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Vienna, Austria

Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church)

The solemn exterior conceals an opulent interior of this 17th century church. 

The solemn exterior of this church conceals an opulent interior with ersatz marble columns, lavish gilding, intricate wood carvings and illusionistic ceiling frescoes. It is also known as the Universitätskirche or University Church.

The church was built between 1623 and 1627 on the site of an earlier chapel and it was dedicated to Saints Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. (St. Francis Xavier was a companion of the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits who took vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, Paris in 1534.)

The church was built at the time when the Jesuits merged their own college with the University of Vienna’s philosophy and theology faculty. Later on the church was remodeled by the Italian Jesuit Brother, Andrea Pozzo, between 1703 and 1705. Brother Pozzo was an architect, baroque painter and sculpture. He added the twin towers to the church and reworked the facade in an early Baroque style with narrow horizontal and vertical sections. He also painted several frescoes inside the church. The dome he painted on a flat part of the ceiling is a remarkable example of illusionistic technique called quadrature. The remodeled church was re-dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Brother Pozzo died unexpectedly in 1709 and was buried in the church.