This group is composed of the following objects:
Hercules Fountain (1687-1688), Caesar Fountain (1725), Neptune Fountain (1683), Jupiter Fountain (1707), Mercury Fountain (1727), Tritons Fountain (1709), Holy Trinity Column (1716-1753), Plague Column of the Virgin Mary (1716-1727).
The works belonging to this group were created during a period of 70 years. Today they still represent one of the basic elements determining the contemporary face of the city. They are evidence of the construction and artistic development of the city, which had been nearly destroyed during the period of the Thirty Years War. The group of fountains and columns can be considered as one of the symbols of the rebirth of the city.
The group of preserved Baroque fountains with themes from antiquity is situated in a relatively small area and represents unique works of European significance. While fountains, combining in the past both utilitarian and artistic functions, were part of cities during previous stylistic periods, plague and commemorative columns, such distinctive urban elements in our city, were first built in the Baroque period. From an artistic perspective the most important work in the group of Baroque fountains and columns is the Holy Trinity Column, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
It is also necessary to add that a recent 20th century modern fountain situated next to the Town Hall also belongs to the group of Olomouc fountains in the historic centre of the city. In 2002 Ivan Theimer’s new Arion Fountain was installed on the Upper Square in Olomouc, and in 2005 a Baroque fountain (1725) that had been removed approximately 100 years ago was returned to the centre of the city.
In 1642 Olomouc was taken by Swedish General L. Torstenson following a four-day siege. The Swedish occupation of the city lasted 8 years (1642-1650), and Olomouc was left in ruins. Of 700 city buildings only 168 remained inhabitable. Only 1,765 of the 30,000 residents living in the city in 1640 remained.
There were thoughts at the time of not restoring the city and converting it instead to a village. But this did not occur; in 1655 the city was declared one of four Moravian fortress towns and reconstruction was commenced. The first builders were Church institutions; later the city also became involved in construction and tried through artistic ornamentation (the group of fountains with themes from antiquity and the Holy Trinity Column) to recall its ancient past and connect with old Catholic traditions. Nevertheless, while the city residents were able to raise Olomouc from the ruins, the fact remained that the city had lost its leading political standing in Moravia.
The group of Baroque fountains
The fountain was created in 1687-1688 and depicts the scene in which the hero of Greek mythology Heracles (the Latin version of his name is Hercules) performs one of his heroic exploits by killing the Hydra. The hero is dressed in lion skins; in his right hand he wields a club (the statue originally held a sword), in his left hand he holds the symbol of the town of Olomouc, a chequered eagle, with which he is fighting back a seven-headed dragon at his feet. The statue of Hercules was created by sculptor V. Mandik, and the remaining stone work was performed by Olomouc stonemason V. Schüller. The fountain was originally located on the site of today's Holy Trinity Column, but was moved in 1716 to make room for the new column.
The fountain was created in the short period of four and a half months in 1725. The central motif of the fountain is Julius Caesar riding a horse; beginning in the 15th century Caesar was regarded as the founder of the city. The rider and his horse that is rearing back stand on rocks; at the feet of the horse lie two bearded men – water gods representing the Morava and Danube Rivers. The men hold shields with the emblems of Moravia and Lower Rakous, symbolizing, like the lying dog, the loyalty of Olomouc and the whole of Moravia to the ruling family. The riding statue was the masterpiece of sculptor J.J. Schauberger, who was only twenty-five years old at the time. The stone work was performed by V. Render, to whom the overall design of the fountain is also attributed. The Caesar riding statue was inspired by the Vatican riding statue of Constantine the Great by L. Bernini.
The oldest preserved Olomouc fountain dates to the year 1683. The Roman god of the sea Neptune is larger-than-life and holds a trident pointing down toward the basin of the fountain. Four sea horses rise below Neptune. The sculpture was executed by sculptor M. Mandik and the basin of the fountain was created by Olomouc stonemason V. Schüller.
The fountain was completed in 1707 and originally included a statue of St. Florian, which along with the fountain basin was created by V. Render. In 1735 the statue of St. Florian was replaced by a statue of the higher Roman god, Jupiter, attributed to sculptor F. Sattler.The Jupiter figure, clutching in his raised right hand a bundle of lightening, his left hand resting on his hip, stands on a square base decorated in the four corners with ornamental reliefs of four male faces. At the left leg of the god stands his devoted animal, an eagle with outstretched wings.
The fountain, dating to 1727, depicts the Roman god of trade and the messenger to the gods, Mercury. The god stands on a round rock decorated on three sides with heads of water creatures. The god is portrayed with three basic symbols designating his mission: on his head he has a petasos (a hat for protection against the rain), in his raised right hand he holds a caduceus (a sceptre with two intertwined snakes, the symbol of the messenger), and on his feet he has talaria (winged sandals allowing him to travel swiftly). An angel sits at Mercury’s feet. The sculpture was executed by F. Sattler and the stone work is by V. Render and J.J. Kniebandl.
The model for this fountain dating to 1709 was the Roman Triton fountain by L. Bernini. The Olomouc fountain depicts the mischievous sea deities, the Tritons, who are the sons of the god Triton and the grandsons of the ruler of the sea in Roman mythology, Neptune. Located in the lower part of the fountain are two men and two dolphins carrying in unison an oval shell. Standing in this shell is a boy holding two winged sea dogs on a chain. The fountain was originally located elsewhere (at the intersection of the Olomouc streets Denisova, Ztracená, Pekařská, and Ostružnická), and was moved to Republic Square in 1880. The fountain and the original basin were designed by V. Render (today’s basin is a copy created in 1975), and the artist of the sculptural elements of the fountain is unknown.
The Baroque columns
Holy Trinity Column.
The column was created in the period of 1716-1754 on the site where the Hercules Fountain originally stood. The interior of the column houses the Chapel of the Holy Trinity with six reliefs on a sacrificial theme. The column reaches a height of 35 metres.
The column rests on a circular base with 12 surrounding pillars. The basic ground plan of the column is a circle with a diameter of 17 metres (includes a raised round pedestal with seven stairs and six balustrades with vases and lanterns). The central part of the column, composed on the principle of narrowing tiered hexagons, creates three levels. A hexagonal column begins at the height of approximately 20 metres and is topped by a group of plated statues.
A total of 18 statues of saints, slightly larger-than-life (220-240 cm), are situated on the three levels of the column. These are St. Moritz, St. Wenceslas, St. Florian, St. Alois Gonzaga, St. Anthony of Padua, St. John Capistrano (1st level), St. Methodius, St. Cyril, St. Adalbert, St. John Nepomuk, St. Jan Sarkandr, St. Blaise (2nd level), St. Anne, St. Joachim, St. Joseph, St. Lawrence, St. Jerome, and St. John the Baptist (3rd level). The column is also decorated with reliefs of the twelve apostles (on the 1st and 2nd levels) as well as reliefs of the three Christian virtues of Love, Hope, and Faith (3rd level).
Situated on the hexagonal column on the upper part of the structure is a gold-plated copper sculpture of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; at the top of the column is another group of gold-plated copper figures – God the Father, Jesus Christ, a dove emerging from a sunburst symbolizing the Holy Spirit, and a figure of the Archangel Michael.
The column was created exclusively by Olomouc artists: the first to work on the sculptural ornamentation was F. Sattler (six relief busts of the apostles on the first level), followed upon his death by O. Zahner, who executed the majority of the sculptural ornamentation (18 statues of saints, 12 lanterns, 6 relief busts of apostles on the second level, 3 reliefs of the Christian virtues), and modelled the sculptural group of the Holy Trinity along with the figure of the Virgin Mary amongst the angels, and after his death the sculptural work was completed by W. Träger and J.M. Scherhauf. S. Forstner formed the copper statues. The stone work was executed in succession by V. Render, F. Thoneck, J. V. Rokycký, J. I. Rokycký, and A. Schulz.
Olomouc architect and stonemason V. Render was the author of the overall design, and from the beginning of construction he also directed and financed the project from his own resources. Despite the fact that Render bequeathed his entire estate for the building of the column, the project in the end was completed with city resources. V. Render, like many other artists who contributed to the column, did not survive to take part in the ceremonial unveiling of the Holy Trinity Column. The column was consecrated in 1754 by Olomouc Bishop Cardinal F.J. Troyer in the presence of the Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis Stephen, Duke of Lorraine.
Thanks to its size, rich sculptural ornamentation, and overall design the Holy Trinity Column is one of the most important European works of its kind. It was not intentionally designed as a standard plague column (a column erected in memory of the plague) but as an honorary column serving to praise the Catholic faith and to demonstrate the importance of the city and the creative abilities of its residents.
The Plague Column of the Virgin Mary.
The column was erected in the years 1716-1723 to express gratitude for the end of the plague epidemic that struck Olomouc in the period of 1713-1715. According to accounts by contemporaries the plague took the lives of 3000 residents of the city. The column was financed from the resources of Olomouc Region leader Leopold Antonín Sakh, the Baron of Bohuňovice, who bequeathed money in his will for its construction.
The base of the column is formed by a polygon with four protruding and four broken sides, surrounded by a balustrade. This creates a square pedestal that has statues of saints on two levels. The saints chosen for the column are typical protectors against the plague (St. Francis Xavier, St. Karel Boromejský, St. Rochus, and St. Sebastian on the lower level, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Rosalie, St. Barbara, and St. Pauline, patron saint of Olomouc, on the upper level).
Rising from the base is a winding column (a 1992 copy of the original), which is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary Immaculate (statue of the bareheaded saint with hands on her chest, standing on a crescent moon and globe with a coiled snake), symbolizing the conquest of eternal sin. The stone work was executed by V. Render, to whom the overall design is also attributed; the sculptural work was performed by J. Sturmer and T. Schütz.
Text: Jindřich Garčic
Garčic, J. : Olomouc. A Guide to the City and Surrounding Areas. Olomouc 1996
Pojsl, M ., Londin, V.: Twelve Centuries of Architecture. Olomouc 1998
List of Cultural Monument Structures in Olomouc. Olomouc 1996
Sloup The Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc. Olomouc 2001