WOLMUT, Bonifaz
(b. ca. 1510,Überlingen, Lake Constance, d. 1579, Praha)

Biography

German architect. During his apprenticeship he travelled in Germany and Hungary, and from 1522 he worked at the Stephansdom, Vienna. After 1530 he was involved in fortification works and the construction of the Vienna Hofburg (Schweizer Hof). In 1534, after the death of Benedikt Ried, he applied unsuccessfully for the post of court architect in Prague. From 1539 he was in the service of King (later Emperor) Ferdinand I. In 1547, as a guild-master, he was granted the freedom of the city of Vienna, and with Augustin Hirschvogel he drew up the town plan, one of the most important sources for the history of Vienna. In 1548 Wolmut worked for private patrons in Vienna, and in 1559 he was appointed imperial architect. He stayed in Prague after leaving the imperial service in 1566, but was later readmitted to it. After his definitive retirement in 1570 Wolmut settled in Prague, where he was granted citizenship in 1571.

As early as 1554 Wolmut submitted plans, with Pietro Ferrabosco (1512-1596), for alterations to Prague Castle (Hradcany); and from 1556 to 1563 he added an upper storey and roof to the Villa Belvedere in the castle complex. This distinctive building, a long pavilion with a peristyle, had been begun in 1538 in a pure Italian 15th-century style, after a model by the Genoese architect Paolo Stella. Wolmut built a banqueting hall, with an ogival roof, as an upper floor. The façade, with a Doric frieze, was articulated with an exciting rhythm of windows and niches, the solid modelling of which reflects the development of Italian 16th-century architecture.

Wolmut's design for the organ loft of Prague Cathedral, finished in 1561, combined a design based on the superimposed orders of the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome with Gothic vaulting. Other works of these years included supervising the building of the Hvezda ('Star') summer house in Prague, designed by the amateur architect Archduke Ferdinand II, and a Ballcourt added in 1558. Wolmut was also busy with alterations to Lysá nad Labem Castle until 1564. From 1559 to 1563 he built the Diet hall in Prague Castle. Here he was able to hold his own in competition with Italian designers, who proposed a Renaissance hall with windows framed by half-columns and a coved vault. Although this type of design had been used by Wolmut in the Villa Belvedere, here he designed a Gothicizing rib vault compatible with the adjacent Vladislav Hall. In contrast, the lodge for the Secretary of State, which Wolmut put into the hall in 1559-63, is purely classicising in style.

Wolmut's work in the 1560s included a new spire (1560-63) for the unfinished south tower of Prague Cathedral; a model for the Archbishop's Palace (1562); and town palaces, one for the Graf von Thurn in 1560 and a palace in Karmelitská Street, built as a speculation from 1560 to 1571. In 1563 he submitted a model for the so-called Löwenhof in Prague, and in 1567 he worked on the Ball Games Hall in the royal garden at Hradcany. In 1568/9 he built the lower door in the Black Tower of Hradcany Castle, and among his later works was the new vault of the Gothic church of Our Lady and Charlemagne at Karlov, Prague.

Wolmut was one of the last architects to be trained in medieval building traditions. His complete mastery of vaulting techniques and deep understanding of the logic of Gothic design enabled him not only to hold his own with the achievements of Benedikt Ried but also to keep pace with the 'modern' developments of Italian Renaissance architecture.