Baroque and Rococo reached a triumphant fulfilment in the churches and palaces of southern Germany, and the styles are manifested in the region. It is astonishing that these marvels are not better known, but the artistic heritage of Germany continues to be sadly undervalued. Moreover, many of the choicest items on this tour are not easily accessible, being situated deep in the countryside.
Around the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was something of an economic miracle in the German lands, accompanied by a frenetic upsurge in building activity. This followed nearly a whole century which was blighted by wars and economic collapse. At the end of it the Catholic Church emerged revitalised, wealthier than ever and triumphant in its defeat of Protestantism. In the temporal sphere, the creed of absolutism, which imposed few constraints on the power of the prince or local lord, was at its height.
The Baroque style was the perfect expression both for the Church Triumphant and for the temporal ruler who, taking his cue from Louis XIV at Versailles, wished to overawe his subjects and impress on all visitors the might and magnificence of his person.
The Rococo, which arrived in Germany in the 1730s, was delicate and light-hearted by comparison with the imposing magnificence of High Baroque, but produced some of the most exquisite interiors in the history of art.
Zwiefalten, Weingarten. Fly at c. 8.00am (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Stuttgart. Visit the double-towered church of Zwiefalten by J.M. Fischer followed by a visit to the magnificent Baroque basilica of Weingarten Abbey, ‘the St Peter’s of Germany’. First of two nights in Weingarten.
Steinhausen, Bad Schussenried, Birnau. Begin with a visit to the oval church at Steinhausen, built and decorated by the Zimmermann brothers then on to the glorious library hall at Bad Schussenried convent with abundant imagery. Finally, to Birnau, among vineyards above Lake Constance and one of the most delectable of Rococo churches. Overnight Weingarten.
Ottobeuren, Wies. A pinnacle of Baroque and Rococo emotional power is achieved at J.M. Fischer’s church and abbey at Ottobeuren. The pilgrimage church of Wies in the foothills of the Alps, created by the Zimmermann brothers, is of astounding beauty. First of three nights in Munich.
Nymphenburg, Augsburg. On the outskirts of Munich, the palace, pavilions and gardens of Nymphenburg, summer residence of the Electors of Bavaria; the Amalienburg pavilion is the apogee of secular Rococo interiors. Continue to the magnificent Schaezlerpalais in Augsburg. Its sumptuous gilded, mirrored, ballroom, built between 1765–70, has survived in its original condition. Overnight Munich.
Munich. Visit the Italian-built Theatinerkirche, one of the first Baroque churches north of the Alps. The little church of St John Nepomuk, created by the Asam brothers for their own use. The Residenz, palace of the Electors of Bavaria, with sumptuous Rococo interiors and recently restored theatre by the architect Cuvilliés. Free afternoon. Overnight Munich.
Weltenburg, Rohr, Pommersfelden. Two abbey churches by the Asam brothers: Rohr, with the altar of The Assumption, highpoint of Baroque sculpture, and Weltenburg, with controlled lighting and rich decoration suggestive of transcendental theatricality. Take a short cruise along the Danube. Visit Schloss Pommersfelden, a splendid country house with one of the grandest of Baroque staircases. First of three nights in Bamberg.
Bamberg. One of the loveliest and least spoilt of German towns, Bamberg has fine streetscape, riverside walks and picturesque upper town around the Romanesque cathedral. The Diocesan Museum has outstanding mediaeval textiles, the Baroque former town hall built on a bridge houses a porcelain collection. Free afternoon. Overnight Bamberg.
Bayreuth, Vierzehnheiligen. An enchanting version of Rococo decoration developed in Bayreuth in the town palace and at the Hermitage, a complex of gardens, palaces and pavilions and the wonderful Baroque opera house (by Giuseppe Bibbiena). Visit the pilgrimage church of Vierzehnheiligen (Balthasar Neumann), perhaps the greatest of Rococo churches. Overnight Bamberg.
Würzburg. Visit the Residenz in Würzburg, the Archbishop’s palace, the finest Baroque palace in Germany, designed by Balthasar Neumann with frescoes by G.B. Tiepolo. Fly from Frankfurt, arriving Heathrow c. 6.00pm.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,790 or £2,670 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,190 or £3,070 without flights.
Included: air travel on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A320); travel by private coach; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 1 light lunch and 6 dinners with wine; all admissions; all taxes; all tips for waiters, drivers; the services of the lecturer.
Hotel Altdorfer Hof, Weingarten: a quiet 4-star hotel with a good restaurant. Hotel Torbräu, Munich: a well-located 4-star, traditional in style and decor. Hotel Villa Geyerswörth, Bamberg: 4-star hotel, elegant and quiet.
There is a fair amount of walking on this tour. It would not be suitable for anyone with difficulties with everyday walking and stairclimbing. The average distance covered by coach per day is 86 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'The itinerary was very well planned and the churches and palaces visited were magnificent. This was a marvellous tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it.'
'The lecturer is an excellent speaker and interpreter of the subject, an attentive and caring guide - worth his weight in gold.'
'My first experience of MRT and it lived up to my expectations of content and quality of organisation.'