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Rostislav Švácha

The Church of St. Michael in Olomouc and Its Type

The types of longitudinal churches in the early modern period are usually distinguished from one another on the basis of their spatial composition and the method used for lighting the main area. The article proposes adding to these criteria the factor of how the longitudinal church is constructed. After the Council of Trent, the protagonists of the Catholic renewal preferred to have this main area covered with a monumental barrel vault. This vision meant that architects were faced with the task of developing types of church that would be capable of withstanding the centrifugal pressure of these barrel vaults. The buttressing system of these construction types sometimes resisted the pressures in the vaults externally; this was the solution chosen by the architects in the paradigm case of Il Gesù in Rome. In other cases the buttressing system was drawn into the interior. The German and Austrian literature use the terms ‘Wandpfeilerhalle’ and ‘Emporenhalle’ to describe these construction types, depending on whether the pillars of the indrawn buttressing system were attached to the inside of the wall of the church or were detached from the wall, in which case the architect inserted tribunes or galleries between the pillars.The church of St. Michael in Olomouc (1676–1699) is similar to the ‘Emporenhalle’ type. The pillars on which the pressure of the vaulting system above the nave falls are separated from the walls of the church by narrow vaulted passages. However, there are no galleries. The vault system above the nave culminates in three domes, a constellation for which few parallels can be found in architecture in the early modern period. The small group of other triple-dome churches have in common with the building in Olomouc the same construction type. Prior Antonín Peretius was involved in both the beginning of the construction of St. Michael’s church and its completion. It may well have been him who commissioned Giovanni Pietro Tencalla to draw up plans for the church. From Peretius’s correspondence with the Bishop of Olomouc, Karl von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, we learn that in 1694, on the Bishop’s recommendation, the shape of the two lower domes in St. Michael’s was altered by Domenico Martinelli.

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