Baroque Buildings From the Age of Enlightenment


Schloss Moritzburg In Saxony, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped)

Like the Palace of Versailles in France, Moritzburg Castle in Germany started off as a hunting lodge and has a complicated and turbulent history. In 1723, Augustus the Strong of Saxony and Poland expanded and remodeled the property to what today is called Saxon Baroque. The area is also known for a type of delicately sculpted china called Meissen porcelain.

In Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe, and Russia, Baroque ideas were often applied with a lighter touch. Pale colors and curving shell shapes gave buildings the delicate appearance of a frosted cake. The term Rococo was used to describe these softer versions of the Baroque style. Perhaps the ultimate in German Bavarian Rococo is the 1754 Pilgrimage Church of Wies (view image) designed and built by Dominikus Zimmermann.

“The lively colours of the paintings bring out the sculpted detail and, in the upper areas, the frescoes and stuccowork interpenetrate to produce a light and living decor of unprecedented richness and refinement,” states the UNESCO World Heritage site about the Pilgrimage Church. “The ceilings painted in trompe-l’œil appear to open to an iridescent sky, across which, angels fly, contributing to the overall lightness of the church as a whole.”

So how does Rococo differ from Baroque?

“The characteristics of baroque,” says Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, “are grandeur, pomposity, and weight; those of rococo are inconsequence, grace, and lightness. Baroque aims at astounding, rococo at amusing.”

And so we are.

Sources: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Second Edition, by H.W. Fowler, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 49; Pilgrimage Church of Wies, UNESCO World Heritage Centre [accessed June 5, 2017]

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