Parish Church of St. Nicholas



The Roman Catholic parish church of St. Nicholas is located in Bad Ischl. The first written mention of it dates back to 1320. In 1769 the church building was demolished and in 1771 a new building in the classicism style was erected in its place. The Gothic tower from 1490, reaching 72 meters in height, has been preserved in its original form. Since Ischl served as the summer residence of Kaiser Franz Josef, the church had a court status.

In 1870, new frescoes were purchased with donations from parishioners, and by 18 August 1880, when the fiftieth anniversary of the Kaiser was celebrated, the interior of the building was completely renewed. Most of the frescoes were created by the hand of the master Georg Madera, and the altarpiece was designed by Leopold Kuperviser.

It is assumed that the first organ of the Church of St. Nicholas was installed back in 1780, and in 1825 it was replaced by an instrument designed by the master Simon Anton Hötzel. Matthäus Mauraher built another organ in 1888, which has survived to this day, being significantly enlarged between 1908 and 1910. It is known that at one time the famous Austrian composer Anton Bruckner regularly performed his works on this instrument.

It is noteworthy that services in the Croatian language are periodically held in the church of St. Nicholas. Also, annually in December, an evening called "Russian Christmas" is held, within which the Don Cossack choir performs Christmas carols, as well as folk songs in Russian.



The oldest documented mention of a church in Ischl is found in 1320. It was re-consecrated by the bishop of the Diocese of Passau, so it must have existed before. According to a document from 1344, all ships loaded with salt that passed the town of Lauffen near Ischl had to pay a fee to the Chürchen ze Sand Niclas ze Ischl. At that time, the Traun River was an important waterway for inland shipping. The former church stretched from the tower (which still exists today) to the east (to the present sacristy). The cemetery was located on the site of the current church.

Bad Ischl was originally part of the Bad Goisern parish and St. Nikolaus was therefore a branch church. When the Reformation spread in the Salzkammergut and Goisern became Protestant, the parish was raised on May 26, 1554 by Bishop Wolfgang von Passau to create the independent parish of Ischl. The abbess of the Traunkirchen monastery had the right to suggest a priest to the bishop as pastor. When the women's monastery was dissolved in 1573, the bishop gave this right of presentation to the highest official in the Salzkammergut, the Salzamtmann von Gmunden. From 1577 until the re-Catholicization in 1600, the pastors at the Nikolauskirche were Evangelical-Lutheran. In the course of the Counter-Reformation, from 1622 until its abolition in 1773, the Jesuits received the right to propose the occupation of the parish.

In 1769/70 the old church was torn down, only the Gothic tower from 1490 remained. Between 1771 and 1780, today's sacred building was created. Opposite, where a bank branch is today, there was an emergency church during the construction period. The foundation stone was laid on May 1, 1771 by the abbot of Lambach Amandus Schickmayr. Empress Maria Theresa, mistress of the Salzkammergut, endowed the building project with 30,000 Austrian guilders. The total construction costs are likely to have been just over 40,000 guilders. The consecration in honor of St. Nikolaus carried out Bishop Thomas Johann von Thun and Hohenstein on September 17, 1780. The tower clock was installed in 1797.


From the 1820s, Bad Ischl became a much-visited spa and bathing resort for the high aristocracy, and this resulted in donors and patrons for new altars and artistic wall paintings.

Since the Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I spent all summers in his imperial villa from 1854 and attended the 7 o'clock mass every Sunday, the Nikolauskirche received the rating k.k. Court parish church awarded. Pastors Franz Weinmayr (term of office 1870-1911) and Franz Stadler (term of office 1911-1936) received the title of Papal House Prelate from Rome, as the prelate was the "lowest" church rank that was admitted to the imperial table according to the Spanish court ceremony.

Between 1874 and 1880 a major renovation and redesign of the interior of the church took place. The completion of the extensive design was celebrated on the 50th birthday of the emperor on August 18, 1880. The organ, built in 1888, was expanded for the 80th birthday of the Kaiser (1910). It is still one of the largest organs in Austria and the second largest in Upper Austria.

After the bells were demanded in both world wars, the C minor chime could be inaugurated on the Christ King's Festival in 1948. The 6 bells in the Ischl church tower come from the St. Florian bell foundry.

The patron saint of the parish church in Bad Ischl is St. Nicholas. He was revered as a helper for hikers and boatmen. Along the old salt shipping route on the Traun and also along the Danube, there are several other parish churches dedicated to St. Nicholas as their patron.

Church building
The dimensions of the parish church Bad Ischl are: total length 52 meters, width 22 meters, dome height 20 meters, capacity for 3,000 people, tower height 72 meters. The exterior of the church shows the simple form of classicism. The statue of the patron saint on the outside wall bears the year "1769". The huge black double-headed eagle and the Latin inscription above the main portal (translated into German: “From piety and generosity of the Empress”) give an indication of the main sponsor, Empress Maria Theresa.

The four vaulted belts, which rest on mighty pillars, divide the church into four bays. The gallery with the organ is placed in the first yoke at the main entrance. The chancel is separated from the nave by a belt arch and closes in a semicircle. The large single-nave and four-bay nave is vaulted with a ring barrel, the retracted single-bay choir has a 3/8 end. The Gothic tower in the southern choir corner has a twisted octagonal pointed helmet.


The vaulted areas, the belts, the window reveals and the side wall surfaces are decorated with frescoes. The church painter Georg Mader worked on the frescoes from 1874 until his death in 1881. A few details were not yet ready when he died; Albert von Felsenburg and Franz Rubensteiner completed them in 1882. The ornaments between the pictures are by Joseph Thurner. The pictures are characteristic of the 19th century and can be assigned to the art of the Nazarenes.

The pictures in the church are coordinated and result in a theological program. The 1st yoke (above the music gallery) shows images of the prophets of the Old Covenant. The theme of the second yoke is faith, the third yoke hope and the fourth yoke love. In addition to motifs of St. Scripture and from the stories of saints there are also six scenes from the life of St. Nicholas. The big picture of communion was Georg Mader's last work. In the chancel there are also pictures of the four evangelists and the depiction of the sacraments in life pictures. Archduke Franz Carl receives the sacrament in the picture of the Oiling of the Sick, with his son Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth standing behind them.

Behind the high altar are three glass mosaics, the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. The picture above the high altar is dedicated to St. Dedicated to Nicholas. The work was commissioned by Archduke Ludwig in 1850. Archduke Ludwig commissioned the picture for the left side altar (Trinity altar) in 1851, while Archduke Franz Carl financed the picture for the right side altar (St. Mary's altar) in 1854. All three pictures are by Leopold Kupelwieser.

On September 16, 1878, the construction of the new high altar began according to a design by the architect Michel. The white sandstone is from Hungary, the marble cafeteria from Ischl's Wildenstein castle ruins. Duke Philipp la Notiere Ferrari is said to have made a significant donation for the precious tabernacle. The two silver tabernacle doors were supplied by an Ischl goldsmith. The white panels on the high altar are made of Egyptian marble and are a gift from the youngest brother of the Emperor, Archduke Ludwig Viktor of Austria. The material for the Ischl Church and the Votive Church in Vienna were taken from the same large Egyptian block.

The Stations of the Cross inside the church were created by the sculptor Sebastian Steiner from Merano in 1895. Commemorative plaques commemorate three deserving pastors.

The oldest reference to an organ is provided by an invoice for 300 florins from 1701, which was made for a repair of the organ. In 1722 Johann Christoph Egedacher created a new instrument for 734 fl. 47 xr., Which was later transferred to the church, which was newly built in 1780. In 1825, the Styrian organ builder Simon Anton Hötzel carried out a complete “[…] reworking and improvement of the organ in the laudable church in Ischl”, it then had 17 stops on two manuals and a pedal.

The present organ was built by Matthäus Mauracher in 1888, but on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the Austrian Emperor it was expanded between 1908 and 1910 and was given the nickname Kaiser Jubilee Organ. Because of its electro-pneumatic action, it was considered to be the best organ in the monarchy from an organ building standpoint. The Austrian composer Anton Bruckner played regularly on the organ, which was partly equipped with Bark levers and partly with a pneumatic action. B. on July 31, 1890, at the wedding of his befriended Emperor's daughter Marie Valerie.

The instrument has 60 registers on three manuals and a pedal, making it one of the largest organs in the country. The playing and stop actions are electro-pneumatic. The instrument is equipped with an electronic setting system. The organ also included a remote control, which was in the middle of the church in the attic, but has not been preserved. The remote control has been created in the gaming table, but has not yet been implemented.