thank God that there were no victims of the black death in the area.
The baroque Stadl-Paura pilgrimage church elevates on a hill next to the right bank of the river Traun. A former chapel dedicated to St. Blasius stood at the same place and was still mentioned in the early Middle Ages.
The village at the river became important in the 13th century for the salt trade and transport by water. Trade, transport and the fact that the near municipality of Lambach was an important traffic junction, brought enormous wealth to the region. Many edifices were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, still apparent, such as the architectural jewel of the Holy Trinity Church.
From the moment Maximilian Pagl was abbot he sincerely wished to build the Holy Trinity Church. However, he could not carry out the project until nine years later, referring to the vow. By then he pushed it, gathering all his strength.
The abbot asked Johann Michael Prunner, the architect, to hurry up with the building in order to fulfil the oath. After only three years the shell of the church was complete and the artists started painting the cupola, the dome lantern and the walls. After a total of ten years Abbot Maximilian Pagl consecrated the altar of the Father and could say the first mass. Unfortunately, he soon became seriously ill and died before the building was completed. His successors concluded the church – according to the founder´s plans and ideas – which became a synthesis of arts.
Founder Abbot Maximilian Pagl who had worked out the theological program made the Holy Trinity the maxim of the church. Everything in and on the building refers to this idea. The church´s exterior ground plan is an equilateral triangle (to outwardly symbolise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), while the interior ground plan is a circle (symbolising inwardly the one God). There are three equal towers, three equal portals, three equal facades and three altars opposite three doors and three organs (in the floor above), any of them – according to abbot Maximilian Pagl´s wish – singing the Holy Trinity´s praise.
On a hill in Stadl-Paura next to the river Traun
1714 – 1724
Johann Michael Prunner, Francesco Messenta
The Trinity Church is considered to be Johann Michael Prunner’s masterwork, a creation of highest perfection in both architectural and theological sense. It is very special because it was planned and constructed as a symbolic edifice with many allusions to the Holy Trinity.
Being typically South German as a building, it stands out in many ways, with the symbolic program and Italian influence. Francesco Borromini was an artistic idol to most architects of this time, such as to Johann Michael Prunner. His oeuvre was not only very popular but generally acknowledged.
Borrominesque are the forth- and back-swinging outer walls and towers, and the even floor plan with three semicircular altar niches (in the towers) that respond to the circular central room. And the indirect light, flooding from above and from the sides, illuminates the altar paintings and the tiny fresco in the lantern.
Breaking through the walls behind the altars, the use of indirect light and the interior design go back to Francesco Messenta in his role as interior architect (he also did the illusionistic painting in the church, s. below: Fresco paintings in the cupola and on the walls) who symbolically bowed, like the architect, to Borromini.
In the dome and on the walls behind the altars
1719/20 cupola, 1722/23 walls
Carlo Carlone, Francesco Messenta
The fresco paintings in the cupola and on the walls were done by Carlo Carlone (figures) and Francesco Messenta (illusionistic architecture) who created therewith a fantastic paradisiacal scenery.
Looking upwards, through the illusionistic balustrade to the sky, one thinks one is standing in the courtyard of a baroque pavilion and watching a spectacle in Heaven. A myriad of blessed and angels worship the Holy Trinity, while there is a buzz of putti (little angels) in the centre and on top of the lantern marvelling at the dove with its aureole (= the Holy Spirit).
Mighty illusionistic columns on the walls frame the altars. They are crowned with curved entablature and gable parts which look as if they are human beings and would like to break out. The indicated curvature alludes to the hemicycle of the altar niches. Above, there are cupolas with illusionistic architecture and circular balustrades through which one can see little angels in Heaven.
On and around tabernacles and altars
1737 and later
Joseph Matthias Götz
The small statues (about 60cm high) on the three altars, by Joseph Matthias Götz, are baroque masterpieces. There are umpteen figures on every altar, made of alabaster and delicately carved.
The statues on the ornament-like bases to the left and to the right of the tabernacles reflect the swing of the epoch. It looks as if a baroque storm would blow through their clothes. Even the tinier statues (about 40cm high) on the tabernacles are of high sculptural quality and execute strong movements.
The (larger) figures at the altars´ sides represent allegoric scenes, while the smaller ones on and around the tabernacles depict the Fathers of the Church, prophets, evangelists, saints, angels and allegoric scenes as well as Christ and guardian angels fighting with verve against the evil.
Fuchshuber, P.Paulus, Die Paurakirche. Pfarr- und Wallfahrtskirche zur Allerheiligsten Dreifaltigkeit, Passau: Kunstverlag Peda, 2008.
Grimschitz, Bruno, Johann Michael Prunner, Vienna-Munich: Herold, 1960.
Heisig, Alexander, Joseph Matthias Götz, (1696-1760), Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner, 2004.
Jahn, Peter Heinrich, Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt (1668 – 1745). Sakralarchitektur für Kaiserhaus und Adel, Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2011: 87–88.
Luger, Walter, Die Dreifaltigkeitskirche in Stadl-Paura bei Lambach, Oberösterreich, Linz: Oberösterreichischer Landesverlag, 1956.
Gabriele Liechtenstein "Trinity ChurchParish and Pilgrimage Church Stadl-PauraPaura Church" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;at;Mon11;38;en
Prepared by: Gabriele Liechtenstein
Copyedited by: Janice MedinaJanice Medina
Janice Medina is an artist and educator based in Upstate New York. She studied interior design at Syracuse University and obtained her M.S. in Building Conservation in 2008 (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Master of Fine Arts in 2019 (University at Albany).
Janice is a former participant in the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program and she has taught courses in the history of design and historic preservation. Her artwork is influenced by her experiences in historic preservation, as well as by building materials and the natural environment.
Janice has participated as a copy-editor with Museum With No Frontiers since 2019. In this role she has had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects including Discover Islamic Art, Discover Baroque Art and Discover Glass Art.
MWNF Working Number: AT 38