Mausoleum of Ferdinand II (Graz)


Description of Mausoleum of Ferdinand II

Burggasse 2
Hours: 10.30am-12.30pm & 1.30-4pm Tuesday & Friday January-April, daily May-December
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Mausoleum of Ferdinand II is a historic burial place for king Ferdinand II. It was erected in the late 17th century. The magnificent Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II is undoubtedly of the most beautiful and unusual buildings in Graz. It gracefully combines Mannerist Austrian Baroque with the theatrical splendour of Rome's great churches. The initial work of the Italian architect Pietro de Pomis was completed by the stuccowork and fresco decoration of Graz's own Fischer von Erlach. A beautiful oval dome adorns the funerary crypt, dominated by a great red-marble sarcophagus. Ferdinand (1578–1637), his wife and his son are interred in the crypt.


Building history

In 1614, Ferdinand II entrusted his court artist Giovanni Pietro de Pomis (1569–1633), who came from Lodi near Milan in Lombardy, with the design and execution of this monumental tomb, which was completed in 1636.

Ferdinand II decided to build a dignified burial ground next to the Graz Cathedral on the site of the former cemetery. The site of a Romanesque cemetery chapel with a ossuary that had existed since 1265 and was dedicated to St. Catherine was chosen as the building site. As a painter, architect and master builder, Pomis took over the planning and construction management.

For the complex, two sacred buildings with different floor plans and spatial concepts were connected: a church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria and an oval central building adjoining it to the south as a burial chapel for Emperor Ferdinand II and his family. To the east around the apse, an enclosing formwork was created around the sacristy and the sacristan's apartment, which is crowned by a slender tower.

The conception of the complex shows the ecclesiastical and dynastic representative intentions of the builder Ferdinand II:
The cross-shaped floor plan of St. Catherine's Church indicates the Christian faith, the oval shape of the burial chapel is a symbol of the resurrection.
The crowning of the domes of St. Catherine's Church and the burial chapel in the form of a scepter and imperial eagle with imperial sword and orb symbolize the Habsburg dynasty and its claim to power in the empire.
In the case of the St. Catherine's Church, the patron saint of St. Catherine of Alexandria not only refers to a medieval predecessor building, but is also related to the University of Graz, which was founded by Archduke Charles II (Ferdinand II's father) in 1585 and is run by the Jesuit Order, which is also under the patron saint of St. Catherine of Alexandria (as patroness of science).
The sandstone figures on the west facade - they represent Saint Catherine flanked by two angels and two people she converted to Christianity - and the painted copper panels in the niches with depictions from the lives of the saints not only represent the titular saint of the church and University-related program, but also show a counter-reformation aspect in Porphyrius, who was converted to the Christian faith, and in Faustina.

Building development
Built under the direction of Giovanni Pietro de Pomis, the building shows strong Italian influences on the building. The oval floor plan with an oval dome of the burial chapel is the first of its kind outside of Italy.

After 1619/20 some changes were made to the complex: alterations to the west facade with the insertion of segment and triangular gables, a motif from the Jesuit church Il Gesu in Rome, a floor increase in the two side wings and from 1622 roofing work. After Giovanni Pietro de Pomis died in 1633 before the work was completed, Pietro Valnegro took over the construction management in 1633. In 1636, with the collaboration of Antonio Pozzo, the tower in the form of a graceful campanile was completed, and in 1637 the roof.

The entire complex was not completed until after the death of Ferdinand II († 1637), since after his election as emperor and the associated move to Vienna, construction work had come to a standstill. The consecration of the crypt altar took place in 1640, after which the construction work was temporarily suspended. It was only after the shell had stood unfinished for four decades that the building was required to be completed in 1686. In 1687, Ferdinand's grandson, Emperor Leopold I, commissioned the then still young Graz Baroque master builder Johann Bernhard Fischer to complete the interior decoration and stucco work of the mausoleum. In 1714 the church and six altars were consecrated.

After the Second World War, both interior and exterior restorations and measures to repair the dome roofing took place. Between 1960 and 2010, the complex served as the burial place for the bishops of the Graz-Seckau diocese before it was moved (again) to Graz Cathedral.


Building description

Catherine Church

Exterior construction
The three-storey building of St. Catherine's Church has a cruciform floor plan with a tambour dome over the crossing with a crowning cross and angelic putti heads and cartouches under the cornice. The apse are room parts included in the building complex, e.g. B. the sacristy, presented in a semicircle. A circular, seven-storey tower, which is divided by Ionic pilasters and cornices, protrudes in the east apex. The design of the lantern is attributed to Pietro Valnegro; the domed roof is crowned by a gilded scepter.

Above the base zone is a two-storey main storey with Ionic three-quarter columns in front of pilasters; Above the attic floor on the central axis there is a segmental gable with an inscribed triangular gable. In the niches of the side axes are iconographic representations from the life of St. Catherine. On the gable stands a larger-than-life sandstone figure of the saint, flanked by two angels holding martyr's crowns. The sculptures are attributed to Sebastian Erlacher and date from 1635/36. The rectangular stone portal with a triangular gable has sheet metal door panels with wrought iron fittings (around 1714). Above it is an inscription of the builder. In the east tower is a profiled round-arched stone gate.

The building of St. Catherine's Church is structured by bundled Ionic pilasters, symbols of the Holy Mass and St. Catherine can be seen in the entablature of the main cornice, angelic putti heads under the cornice and relief cartouches, probably formerly painted with coats of arms, can be seen on the pilasters of the attic floor.

Interior construction
The single-nave nave consists of two bays and barrel vaults. The transverse arms are also barrel-vaulted. The transept has a tambour dome supported by clustered Corinthian pilasters. The chancel has an apse with a semi-dome. The entablature protrudes strongly and is cranked over the crossing pilasters. Both the nave and transept have arched windows.

The remarkable stucco work in St. Catherine's Church was carried out in 1688-1689 by Josef Serenio, Girolamo Rossi and Antonio Quadrio. The designs for the stucco decorations of the vaults – with the exception of those in the transept vaults – are attributed to the Graz-born imperial court artist Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who also provided the design for the St. Catherine’s altar (1687), which served as the high altar of St. Catherine’s Church. The sculptures of the Catherine altar were carved by Marx Schokotnigg (1697–1699); The angel figures of the Marian altar (1697-1701) and personifications of the Christian virtues in the burial chapel for Emperor Ferdinand II are from the same artist.

The frescoes in the nave with the apotheosis of the House of Habsburg, which were created at the same time as the stucco decorations, were probably painted by Franz Steinpichler. The main focus of the decoration of the nave is on the glorious deeds of Emperor Leopold I. The liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683 is shown in the center of these frescoes. The nave vault is divided into fields by leaf frames, the crossing vault is decorated with angel putti holding cartouches and crowns and imperial busts of rulers from the House of Habsburg.

In the western gallery, angel putti hold festoons and a cartouche with a frescoed coat of arms of the noble Dietrichstein family on the parapet. On the west wall are angel putti with an inscription cartouche - dated 1689 - which refers to the builders Emperor Ferdinand II and Emperor Leopold I. In the western wall of the shield arch, angelic putti span a drapery containing the motto of Emperor Leopold I: "consilio et industria" (Eng.: through advice and diligence [to the goal]).

The Holy Sepulcher (1768-1769) by Veit Koeniger should also be highlighted from the church furnishings, which is one of the most important “holy graves” in Austria due to its multi-figure ensemble. However, it has only been in the right transept since 1967. The Holy Sepulcher is considered a major work by this late Baroque sculptor and shows a scaffolding with the figures of Moses, David, Isaias, Jonas, Jeremiah and Daniel on the sides. Inside this scaffolding you can see the body of Christ.

In 2005, five bells were cast in the Grassmayr foundry in Innsbruck for St. Catherine's Church, which are tonally matched to the ringing of the neighboring cathedral.


Burial chapel

The oval burial chapel with a crypt beneath it, which contains the burial sites of the donor and his family, is attached to the southern transept of St. Catherine's Church.

In 1960 the burial chapel was converted into the burial place of the bishops of the Graz-Seckau diocese and an altar table was set up. By the end of the 20th century, three bishops, Roman Sebastian Zängerle, Leopold Schuster and Leo Pietsch, found their last resting place in the mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II. They were buried in the wall of the burial chapel. After an existing crypt under the Marienkapelle and under the Kreuzkapelle in Graz Cathedral had been adapted as a new burial place for the bishops of Graz-Seckau, the deceased bishops were transferred from the mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II to this new bishop's crypt in 2010.

A dome spans the entire burial chapel. The actual burial space for Emperor Ferdinand II and his family is in the basement.

Frescoes on the cupola depict the Catholic virtues and deeds of Emperor Ferdinand II as a counter-reformer. They were painted around 1689 by Matthias Echter. The fresco in the choir with the mystical marriage of St. Catherine also comes from him. The stucco decorations on the dome are said to have been designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The stucco niche figures represent personifications of the Christian virtues (faith, love, hope, justice) and come from Marx Schokotnigg (1695–1696).

The paintings "St. Ignatius” (by Franz Wagenschön, 1766) and “Maria Immaculata” (by Josef Tunner, 1858) were once used as altarpieces.

tomb dream
The stucco work of the crypt was made around 1640 by Mattia Camin. They were renewed in 1694 by Josef Serenio. The pictorial representations show the insignia and coats of arms of the countries ruled by Emperor Ferdinand II, as well as symbols of death and the last sacraments as well as painted scenes from the Old and New Testaments, which refer to the resurrection and redemption through Christ.

double sarcophagus
The double sarcophagus made of red marble that is now set up in the middle of the crypt was intended for the parents of Emperor Ferdinand II and was probably made around 1608 by Sebastian Carlone. It was originally located in the Graz Clarisse convent in Paradeis and was transferred to its current location after this convent was closed at the end of the 18th century. Only Maria von Bayern (1551–1608) is buried in the double sarcophagus; Archduke Karl II (1540–1590), on the other hand, has been buried in the Habsburg mausoleum in the Seckau Basilica since 1590. The lid of the double sarcophagus shows the fully three-dimensional reclining figures of Charles II and Maria Anna.

coffin wall niches
The tombs of Emperor Ferdinand II, his wife Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574-1616) and his son Johann Karl (1605-1619), who died early, are designed as coffin wall niches and marked by inscriptions. The wall niche with the emperor's coffin is on the left side of the altar, directly above the wall niche with the coffin of his son, who died young. The wall niche below the coffin niche of Maria Anna of Bavaria on the right side of the altar remained empty. Ferdinand II died in Vienna on February 15, 1637 and had stipulated in his will that he should be buried in Graz.

heart puzzle
From the crypt of the burial chapel, you can reach the so-called heart crypt, in which there are still some heart urns. The heart burials of the Habsburgs in Graz once included the hearts of Ferdinand II, his mother Maria of Bavaria, his second wife Eleonora Gonzaga and other archducal family members. The grave niches have been empty since the beginning of the 20th century, and the vessels with their contents were handed over to the mint in 1910. The separately buried heart and entrails of Ferdinand II were originally in the same urn, which was initially also kept in the mausoleum. The container was later transferred to Vienna, where it was buried in the Queen's Monastery. At the end of the 18th century, Joseph II had Ferdinand II's entrails buried in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the heart in a new beaker in the Loreto chapel of the Augustinian church.



Located in the city center of Graz, the complex was the most important representative building of the imperial court in Graz and its Counter-Reformation policies. Together with the neighboring cathedral, the castle and the Old University (Jesuit University), it forms the ensemble of the Graz city crown.

Among the three mausoleums from the Counter-Reformation era in Styria (mausoleum for Archduke Charles II in the Basilica of Seckau, mausoleum for Ruprecht von Eggenberg in Ehrenhausen, mausoleum for Emperor Ferdinand II in Graz), the Graz mausoleum, which was built most recently, is the most important Building of European rank has a supra-regional position.

It is one of the most important Mannerist buildings in Austria from the first half of the 17th century. It is the largest mausoleum built by the Habsburgs. Together with the Graz Cathedral, the building with its domes and towers visible from afar shapes the silhouette of the cityscape.