Benedictine Abbey of St. Mang/Magnus
Catholic Parish Church of St. Mang and Town Hall/Town Museum
Füssen, Bavarian Swabia, Germany
1701–26: monastery building
Architecture, stucco, and frescoes in the choir and transept of the church: Johann Jakob Herkomer (1652–1717);Stucco and relief tondi in the nave of the church, busts inside the gateway: Matthias Lotter; Frescoes in the nave of the church and the ceremonial hall: Franz Georg Hermann (1692–1768); Sculptures of the high altar, in the Chapel of St. Magnus, and relief tondi in the crossing: Franz Anton Sturm (1690–1757);Altars of the transept arms and side altars (designs): Johann Michael Fischer (1673–1747); Stuccoes in the grand staircase and the ceremonial hall: Andrea Maini (b. 1683)
Ecclesiastical architecture (monastery)
Abbots Gerhard Oberleitner (gov. 1696–1714) and Dominikus Dierling (gov. 1714–38)
Founded around 850, the Benedictine abbey originated from a church that was built around 730 by the St. Gallen monk, Magnus of Füssen, whose final resting place lies in this very location. After his canonisation, the place of worship evolved into a destination for an increased number of pilgrimages. A Baroque renovation of the monastery was initiated by the cornerstone ceremony on 10 May 1701, which skilfully incorporated the medieval foundations of the structure. The construction and artistic management were assigned to Johann Jakob Herkomer, a universal artist born near Füssen, who had been trained in the Region of Veneto, including Venice. Before his death in 1717 – the year of the consecration – he was able to complete the structural work and started implementing the stucco and fresco decoration in the choir and the transept of the church. Maintaining Herkomer's style, his nephew, Johann Georg Fischer, finalised the church, including designs for the altars, while the task of decorating the ceremonial hall was given to the Ticino stuccoer, Andrea Maini.
Herkomer's monastery – inevitably tiered and intricate, due to its narrow hillside location – surprises with original ideas, specifically the library. Created as an oval rotunda, it corresponds, through an oculus, with the refectory beneath. The ceremonial hall is crowned with a scrolled gable and dominates the large courtyard facing the town. Also used for parish service, the abbey church flaunts its precious marble and rightfully qualifies as an import of Venetian architecture. The local tradition of wall pillar construction creates the layout, but is formatively combined with elements of Benedictine churches which can be found in the Venetian realm: the domed vaults refer to Santa Giustina in Padua, whereas the choir and the crossing are linked to San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Another reference to Venetian models are single motifs such as the so-called Diocletian windows, an antique window type deriving from Roman baths which had been popular in Venice since Andrea Palladio.View Short Description
Dedicated to the so-called Allgovian apostle, the Benedictine abbey resides on a scenic slope at the edge of the old town of Füssen, between the Lech's riverside and the castle named "Hohes Schloss", and is a rarity as an offshoot of Venetian ecclesiastical architecture. As a native to the Allgäu region, its versatilely-trained builder, Johann Jakob Herkomer, competently combined local traditions of art and architecture with his expertise achieved in Northern Italy. Particular mention should be made of the church's furnishing with marble altars, two altarpieces painted by the Venetian artist Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini and the splendid ceremonial hall decorated by stuccoer Andrea Maini.
Archival documents; inscriptions on the crossing piers; medallions on the gateway containing dates of the foundation and construction.
Choir of the monastery church
Design: Johann Jakob Herkomer (1652–1717); Sculptures: Franz Anton Sturm (1690–1757)
Following a Venetian type, the high altar does not feature a retable, favouring a tabernacle flanked by statues and crowned with a ciborium. The marble statues of saints of the Benedictine Order, St. Scholastica, St. Gallus, St. Columbanus and St. Benedict, are masterpieces of the sculptor, Franz Anton Sturm, and rank among his best works.
Transept arms of the monastery church
Altar designs: Johann Georg Fischer (1673–1747); Altarpieces: Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675–1741)
The two transept arms are predominated by impressive retable altars. The altarpieces were created by a Venetian muralist who was highly sought-after all over Europe and fortunately travelled through. The gifting of the rosary to the Dominican saints, St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena, was intended for the local Rosary Brotherhood; St. Ulrich embodies the patron saint of the diocese, waking the dead from their sleep.
Facing south, below the organ loft of the monastery church
1712: construction1717: altar, including the sitting figure of St. Magnus1724: statues of saints1751/52: decoration of the vaults
Architectural design and altar design: Johann Jakob Herkomer (1652–1717); Sculptures: Franz Anton Sturm (1690–1757); Stucco: Joseph Fischer; Ceiling paintings: Franz Anton Zeiler (1716–93/94)
Designed as an oval mausoleum rotunda, the Burial Chapel of St. Magnus legendarily goes back to his foundation of the church and is, therefore, a pilgrimage destination as well as a traditional site for the abbey itself. The dignified marble decorations include sculptures of Magnus of Füssen and saints of the Benedictine Order: St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, St. Gallus and St. Columbanus.
Monastery building, on the first floor of the west wing
Interior design and stucco: Andrea Maini (b. 1683); Ceiling fresco: Franz Georg Hermann (1692–1768)
Designed in the colonnade type, the magnificent reception hall of the church demonstrates the highest level of splendour. Several elements of the interior reflect the high educational standards of the monks, such as the stucco decor that possesses a great deal of symbolism and the allegorical ceiling painting with a wind rose in its centre as a showpiece of Baroque metrology.
Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany, London/New York: Phaidon, 1968: 91–94.
Pörnbacher, H., Pfarrkirche, ehem. Benediktinerabteikirche St. Mang in Füssen (Kleine Kunstführer 147), 2., völlig neu bearbeitete Auflage, München/Zürich: Schnell & Steiner, 1987.
Riedmüller, T., Kloster St. Mang (Kataloge des Museums der Stadt Füssen 1), Füssen: 1994.
Seufert, I., Johann Jakob Herkomer (1652–1717), Lindenberg im Allgäu: Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2009: 25–40, 50, 52–60, 77, 80, 83–86.
Seufert, I., Kath. Stadtpfarrkirche St. Mang in Füssen, Beuron/Lindenberg im Allgäu: Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2004.
Peter Heinrich Jahn "Benedictine Abbey of St. Mang/Magnus" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2023. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;de;Mon12;32;en
Prepared by: Peter Heinrich Jahn
Translation by: Thea Norris
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 32
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