Dientzenhofer family

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Master-masons and architects originally from Bad Aibling, near Rosenheim, Bavaria, they made an enormous contribution to the complexities of Baroque architecture in Germany and Bohemia. Georg (1643–89) built the Cistercian Abbey Church at Waldsassen (1682–1704) to designs by Leuthner (who seems to have given the Dientzenhofer clan their chance to rise above artisan status, possibly for family reasons, as he married Anna Dientzenhofer in 1678). Georg also designed the Pilgrimage Church (Wallfahrtskirche) of the Holy Trinity at Kappel, near Waldsassen (1684–9), with a triapsidal plan and three slender cylindrical towers, an unusual arrangement clearly intended to symbolize the Trinity. It was completed by his brother Christoph (1655–1722), who was strongly influenced by the geometries of Guarini (published in 1686), and who designed several churches of great splendour in Bohemia, including St Joseph, Obořiště (1699–1712), the Chapel in the Castle, Smiřice (1700–11), Sv Mikuláš (St Nicholas), Malá Strana, Prague (1703–11), and Sv Markéta (St Margaret), Břevnov, near Prague (1708–15). Christoph's uses of ellipses mixed with the Wandpfeiler arrangement made his interiors particularly complex, and demonstrate how he synthesized motifs drawn from Borromini and Guarini. His beautiful façade of the monastery of Our Lady of Loreto, Hradčany, Prague (1717–23), has a central belfry, one of the most elegant in Central Europe.

Wolfgang (1648–1706) is remembered for several buildings, notably the Abbey Church of Speinshart (1691–1706) and the Pilgrimage Church at Straubing (1705–7), while Leonhard (1660–1707) was responsible for the abbeys at Ebrach (1686–1704) and Banz (1695–1705). However, Johann (1663–1726) completed Banz, designing the Abbey Church there (1710–19) in which complex interlocking ellipses (not unlike Christoph's scheme at Obořiště) again feature, contributing to an interior of great beauty, arguably the finest design by any Dientzenhofer. Johann's first great church was the Stiftskirche (Monastery Church now Dom (Cathedral) at Fulda (1704–12), with echoes of St Peter's, Il Gesù, Sant'Ignazio, and (especially) Borromini's remodelling of San Giovanni in Laterano, all in Rome. Johann Dientzenhofer worked at Pommersfelden, near Bamberg, in 1711, and there, for Lothar Franz, Graf von Schönborn (1655–1729), Elector-Archbishop of Mainz and Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, built Schloss Weissenstein, one of the noblest Baroque palaces in Franconia (1711–18), with a stupendous symmetrical Treppenhaus (staircase—partly designed by Hildebrandt and von Schönborn himself) rising in a vast galleried hall the full height of the building.

Christoph's son, Kilian Ignaz (1689–1751), trained with his father and with Hildebrandt. He may have been partly responsible for completing the latter's stunning Church of Maria Treu, Vienna, but the first building for which he was solely responsible was the Villa Amerika, Prague (1715–20), which has obvious Hildebrandtian echoes. He collaborated with his father in the building of the Prague Loreto, Hradčany (1721–4). His Ursuline Church of St Johann Nepomuk, Hradčany (1720) and the Pilgrimage Church at Nitzau (Nicov—1720–6) represent his earliest independently designed churches, but in both buildings Hildebrandt's plan for St Lawrence at Gabel (influenced by Guarini) is synthesized with the Dientzenhofer family's much-used Wandpfeiler theme. At the noble Church of St Johann Nepomuk am Felsen (Sv Jan na Scalce), Prague (1729–39), Kilian Ignaz's mastery of Baroque rhetoric, drama, and plastic modelling is admirably expressed. His Church of Sv Mikuláš (St Nicholas, Staré Město, Prague (1732–7) ), has astonishing originality and fluency, with a complex central space surrounded by ellipses: the twin-towered façade is parallel to the long axis. Elliptical elements again form the basis of the plan of Sv Majdaléna (St Magdalena), Karlovy Vary (1732–6). He added the beautiful cupola (1750–2) and tower (1755) to his father's Church of Sv Mikuláš, Malá Strana, Prague. Among his last churches, St Florian, Kladno (1746–8), and St John the Baptist, Paštiky (1748–51), show a tendency towards restraint and simplification.


Subjects: Architecture.

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