European Architecture Series
Johann Balthasar Neumann

Biography of German Baroque Architect.

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Wurzburg Residenz (1720-44).
Napoleon called it "the nicest
parsonage in Europe."

J. Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753)


Johann Balthasar Neumann's Architecture
Buildings Designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann
Other Leading Baroque Architects

For a guide to terminology
see: Architecture Glossary.

Johann Balthasar Neumann's Architecture

One of the greatest architects involved in German Baroque art, Johann Balthasar Neumann was active in the towns of Wurzburg and Bamberg, in 18th century Germany. Celebrated for his Late Baroque architecture, his best known masterpiece is the Wurzburg Residenz (1720-44), a monumental mansion, later made famous by the tromple l'oeil murals and fresco painting of the Rococo artist Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), the leading figure in Venetian painting of the period. Neumann's second masterpiece is the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (Vierzehnheiligen) (1742-74), Bad Staffelstein. Patronized by the influential Schonborn royal family, for whom he designed courtly residences in several locations throughout their principality of Swiss Franconia, Neumann was particularly famous for his magnificent staircases and his ability to manipulate space. He also introduced a new Rococo style of ornamentation to his interiors. One of the most prolific Baroque architects, he designed more than 100 churches, chapels and abbeys, as well as palaces, public buildings, bridges, managed numerous town and water planning projects, and lectured in architecture and civil engineering at the University of Wurzburg. In his final years he produced several designs which anticipated the coming style of Neoclassical architecture.


Born in the Kingdom of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, he became an apprentice at a metal foundry. He then studied engineering before joining the imperial Austrian army, where he perfected his technical skills in the area of fortress architecture. At the age of 27, while continuing his lifelong military career, he entered the service of the Schonborn royal family based in Wurzburg. They ruled the important Prince-Bishopric of Wurzburg, an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire situated in Lower Franconia, adjacent to the Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg. Meantime, in Vienna, with the army, Neumann studied the buildings designed by the Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723), and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745), and modelled himself on their style.

By about 1716, Neumann's architectural skills were beginning to catch the attention of his contemporaries, and after a period of time under the supervision of German designers Andreas Muller and Joseph Greising, the Schonborn family appointed him chief architect-engineer in Wurzburg, a position he took up in 1720. Since this appointment coincided with the start of building works on the new Residenz, he became chief architect of the project (most of the initial architectural planning for which had already been completed), working with architects Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745) and Maximilian von Welsch (1671-1745). The project was commissioned by Johann Philipp Franz von Schonborn (1673–1724) (Prince-Bishop 1719-25) and his brother Friedrich Carl von Schonborn (1674–1746) (Prince-Bishop 1729-46). Completed finally in 1744, almost a quarter of a century later, the Wurzburg Palace was decorated by Tiepolo and his son, Domenico, in the early 1750s - see: Wurzburg Residence Frescoes (1750-53). It remains one of the great palaces of the Baroque era.

While working on the construction of the Residenz, Neumann completed numerous other designs. These included the monumental twin-towered Pilgrim's Church (Walifahrtskirche) at Grossweinstein; the marble staircase for the Augustusburg Palace at Bruhl, commissioned by the Archbishop of Cologne; the single-towered Trinity Church at Gaiback, decorated in green and yellow ochre sandstone, with its vault-like rotunda; the Benedictine Abbey at Neresheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, noted for its seven cupolas and the ovals, or ellipses, of its nave; and the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (Vierzehnheiligen), whose interior is decorated with a rich array of statues, gold columns, stucco and gilding, creating an intense display of colour and texture. See also: Rococo Artists (1700-60) and Late-18th century architecture (c.1750-1830).

Buildings Designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann

The most important structures designed by Neumann include the following. Note: unless otherwise stated, the location is Wurzburg:

- Wurzburg Residenz (1720-44)
- Schonbornkapelle (1721-36)
- Haus des Architekten (1722-24)
- Klosterkirche Holzkirchen (1724-32)
- Wiesentheld Church (1727)
- Schloss Werneck (1734-45)
- Parish and Mortuary Church of Sts Cecilia and Barbara, Hesse (1739-56)
- Trinity Church, Gaiback (1740)
- Kappele (1740-52)
- Augustinerkirche (1741)
- Holy Cross Chapel, Etwashausen (1741)
- Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (Bad Staffelstein) (1742-74)
- Schloss Bruhl, Bonn (1743-48)
- Augustusburg Palace, Bruhl (1743-48)
- Benedictine Abbey, Neresheim (1747)
- Mariankirche, Limbach (1747-52)

Other Leading Baroque Architects

In addition to those architects cited above, the best known Baroque designers included:

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723)
Jakob Prandtauer (1660-1726)
Johann Dientzenhofer (1663-1726)
Andreas Schluter (1664-1714)
Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (1693-1742)
Johann Caspar Bagnato (1696-1757)
Hans Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff (1699-1753)
Franz Anton Bagnato (Francesco Antonio Bagnato) (1731-1810)
See also: German Baroque Artists.

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)
Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723)

Francois Mansart (1598-1666)
Louis Le Vau (1612-70)
Jules Hardouin Mansart (1646-1708)
See also: French Baroque Artists.

Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669)
Bernini (1598-1680)
Francesco Borromini (1599-1667)
See also: Italian Baroque Artists.

Alonso Cano (1601-1667)
See also: Spanish Baroque Artists.

Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771)
See also: Petrine art (1686-1725).


• For more about Baroque buildings in Germany, see: Homepage.

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