Although they may appear like the products of a modern tanning bed, the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses on #7 Herrengasse are the work of the Baroque painter, Johann Mayer.
Until A.D. 1450, when Graz Castle was built, Herzoghof (“Duke’s Court”) was the seat of the Dukes of Styria. Later in its life, Herzoghof was used by the Habsburgs to conduct official business.
Art Bonus: Mayer was following in the “brushmarks” of Giovanni Pietro de Pomis, the court painter of Emperor Ferdinand II and architect of Ferdinand’s grandiose Mausoleum. De Pomis first painted the building in A.D. 1600.
Fans of outdoor art can also look for the Murinsel, the “House of the Black and White Stripes” on Wielandgasse, the Lichtswert sculpture, old floral frescoes on the wall of Graz Castle (above the Jewish grave marker), the Landplagenbild on the side of the Dom, and – of course – graffiti.
Hidden in Graz’s Parish Church is a damning indictment of 20th century fascism. Take a close look at the stained glass window in the chancel. You’ll see 2 familiar figures – Hitler and Mussolini – among the torturers of Christ at the crucifixion.
Their place in hell was guaranteed by Albert Birkle, a German-born artist whose art had been denounced as “degenerate” by the Nazis. After the church’s Gothic stained glass was destroyed in World War II, Birkle was asked to provide a replacement. He didn’t hesitate.
You’ll find a similar scene in the stained glass window of the Martinskirche in Landshut. Created in A.D. 1946, it shows Hitler and his henchmen acting as executioners during the martyrdom of St. Kastulus.
Kepler Bonus: On the last day of July in 1600, Archduke Ferdinand ordered every man, woman and child in Graz to attend Catholic Mass. As part of his counter-reformation efforts, Ferdinand insisted that the entire city to bow to his will.
A 100+ recalcitrant Protestants did not appear. Some promised to convert to Catholicism; others remained “disobedient.” Johannes Kepler, the famous mathematician and astronomer, was one of the latter. He was banished in August.
Gothic arches, copper gargoyles, a bronze fountain – you won’t find many Austrian courtyards prettier than this one.
You can thank the Italian architect Domenico dell’Allio for its existence. Regarded as a fortress specialist, dell’Allio came to Austria to help defend the Empire from the Turks.
He did a good job. Appointed as the Imperial Master Builder of Inner Austria, dell’Allio traveled from Vienna to Croatia and beyond, introducing modern improvements to fortifications along the way. He even imported his buddies from Como and Lugano to help in the new construction boom. (Some things never change.)
But dell’Allio had his peace-loving side as well. It was while he was in Graz to supervise construction on the Schlossberg that he began work on the three-tiered, Renaissance-style courtyard you see here. Built in 1557, it is known as a place for pleasure (and innumerable tourists).
In 1558, Emperor Ferdinand I granted dell’Allio a patent of nobility as architector et artifex insignis, Edler des Königreiches Böhmen (“architect and famous artist, Noble of the Kingdom of Bohemia”).
Unfortunately, he did not have much time to enjoy his fame. Dell’Allio disappeared on an inspection tour of the Croatian-Windisch military frontier in 1563.
A city is defined not by its madness, but by its grace.
Graz is the capital of the Steiermark (“Styria”), an Austrian federated state bordering Slovenia. Despite being landlocked, Graz has a Mediterranean feel about it. There are children playing in fountains, restaurants serving wines from Styrian Tuscany, and hidden courtyards bathed in sun. University students from Slovenia sprawl across the park grass and charge along the river on their bikes.
Graz was spared from much of WWII bombing, leaving its historical bones nearly intact. You’ll find everything from a 15th century cathedral to a 19th century opera house to a 21st century alien. Many of these buildings are home to splendid museums and irritable peacocks. In 1999, the entire city was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
A short tally of the Styrian Armory holdings:
- 3,300 armors & helmets
- 7,800+ small arms (including muskets & pistols)
- 5,400 staff weapons
- 2,400 swords, sabres & similar
Originally, the armory had 92 cannon. As Napoleon stormed across Europe, heavy guns were sent to Yugoslavia for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, these were later sold to a bell-founder. The armory now only has 4.