Austria’s reputation as a nation with a great cultural tradition is due not only to its music, literature and art. This country also boasts many towering architectural achievements. As in every other artistic field, interaction and exchange with other cultures has always been crucial to the further development of Austria’s architecture.
The scene at the building site of Salzburg Cathedral in 1620 must have resembled a kind of Tower of Babel: there were local labourers, soldiers from all over Europe who had been separated from their units, and at the very centre an Italian master builder who directed the entire project with great élan. Santino Solari was evidently a very busy man at that time. He not only oversaw the rebuilding of the cathedral in Salzburg, but was also charged with renovating the entire fortifications of the city.
In the ensuing decades, many other Italian architects followed Solari’s lead and came here to lend Austria the Baroque splendour for which it is still famous today. In Vienna, Filiberto Lucchese worked on the church at Am Hof and on the Leopold Wing of the Hofburg, Carlo Antonio Carlone rebuilt Upper Austria’s St. Florian Monastery as a Baroque masterpiece, and Domenico Martinelli infused the Liechtenstein Garden Palace with splendour and dignity.
In the Baroque period, princes and bishops bought architects in the same way as football clubs buy foreign players today, and building à la italianità was all the fashion. One builder who left a particularly enduring mark on Austria was the Genoa-born Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt came to the imperial capital in 1696 and went down in architectural history as the builder of Belvedere Palace, the Church of St. Peter, Schwarzenberg Palace, Laxenburg Palace, Hof Palace in Lower Austria, and Mirabell Palace in Salzburg.