ASAM, Cosmas Damian
(b. 1686, Benedikternbeuern, d. 1739, Weltenburg)

Assumption of Mary

Benedictine Abbey, Weltenburg

Above the oval main room of the monastery church, a broad concave moulding marks the transition to a domed ceiling. The vaulting opens up into a diadem borne by angels, reiterating the oval ground-plan. Illuminated by invisible windows, we see the saints of the Benedictine order in all the glory of the heavens.

It is quite impossible for the spectator to see that this domed setting is actually flat, and that the whole work is not, as is so often claimed, a domed ceiling fresco. By creating a transition from oval to circle, Asam is able to interweave the clouds amongst the pillars so that they help to conceal the base of the (painted) round temple on the oval ceiling aperture. A more intense metaphor for the heavens as a domed and pillared temple borne on clouds can hardly be imagined.

On the main side of the fresco we see St George with his eyes raised towards Mary as she is carried upwards to Christ and God, who is holding a crown above the starry nimbus around her head. It is the triumph of the church that is displayed here against the golden background bathed in light, and its effect is all the more overwhelming because Asam has made the architecture his accomplice in illusion.