After a break for lunch we revisited the Hofkirche, to be once again awed by the magnificence and artistry of the Tomb of the Emperor Maximilian 1. The tomb, as its intended to do, dominates the central nave of the church. However, the Emperor himself is actually buried elsewhere and had already been dead for many years by the time this monument to the greatness and the might of the Holy Roman Empire was completed. The work has understandably and deservedly been hailed as the finest example of German Renaissance sculpture. At the centre of the monument is a massive black marble sarcophagus (presumably empty). Sited at the top of this structure is a bronze statue of the Emperor Maximillian, proudly kneeling in humble supplication before God. It is a truly marvellous piece of propaganda!
The skill of the many master craftsmen who produced this incredible work of art has to be seen to be believed. To produce such a masterpiece, the Habsburgs employed many of the finest artists and craftspeople at work in the sixteenth century. The intricacies of the wrought iron screen around the tomb were achieved by a Prague master craftsman called Schmiedhammer, and the bronze statue of the Emperor himself and the 24 (quite stunning) marble reliefs around the tomb, depicting scenes from Maximilian's life, were mostly the work of Alexander Colin. However, there is still more to see: surrounding the tomb, standing in a kind of homage, are 28 larger-than-life-size statues of Maximillian's ancestors and contemporaries, with a few mythical characters like King Arthur of England thrown in for good measure. This particular statue and several others were designed by the artist Albrecht Dürer, and it is widely regarded as the finest depiction of a knight found anywhere in Renaissance Art.
The bronze statues have acquired an austere dark patina over time. But I have to admit to taking a little profane delight when I saw the shining bright codpiece sported by Rudolph 1 - irresistibly prominent and within easy reach, Rudolph's lucky charms, polished to a fine sheen by countless touching fingers over the centuries. What an ignominy!
The following images which concentrate on the workmanship and detail rather than the overall majesty of the tomb, which no photograph could ever really capture, were taken by Tom Johnson and are presented here with his kind permission.