Cathedral of Saint Egidius or Agydlus (Graz)


Desccription of Cathedral of Saint Egidius

Cathedral of Saint Agydlus is a beautiful late Gothic church in the historic town of Graz. It was further renovated and reconstructed several times. Its interior was erected in Baroque architectural style. The cathedral of Graz, the cathedral, episcopal church and parish church of St. Egydius, is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Graz-Seckau. Attached is the parish Graz-Dom in the deanery Graz-Mitte of the city ​​church Graz.

The cathedral of Saint Egidius is considered one of the most important art and cultural historical buildings of the Austrian city ​​of Graz and the whole state of Styria. The late Gothic style building was built in the 15th century, under Frederick III. Court Church of the Roman-German Emperor and in 1786, when Graz was bishopric, raised to the rank of a cathedral. The sacred building, originally intended as a church fortress outside the medieval city walls, stands on elevated ground between Bürgergasse and Burggasse. The dome forms together with the neighboring oneimperial mausoleum, the castle and the Schauspielhaus the ensemble of the Graz city crown.


Building history

The Graz Cathedral is dedicated to St. Aegydius and is therefore also known as the Cathedral Church of St. Aegydius. The first church dedicated to St. Aegydius stood on the site of today's cathedral at least since the 12th century. A documentary mention is dated 1174, a first priest in Graz was named in 1181. However, nothing survives from this first church.

As Emperor Frederick III. In 1438 the construction of the Graz Castle began, the construction of the new church also began. The two-storey connecting passage between the castle and the cathedral, which is no longer preserved, dates from this period. As with all others under Frederick III. The buildings constructed in Graz contain the lettering AEIOU with engraved or painted dates: 1438 in the former sacristy, 1450 in the choir vault, 1456 on the west portal and 1464 in the vault painting. The year 1464 is therefore assumed to be the completion of the building. A market award certificate from Emperor Friedrich for May 1 of each year dates from 1441 and is associated with the church consecration festival at that time. Therefore, May 1st is celebrated again today as the anniversary of the cathedral consecration.

The first cathedral master builder during the choir building phase up to 1450 was probably Graz-born Hans Niesenberger, who was named Master of Grätz der Weissnaw in 1459 at the Hüttentag in Regensburg and in 1483 at the Milan Cathedral as Master Johannes of Graz.

In 1564 the building was the court church and until 1573 the town parish church (a function that was taken over in 1585 by the former Dominican church and today's town parish church); In 1577 the Jesuits received the church for use. A sacristy was added in 1615; A total of four new chapels were built between 1617 and 1667: the Pest Chapel, the Mater Dolorosa Chapel, the Franz Xavier Chapel and the Cross Chapel. In 1678 a crypt was built under the church, but in 1783 the access to the crypt inside the church was walled up. In 1786 the church was raised to the status of a cathedral.

The embankment to Bürgergasse was replaced in 1831 by a terrace wall and the large flight of steps, and the connecting passage to the Jesuit College was removed. In 1853/1854 the two-storey connecting passage from the cathedral to the castle was demolished.

In 1962/1963 the city administration of Graz had the interior of the church extensively redesigned according to the plans of Karl Raimund Lorenz. These included the creation of the new free-standing altar table and the removal of a wrought-iron grate between the nave and the choir.

After an existing crypt under the Marienkapelle and under the Kreuzkapelle in the 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 next to the cathedral to this new one in 2010 bishop's tomb. From May 2019 until Advent 2019, the cathedral was closed due to renovation work, during which time the nave was renovated. The presbytery will be renovated in 2020, followed by a thorough overhaul of the organ in 2021. In the years that follow, the individual chapels are to be renovated. The heating, electrical installations and lighting also have to be renewed, and a video installation is also planned. The renovation is expected to cost around six million euros.


Exterior construction

From the outside, Graz Cathedral looks massive and simple. Only the choir area, which is significantly narrower than the nave, has a moving wall structure with its buttresses and rich tracery decorations. The originally impressively painted facades are largely white today, apart from a few remains of frescoes. The best known is the picture of the plague of God on the south side of the nave, attributed to the painter Thomas von Villach, which refers to the year 1480, when three plagues swept over Graz: plague, war and locusts. The chapels attached to the side of the building and the two ridge turrets do not date from the construction period, but were added later; today's large ridge turret in the west comes from Gregor Pacher and was built in 1653 in place of an older one created by Vinzenz de Verda in 1580-1582, the smaller ridge ridge in the east dates from 1739. The stone gates on the long sides are from the third quarter 17th century; the tin-plated doors with remarkable fittings are also from the same period. There are also numerous walled-in tombstones from the 16th-20th centuries on the outer walls of the church. century to see. In the eastern outdoor area (between the cathedral or mausoleum and Burggasse) there is a medium-sized bronze sculpture of the church patron Ägydius created by the well-known Graz artist Erwin Huber in 1998. The richly decorated west portal is still clearly in the tradition of Gothic architecture. However, only baldachins and angel head consoles have survived from the original state, the statues in the robe, which represent Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist and Saint Leopold, date from the 19th century. Above the portal, which is dated 1456, are the emperor's AEIOU and coats of arms showing the double-headed imperial eagle, the Austrian shield and the coats of arms of Portugal and Styria. The Coat of Arms of Portugal was installed in honor of Frederick III's wife, Eleanor Helena of Portugal, daughter of the Portuguese Queen.



The interior of the church was changed several times, for example by installing side chapels and a baroque organ gallery. Nevertheless, it can be seen that the Graz Cathedral is a hall church, a type that was frequently taken up, particularly in the late Gothic period, and which can be found, for example, in Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral or the former Neuberg Collegiate Church, but also in some church buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Graz Cathedral (Maria Trost in Fernitz and parish church Semriach). The nave in Graz Cathedral is divided into three naves by eight mighty pillars. The elongated chancel follows behind a high triumphal arch. The floor plan of the Graz Cathedral is similar to that of the previously erected mendicant churches of the Dominicans and Franciscans in Graz. Like these two, Graz Cathedral originally had a rood screen. The reliefs of the bells of the cathedral were also created according to the templates of the Graz artist Erwin Huber.

At the time of construction, large parts of the interior were painted in color. Only parts of this late Gothic fresco decoration have been preserved, such as the depictions of Christopher above the side entrances or the uncovered tendril and flower decorations in the side aisle vaults, which are dated 1464.

Barbara Chapel
The earliest dating stone in the church is in the former sacristy, today the Barbara Chapel, with the year 1438. Of the two keystones, one shows Saint Veronica with the veil, the other an angel with the Austrian shield; here ecclesiastical and secular power are placed on an equal footing. Unlike in Romanesque art, the keystones in the nave are not exclusively symbols of Christ, but also imperial coats of arms and the coats of arms of various sponsors of the building.

Friedrich Chapel
Above the Barbara Chapel is the Friedrich Chapel, which was long assumed to have been part of the original building concept. According to new investigations, the Friedrichskapelle was added to the building later. Two years after the start of construction, Friedrich III. to the king; a west work with a ruler's gallery, as was customary for ruler's churches at the time, was not planned in the church planning, and a subsequent installation was not possible because of the steeply sloping terrain in the west. Therefore, for the first time in medieval architecture, a ruler's gallery was built directly next to the choir. Friedrich's motto AEIOU can be seen particularly often in this room. The Friedrichskapelle and a prayer room built above it later (today's Romualdkapelle) were rooms directly available to the ruler and connected directly to Graz Castle via a bridge.

In the years from 1577 to 1773, when the Graz Cathedral served as the Jesuit order church, numerous structural changes were made. For example, the ridge turret with the baroque onion dome and a connecting passage from the cathedral to the Jesuit College opposite were built (dismantled in 1831), and numerous chapels and a new sacristy were added to the church building. The Gothic rood screen was demolished so that all churchgoers - in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Trent - had a clear view of the high altar. Most of the magnificent interior fittings, in keeping with the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, also date from that period. Today's baroque high altar, which is considered one of the most important in all of Austria and replaced a Renaissance high altar that was only a hundred years old, was built between 1730 and 1733. The high altar, made according to a design by the Graz master builder Georg Kräxner, shows in the middle an altarpiece by the painter Franz Ignaz Flurer, which depicts St. Aegidius, the patron saint of the church, and above it a group of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, which is considered the most important work by the sculptor Johann Jacob Schoy.


The side altars, which were erected immediately after the rood screen was demolished around 1618, were extensively renovated by Veit Königer in 1766. The altarpieces by court painter Giovanni Pietro de Pomis have been preserved. The north altar shows Mary with the Annunciation Angel, the south St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The revival of veneration of the saints, which had suffered under the Reformation, was particularly promoted by the Jesuits. Like the mother church of the Jesuits, Il Gesù in Rome, which has numerous side altars in chapel niches, the side walls of the Graz Cathedral were also broken through for the installation of niche-like chapel rooms. The pulpit, which was erected in 1710 based on a design by the Jesuit Georg Lindemayr, features elaborate High Baroque decor. The rest of the furnishings in Graz Cathedral, from the pews, confessionals and choir stalls to the lamps, bells and candlesticks, also largely date from the Jesuit era and are therefore designed in a Baroque style.

After the dissolution of the Jesuit order in 1773, the Graz Cathedral was without a suitable function for some time. Since 1786, when the episcopal seat of the diocese of Graz-Seckau was moved from Seckau to Graz and Graz Cathedral became a cathedral church, Graz Cathedral has been the spiritual and liturgical center of the diocese. In contrast to the Jesuits, who redesigned the building according to their ideas, the cathedral chapter largely preserved the building in the form in which it had taken it over. After inner-city cemeteries were banned under Joseph II, the parish cemetery was closed in 1830 and the cemetery wall, together with the transition to the Jesuit College, which had become useless, was demolished. In the years 1853/1854 the transition to Graz Castle was demolished and since then the Graz Cathedral has been free. Inside, only minor changes were made, mainly those related to the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

The two reliquary shrines set up on marble bases on either side of the triumphal arch are among the most valuable pieces of furniture in Graz Cathedral. Originally, both shrines were bridal chests, which Paola Gonzaga brought as wedding goods from Mantua to Bruck Castle near Lienz for the wedding with Count Leonhard von Gorizia. After the death of the childless couple, the chests came into the possession of the Millstatt Abbey, which Archduke Ferdinand gave to the Jesuits around 1598 as the financial basis for the founding of their Graz University. When Pope Paul V donated relics to Graz Cathedral in 1617, the Jesuits had the two chests brought from Millstatt.

Three reliefs made of bone and ivory in the style of the Italian early Renaissance can be seen on each of the chests made of oak wood. Six triumphal chariots are shown, corresponding to the poem I Trifoni by Francesco Petrarch. They were probably designed by Andrea Mantegna, who worked at the court of Mantua.

Crucifixion in crowd
Only one piece of furniture has been preserved from the time of Emperor Friedrich: the crucifixion picture created by Conrad Laib around 1457, which probably used to be the altar picture of the cross altar on the Gothic rood screen. Due to the large number of people depicted, the picture is referred to as a crucifixion in a crowd and probably goes back to the passion plays, which were very popular in the Middle Ages and took place with great sympathy from the population at the time. With the continuous gold coloring of the background, the picture is still clearly in the tradition of Gothic painting, but the realistic depictions of people and horses already point to the Renaissance. After many changes of location and a long period of restoration, this picture, one of the most important Gothic panel paintings in Austria, is now on display in the Friedrichskapelle in Graz Cathedral.



Today's cathedral organ was built in 1978 by the Klais organ manufacturer and stands on a baroque west gallery built in 1687. Architect Jörg Mayr created the prospectus, using Veit Königer's décor for Anton Römer's baroque organ. The cathedral organ has four manuals and pedal with originally 70 registers with mechanical action and electric register action, in 1998 a trumpet mechanism with three registers was additionally installed. Organ concerts are held regularly on summer Sundays.

In 2022 the organ was dismantled by the Rieger organ building company from Schwarzach in Vorarlberg and reorganized as part of the fifth phase of the cathedral renovation.



In the post-war period, the large roof turret housed a chime consisting of two bells from the Pfundner foundry from 1949 and three historical bells. These bells were lifted out of the tower in 1987 - the three smaller ones were transferred to the Leech Church. Today the ridge turret has 7 bronze bells, all cast in 1987 by the Grassmayr foundry in Innsbruck. In 2005, five small bells were cast for the neighboring St. Catherine's Church, also by Grassmayr.