Pitztal Holiday

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  • Hofkirche (Court Church) in Innsbruck

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    1. The Hofkirche

    The Hofkirche (Court Church), with the cenotaph of emperor Maximilian I and the Silver Chapel, are part of the Tyrolean State Museums. The Hofkirche, a Gothic church, is located between the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum and the Hofburg in the Altstadt (Old Town) section of Innsbruck.

    Hofkirche with at the left the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum
    © Alexander Haiden, Tiroler Landesmuseum


    The Hofkirche was built in 1553 by Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564) as a memorial to his grandfather Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), whose cenotaph within boasts a remarkable collection of German Renaissance sculpture. The following can be seen in the Hofkirche:

    • The tomb of Andreas Hofer (Tyrol’s national hero)
    • A little monastery
    • A Renaissance porch
    • The cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I (see §2)
    • The Silver Chapel (see §3)

    2. Maximilian’s cenotaph

    The Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I (1459– 1519), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, made Innsbruck the center of his empire. Alongside major reforms, Emperor Maximilian I also left behind prestigious buildings that serve as a reminder of his person and, above all, of his power.

    During his lifetime he commissioned plans for his own monumental sepulcher complete with an impressive (partly fictitious) ancestral gallery in the form of 40 larger-then-life bronze figures (200-250 cm). In the course of a journey in 1519, however, the Emperor died in the castle of Wels before his plans were realized, and he was buried in the Wiener Neustadt, the town of his birth. Unfortunately it proved impractical to construct there the large memorial.

    His grandson Emperor Ferdinand I planned the construction of a new church and monastery in Innsbruck as a suitable memorial; the Hofkirche, which was built between 1553 and 1563. In 1584, under the auspices of Archduke Ferdinand II, the cenotaph was finally completed.

    Cenotaph of emperor Maximilian I in the Hofkirche (Court Church) in Innsbruck

    Emperor Maximilian’s ornate black marble cenotaph occupies the center of the nave, intended to glorify the Holy Roman Empire. It is a fine example of German Renaissance sculpture and the highlight of the Hofkirche. The cenotaph is surrounded by 24 marble reliefs depicting his accomplishments, as well as 28 larger-than-life-size statues (200-250 cm) of ancestors (including King Arthur of England), relatives and heroes. Their creation took place between 1502-1555 and occupied a number of artists.

    The complete construction of the cenotaph and the figures took more than 80 years. The sarcophagus itself was completed in 1572, and the final embellishments – the kneeling emperor, the four virtues, and the iron grille – were added in 1584.

    Gallery containing 23 small wooden statues (66–69 cm) of the Habsburg patron saints.

    The gallery above across the church contains 23 small statues (66–69 cm) of the Habsburg patron saints. They were designed around 1514/15, and carved into wood and then wax. The church also once contained a number of busts of Roman emperors; 20 are now displayed in Schloß Ambras and one is in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich.

    3. The Silver Chapel

    3.1 Introduction

    The Silver Chapel (Silberne Kapell) is located upstairs opposite of the entrance from the Tiroler Volkskunst-Museum (Museum of Tirolean Folk Art) to the Hofkirche. The Silver Chapel is named after the silver altar to Mary, which has silver reliefs around Mary representing the Laurentanian Litany. The so-called “Funeral Chapel” was built by order of the Tyrolean sovereign Archduke Ferdinand II von Habsburg in two construction phases from 1577 to 1596 for himself and his wife Philippine Welser.

    Her family, the Welsers of Augsburg, were merchants and financiers of European significance and great wealth. Ferdinand II and Phillipine met through Katharina von Loxan (aunt of Philippine), whose tomb is also located in the Hofkirche. In defiance of all political reason the two married, but Philippine found little recognition in the Habsburg family. The marriage was only accepted by Emperor Ferdinand I in 1559 under the condition of secrecy. Ferdinand II had to abandon a brilliant political career and in 1567 he assumed the reign in Tyrol.

    When Philippine died the 53 year-old Ferdinand married with the 16 year-old Anna Katharina Gonzaga from Mantua. This marriage led to a modification of the construction concept of the Silver Chapel; a second chapel was added in the south. So nowadays they are referred to as the northern and southern part of the chapel.

    3.2 Northern part

    The northern and eldest part of the Silver Chapel was build during the period 1577-79 and accommodates Philippine’s sarcophagus. This part of the chapel also contains the tomb of Katharina von Loxan, Philippine’s aunt, who died ten days before Philippine. It is located behind a wrought-iron grille next along the stairs to the Silver Chapel. The tombs in the northern part of the Silver Chapel were build in 1580-81.

    Philippine’s marble sarcophagus with outstanding reliefs was only positioned, somewhat unfavorably, after Ferdinand’s death in a niche that was quarried-out afterwards. Parts of the arch above the lying figure had to be cut out in order to adapt it to the much too small niche under the staircase.

    The ceiling and the upper part of the walls of the northern part of the Silver Chapel were painted around 1580. Between the marble ribs a regular pattern of staggered rows of angel heads is shown, each with a different facial expression. The hexagonal tempera paintings show scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus.

    3.3 Southern part

    The southern part of the Silver Chapel was built during the period 1586-88 to accommodate the tomb for Ferdinand II and Anna Katharina (his second wife). The tomb of Ferdinand II was build in 1588-96. When Anna Katharina died she was not buried in the Silver Chapel, but in the Servite Convent (her own collegiate foundation).

    The southern part contains also an original Italian cedar wooden organ (1560), which is still playable. Unfortunately the doors of the organ are closed, but the image below shows its internals.

    Italian Organ in the southern section of the Silver Chapel (1580)
    © The Center for Early Music Research and Performance

    4. Address and opening hours

    The address of the Hofkirche is:

    Universitätsstrassse 2
    6020 Innsbruck

    The actual opening hours can be found on the website of the Tiroler Landesmuseum. In 2016 they were:

    Monday – Saturday: 09:00 – 17:00
    Sunday and bank holidays: 12:30 – 17:00

    5. Particularities

    • Multiple parking garages in the city center. The nearest parking is the Congress Garage.
    • The Hofkirche is not entered by the big main church door, but a little further to the left. It shares an entrance with the Tiroler Volkskunst-Museum (Museum of Tirolean Folk Art).
    • Children up to the age of 19 have free entry
    • Adults pay €7 up to €11 for a combi ticket to visit other museums (prices for 2016). See the website of the Tiroler Landesmuseum for actual ticket prices.

    6. Directions & parking

    From Wenns drive out of the Pitztal valley. For safety it is advised not to take the A12 from Imst to Innsbruck via the Roppener Tunnel as many accidents happen inside this tunnel. Instead take the road B171 towards Karres / Ötztal just at the roundabout at the other side of the bridge across the river Inn.

    After some 8 kilometers, at the crossing with the Ötztal, follow the signs with A12 Innsbruck to get on the highway. At Innsbruck take the “Innsbruck West” exit (number 79).

    You are coming from the left, so this parking garage is visible at the last moment

    Follow the signs to the city center. Keep left at the first crossing with lights. When the crossing is left behind stay at the right lane to turn right at the next lights (just before the bridge over the river Inn).

    Follow this road till at the right a sign is seen which indicates the parking Congress Garage. It’s a small lane at the right. Be aware that just at the end of the buildings at your left you need to turn immediately left to drive downwards into the parking garage.





    The Hofkirche is located 250 meters walking from the parking garage.

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