Austrian architect, 1656-1723. One of the great masters of the European Baroque, he designed many buildings for the Austrian aristocracy and the Imperial Family.


He was born in Graz, Austria, on the 20th of July 1656, the son of a sculptor. Not much is known about his early life, but he presumably learnt the essentials of his father's craft, and left Graz to study in Rome under Philip Schorr in the early 1670s. Schorr (Austrian as well) was Rome's leading decorative sculptor of his time, in whose studio his staff was confronted with the whole range of sculptural work, from designing medals to the production of statuary for public and private buildings. Probably Fischer also attended the Academica di San Luca, Rome's most important art school. It may have been there that he got in touch with people who worked in the studio of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). So he initially trained as a sculptor, but soon added architecture to his interests and abilities, presumably through the study of the buildings of Rome.

In 1686, he returned to Austria and his first commission was for work on a mausoleum for Emperor Ferdinand II in Graz. Soon after, he left for Vienna where there was a building boom after the victory over the Turks in the second siege of Vienna (1683). He quickly established a reputation among the aristocracy, through work done for the Dietrichstein and Althan families, and came to the attention of the Imperial family. He produced plans for the expansion of the palace of Schönbrunn in 1688. Work had started on the project by 1696, but the War of the Spanish Succession and the death of Emperor Joseph put a hold on the building works.

He was also commissioned to build four churches in Salzburg by the Archbishop, Johann Ernst, Count Thun in 1694. The Archbishop's commissions were the new Salzburg seminary with Trinity Church, the Church of St. John's Hospital, University Church and the Ursuline convent with its attendant church. In 1705 he was appointed court architect to the Emperor, but no commissions resulted from this posting. He was honoured with the 'von Erlach', perhaps as a means to distract him from the lack of work. He also travelled to Berlin to find work, but the current fashion was to follow the French school of the Baroque.

After his return to Vienna in 1710, there were more commissions forthcoming from the Imperial family, he built the Bohemian Chancellery in Vienna. The new Emperor, Charles VI, loved architecture. In order to win his favor, Fischer dedicated his book, 'Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture' to him. Illustrated with many splendid copperplate engravings, this was a work in which Fischer surveyed the whole history of architecture from the Egyptian pyramids through the masterpieces of the Greeks and Romans to the architecture of his own period. The Emperor was so impressed that he placed Fischer in charge of a huge project which envisaged the rebuilding of the old parts of the Imperial palace, the Hofburg, as well as the addition of new wings. Fischer started with the Imperial Stables and at the same time pursued his planning for the Imperial Library. After his death in 1723, his son Joseph Emanuel added the Imperial Chancellery wing, the Winter Riding School and the facade looking onto St. Michael's Square.

Perhaps his best known work is the Karlskirche, built to celebrate the city's deliverance from plague in 1713. It was full of allegorical details, relating to the Holy Roman Emperors and the Habsburgs lost Spanish lands, as well as the pietas Austriaca.

Chronology of Work

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