Bolzano Franciscan Friary

Bolzano, Italy

The Franciscan Friary in Bolzano was founded in 1221. According a legend, young Saint Francis accompanied his cloth merchant father, Pietro Bernardone, on a business trip to Bolzano. While there, the young Francis took Mass in the Chapel of Saints Ingenuinus and Erhard, and the bells rang out. The Chapel is today part of the friary complex.

However, the original structure was destroyed by fire in 1291 and the friary was rebuilt in 1322. In 1348 the Franciscan church belonging to it was ready to be consecrated.

The start of the 16th century saw a loss of discipline, notably with regard to the Franciscan Vow of Poverty. Following years of conflict and division within the Franciscan Order, 1514 was a year of important monastic reform in Bolzano which adopted the 'Observants' principles. In 1580 the friary at Bolzano became part of the newly-established stand-alone Franciscan Tirolean Province.

In 1780 the Empress Maria Theresa inaugurated the city's Franciscan Gymnasium (school) for which the friary was mandated to provide the teaching and leadership. During the time of Bavarian occupation, in 1810, the friary found itself abolished and some of its lands forfeit, shortly after which the buildings were used as a military barracks till 1813. However, the region was restored to Austria following the defeat of Napoleon and the Franciscans were able to return to their friary.

The church was destroyed on 29 March 1944 by aerial bombing, but was rebuilt after the war. During the immediate postwar years the South Tyrol was one of the few German-speaking regions of Europe not under the direct military control of the winning powers, and the friary was one of a number of establishments in the region used as a temporary hiding place for high-ranking Nazis heading for more permanent refuges outside Europe.

Architecture

The church tower is 44 metres high and was completed in 1376. It is topped off with an octagonal pyramid above eight little acoustic windows.

The Gothic church itself comprises a three-aisled nave and a choir section with a polygonal plan, under a ribbed arched roof, all primarily constructed out of pink sandstone. The apse is dominated by three large windows of modern stained glass, which are the work of the Innsbruck artist, Josef Widmoser.

The choir accommodates an elaborately carved and painted late Gothic 'winged altar' constructed around 1500 by Hans Klocker. This was originally housed in the St Anna Chapel that was built at the same time as the church and in 1373 donated by the Vintler family of Bolzano.

The Gothic cloisters date back to the 14th century, and are decorated by a succession of frescoes of the Giotto school, although the surviving display is fragmentary. There are also fragments visible from later centuries of 17th century interventions and additions by Ludwig Pfendter and others.

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Address

Via Vintler 25, Bolzano, Italy
See all sites in Bolzano

Details

Founded: 1221
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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