(b. 1656, Graz, d. 1723, Wien)


Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (the honorific was granted by the emperor in 1696 when Fischer was ennobled) was an Austrian architect, member of a family of architects. He was the son of Johann Baptist Fischer, a sculptor and decorator active in Graz, near the Austrian border with Italy. Johann Bernhard became the last great architect of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, occupying a central role in the buildings of the imperial court circle in Vienna. His eclectic approach was adopted as the official style of the Habsburg court. His second son, Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (1695-1742), was trained by his father as his successor and completed his unfinished work after his death.

He studied in Rome from 1671, where he became acquainted with the work of Bernini and Carlo Fontana, and developed an interest in Antique objects and architecture. After the defeat of the Turks in 1683 and the rise of Austria as a European power, Fischer settled in Vienna. He designed Schloss Frain, Moravia (1688-95), with its elliptical hall clearly influenced by his Roman stay, and shortly afterwards he developed the theme in his three Salzburg churches (Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Kollegienkirche and the Johannesspitalkirche). While in Salzburg he designed the exquisite high-altar (1709) for the Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church). The Ursulinenkirche (1699-1705) is also attributed to him. These Salzburg buildings, in a sense, were trial runs for the Karlskirche, Vienna (from 1715), one of the most original and powerful designs of the entire Baroque period. Mention should also be made of his Electoral Chapel next to the choir of Breslau (now Wroc³aw) Cathedral (1715-24): it mixes Palladian and Borrominiesque themes, again exploiting the ellipse.

His secular architecture includes the Town Palace of Prince Eugen of Savoy (1663-1736) in Vienna (1696-1700), influenced by Bernini and Le Vau, the Palais Clam-Gallas, Prague (1713-25), designs (only partly realized, and much altered) for Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna (from 1696), and the Hofbibliothek, Vienna (1722-30), one of the finest Baroque rooms in Europe. At both the Karlskirche and the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) much of the work was carried out by his son, Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach.