8 Heavenly Austrian Ceiling Frescoes influenced by the Sistine Chapel

How could we begin without first mentioning the granddaddy of all ceiling frescoes that influenced so many others that followed—the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel exemplifies High Renaissance art—a period of exceptional creativity during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Nine scenes from the Book of Genesis take center stage, of which The Creation of Adam is the best known, deservedly enjoying an iconic status equaled only by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The left half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in 1508 and restored in 1994
The left half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in 1508 and restored in 1994

Anyone who’s tried to paint a ceiling at home will know it’s back-breaking work. All that looking up. But imagine painting that way for 4 years solid!

Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo didn’t lye on his back but painted in a standing position.

The work was carried out in extremely uncomfortable conditions, from his having to work with his head tilted upwards.Giorgio Vasari (1511 - 1574)

The ceiling rises to 44 ft (13.4 m) above the main floor, so, what does a 16th-century sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer do to reach such lofty heights?

You guessed it—he designed his own scaffold. But instead of building from the floor up, he saved on wood by making a flat platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall near the top of the windows.

Besides his own heavenly creations, Michelangelo would inspire later artists like Austrian Paul Troger (1698 – 1762), whose illusionistic ceiling frescoes are notable for their dramatic vitality of movement and light color palette.

Here are 8 examples of heavenly baroque frescoes from 18th-century Austria.

1. Melk Abbey, Austria

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey originally founded in 1089 overlooking the town of Melk in Lower Austria.

Today’s Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736.

Ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall of Melk Abbey by Paul Troger, 1730. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall of Melk Abbey by Paul Troger, 1730. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the central arch of the nave at Melk Abbey Church by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1722) Via triumphalis of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the central arch of the nave at Melk Abbey Church by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1722) Via triumphalis of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Frescos of dome and ceiling in Melk Abbey Church (Austria) by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1716-22). Credit Uoaei1
Frescoes of dome and ceiling in Melk Abbey Church (Austria) by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1716-22). Credit Uoaei1
Symbolic illustration of the history of Melk Abbey, 1745. Credit Uoaei1
Symbolic illustration of the history of Melk Abbey, 1745. Credit Uoaei1

2. Herzogenburg Monastery, Austria

The Augustinian Herzogenburg Monastery in Lower Austria was founded in 1112 by Augustinian Canons, and refurbished in the Baroque style in 1714.

Ceiling frescos in Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (left fresco) and Bartolomeo Altomonte. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (left fresco) and Bartolomeo Altomonte. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran The Miracle of Pentecost. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran The Miracle of Pentecost. Credit Uoaei1

3. Sonntagberg Basilica, Austria

Sonntagberg Basilica is a baroque church in Lower Austria, Built between 1706 and 1732, Pope Paul VI gave it the title Minor basilica in 1964.

Ceiling frescos in Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescos in the nave and the dome of Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in the nave and the dome of Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1

4. Altenburg Abbey, Austria

Altenburg Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Lower Austria. It suffered numerous invasions and attacks, and was destroyed by the Swedes in 1645.

The present Baroque abbey replaced the earlier Romanesque structure, and is said to be one of the finest in Austria.

Fresco of the north dome at the library of Altenburg Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1742) Theology and Jurisprudence. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco of the north dome at the library of Altenburg Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1742) Theology and Jurisprudence. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco in the dome of Altenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1733) The apocalyptic vision of St. John. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco in the dome of Altenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1733) The apocalyptic vision of St. John. Credit Uoaei1

5. Seitenstetten Abbey, Austria

Originally founded in 1112, Seitenstetten Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Lower Austria that was lavishly refurbished in the 18th century in the Baroque style.

Ceiling fresco of the Marble Hall at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1735) The Harmony between Religion and Science. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Marble Hall at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1735) The Harmony between Religion and Science. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Abbey's Staircase at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1744) Triumph of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Abbey’s Staircase at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1744) Triumph of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1

6. Jesuit Church, Austria

Also known as the University Church, the Jesuit Church is a two-storey, twin-tower church in Vienna, Austria. It was remodeled using Baroque principles in the early 18th century.

Jesuit Church, Dr.-Ignaz-Seipel-Platz, Vienna, Frescoes by Andrea Pozzo during his time in Vienna (1702-1709). Credit Uoaei1
Jesuit Church, Vienna, Austria. Frescoes by Andrea Pozzo during his time in Vienna (1702-1709). Credit Uoaei1

The first church in the Austrian market town of Maria Taferl was built around a shrine to the Holy Mother, which is the origin of the town’s name.

7. Maria Taferl Basilica, Austria

Built between 1660 and 1710, the baroque Maria Taferl Basilica features ornate gold leaf decoration and the frescoed ceiling shown below.

Ceiling fresco in the nave of Maria Taferl Basilica (Lower Austria) by Antonio Beduzzi (1714-1718) Glorification of St. Joseph, Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in the nave of Maria Taferl Basilica (Lower Austria) by Antonio Beduzzi (1714-1718) Glorification of St. Joseph, Credit Uoaei1

8. Göttweig Abbey, Austria

Göttweig Abbey is a Benedictine monastery near Krems in Lower Austria.

Founded in the 11th century, the abbey burned down in 1718 and was rebuilt on a grander, more lavish scale.

The fresco decorating the imperial staircase (shown below) is considered a masterpiece of Austrian Baroque architecture.

Apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI by Paul Troger, 1739 in Göttweig Abbey, Austria. Credit Uoaei1
Apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI by Paul Troger, 1739 in Göttweig Abbey, Austria. Credit Uoaei1

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