Saturday, 22 August 2015

History revealed

Recently, while in Innsbruck, Austria, we went to pay a visit to the Hofkirche. Our aim was to see if we could find any traces or remembrances of the time when Queen Kristina of Sweden converted to Catholicism here.  She had abdicated her throne in 1654, travelled through Europe to Antwerp, Belgium where she began her conversion. In the autumn of 1655 she left Belgium to travel to Rome. On her way she stopped over in Innsbruck and on November 3, she officially converted to Catholicism in the Hofkirche.

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Inner yard of the Hofkirche
The Hofkirche is now a museum and Kristina's conversion is not the most important thing here. No, it is something much more spectacular. We started with an audio show which gave us a short background to the life and deeds of Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). From 1508 until his death he was 'The Holy Roman Emperor'. He expanded the Habsburg influence, through war and marriage to include among other areas the Duchy of Burgundy and through the marriage of his son, Spain. He died in 1519, in Wels in Upper Austria, and is buried in the Castle Chapel at Wiener Neustad.

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Cenotaph tomb of Maximilian
However, in the Hofkirche in Innsbruck is a cenotaph tomb. And what a tomb! It is made of ornate black marble and stands in the center of the nave. It took more than 80 years to construct, was completed in 1572 with some final artwork added in 1584. The tomb is exquisitely decorated with bronze relief friezes. What I found most stunning though, are the 28 large bronze statues surrounding the tomb. They are between 200-250 cm high and are ancestors, relatives and heroes and were made by a number of fine artists, including Albrecht Dürer. The statues are real pieces of art and when you see them close up, you cannot imagine that the clothes they wear are made from bronze. They fall so easily as if they were made of real cloth. Absolutely fantastic.

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Exquisite work, look at the folds!
Most of them are kings and queens, and to my surprise there is also a statue of King Arthur! You wonder how he ended up here among the contemporary kings and queens? A hero maybe?

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King Arthur
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King Arthur, from the backside
And then...back to Queen Kristina. Was there any trace of her conversion? Just a little small plaque on the wall!
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Queen Christina of Sweden officially converted to
Catholicism in this church on 3 November 1655.  
If you are visiting Innsbruck you have to visit the Hofkirche. Not for Kristina's sake, but for the fantastic cenotaph tomb over Maximiliam.

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Hofkirche, Innsbruck
In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant facing one side of the Hofkirche. Apart from the fact the the service was not at its most efficient this evening, although the food, when it finally came, was really excellent, it was nice to enjoy dinner in such historic surroundings.

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