Photograph: Rudolph Pohmann und Marinus ZwergerPhotograph: Rudolph Pohmann und Marinus ZwergerPhotograph: Rudolph Pohmann und Marinus ZwergerPhotograph: Rudolph Pohmann und Marinus ZwergerPhotograph: Rudolph Pohmann und Marinus Zwerger


Name of Monument:

Parish Church of St. Peter and Paul

Location:

Mittenwald, Upper Bavaria, Germany

Date:

1734–1746

Artists:

Architecture and stucco: Joseph Schmuzer (1683–1752);
Frescos and altarpiece: Matthäus Günther (1705–88)

Denomination / Type of monument:

Ecclesiastical building (parish church)

Patron(s):

Johann Theodor of Bavaria, prince-bishop of Freising (in office 1727–63); Parson Johann Ludwig Schmid (in office 1731–52)

History:

Josef Schmuzer, a member of the Wessobrunn school of master builders and stuccoworkers, extended the Mittenwalder parish church while retaining the chancel walls and a chapel in order to do justice to the growing population of this prosperous market town. Most notably, the Veronese red marble used for the high altar made its way over the Alps following the Roman “Via Claudia Augusta”. This trade route, which would later lead from Nuremburg to Venice via Augsburg, passed through Mittenwald and made the city an important trans-shipment point for marble and other goods. The construction of the church was sponsored by the prince-bishop of Freising, who was the sovereign of the region at this time.

Description:

Visible from a distance, the steeple of St. Peter and Paul was also designed by Josef Schmuzer. It is largely decorated with artistic illusionistic façade paintings by the Augsburgian fresco-painter Matthäus Günther. These frescos display the patrons of the church, St. Peter and St. Paul, framed within triumphal arches. A hall-shaped nave is attached to the late Gothic-style chancel, situated behind the steeple. The transept-like extension on the east bay terminates in side chapels, bearing remarkable similarities to the parish church of St. Martin in Garmisch which had been built by Schmuzer a decade earlier. He produced a simple, yet ideal spatial design for the more complex liturgical functions of a civic parish church, such as the rites of baptism and burial. The permanent repository of the Eucharist is not only where daily mass, including homilies, is performed but also special liturgies such as those at Holy week, Easter, the beginning of Lent, the feast of Corpus Christi, the Ascension of Christ, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. The functional separation of altars, such as the division between the three main altars and additional cults like the veneration of the Cross and St. John of Nepomuk, has also been solved in the church’s design.

How Monument was dated:

From documentation of the church’s founding; inscription on the steeple.

Special features

Martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Vault over the nave

1740

Matthäus Günther (1705–88)

The church’s circular main fresco impressively illustrates the lives of its two patrons, St. Peter and St. Paul, in front of a surrounding architectural backdrop. The fresco displays a subtle colourfulness in a surreal stylization. With dramatic clarity, Günther depicts the martyrdom of the two apostles along the periphery of the fresco with Heaven looking on from the centre. The flat dome, which gives the illusion of being voluminous, is flanked by four pendentives, each of them containing an image of one of the four evangelists.

The Altar of St. Peter and Paul (High altar)

In the chancel

1742

Designer unknown; altar painting: Matthäus Günther (1705–88)

The magnificent high altar, put up with red Veronese marble, fills out the central axis of the chancel and is flanked by large windows. A series of elegant columns dramatically envelope the mensa and retable. As emissaries of the Heavenly Hosts, angels with harps stand beside the attic storey which inside bears a halo of light (so-called gloriole) representing God. They look upon Günther’s altarpiece, which displays the glory of the church’s patrons. Flanking the columns four statues represent other saints who are important to the parish.

The Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk

The southern alcove of the nave

Fresco: Matthäus Günther (1705–88)

1740

One of the two chapels to the side is dedicated to St. Johann of Nepomuk, the patron saint of the Mittenwald log drivers on the Isar river. The fresco situated above the chapel’s vault depicts the resurrected martyr, who is crowned by five stars, floating above the Vltava river. A padlock, hanging on the left arm which is gripping a devotional cross, refers to his secrecy.

Selected bibliography:

Bauer, H. and Rupprecht, B. (eds.), Corpus der barocken Deckenmalerei in Deutschland, Bd. 2: Freistaat Bayern, Regierungsbezirk Oberbayern. Die Landkreise Bad Tölz, Wolfratshausen, Garmisch-Partenkirchen-Miesbach, München: Süddeutscher Verlag, 1981: 358–374.
Biedermann, Rolf, et al., Matthäus Günther 1705–1788: Festliches Rokoko für Kirchen, Klöster, Residenzen: Gedächtnisaustellung zum 200. Todesjahr, München: Klinkhardt & Bierman, 1988: 38, 52, 144–145, 148–149, 212–213, 272, 368.
Dischinger, Gabriele, Johann und Joseph Schmuzer. Zwei Wessobrunner Barockbaumeister (Bodensee-Bibliothek 22), Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1977: 97–101, 143.
Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany, London/New York: Phaidon, 1968: 143–144.

Citation of this web page:

Peter Heinrich Jahn, Maximilian Aracena "Parish Church of St. Peter and Paul" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;de;Mon12;17;en

Prepared by: Peter Heinrich Jahn, Maximilian Aracena
Translation by: Thomas Milnes
Translation 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: DE3 17

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