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Artistic activity of bishop Otto Friedrich Buchheim in the Ljubljana diocese

Otto Friedrich Buchheim, canon of Salzburg, Halberstadt and Passau, was at the head of the Ljubljana diocese from 1641 to 1664. Although he was often absent from his see, he nevertheless carefully watched over the pastoral work and life of his clergy. During his absence his vicars general acted for him: Francesco Massimiliano Vaccano (1641–1643), who afterwards remained his pricipal confidant for many years, Marko Dolinar (1643–1655) and Filip Terpin (1655–1675). Buchheim was in conflict with Ljubljana canons, provost Mihael Kumar von Kumberg in particular, over the question of the jurisdiction over the parishes incorporated into the chapter. Used to a cosmopolitan milieu, the bishop could never get accustomed to Ljubljana, because he felt the provincial city to be highly constrictive.

Buchheim himself was a great admirer and collector of art (Acta 2003), but as the pastoral superior he led a restrictive art policy in the diocese, based on his rational and pragmatic judgement. He unwillingly consented to the building of new churches. He was very cautious in issuing permits and kept strictly to the regulations of the law, always demanding a convincing reason and sufficient funds for any new construction. He ordered that several churches that were poorly maintained be abandoned, particularly in the parishes where subsidiary churches were too numerous and without subvention. In his judgement, any church should only have as many altars as it was able to maintain, so he ordered all the rest to be removed. On his visitations he tended to deal with iconographic problems: he scrutinized iconographic orthodoxy of the depictions and controlled whether the saints on the retables were arranged according to the rules of saintly hierarchy.

Among Buchheim's merits for the Ljubljana diocese, his care for the residences in Ljubljana and Goričane (Görtschach) was already pointed out by Johann Weichard Valvasor and Janez Gregor Dolničar/Thalnitscher. The present paper further reveals the bishop's building activity as it can be deduced from the newly discovered documents. It has been established that the bishop placed commissions mainly with the builder Francesco Olivieri, who, between 1646 and 1655, participated in all major building enterprises in Ljubljana, where he was also appointed to the post of the Province building master. New items of information solve some hitherto open professional questions and show Olivieri as the key personality in the architecture of the mid-17th century in Ljubljana and in a wider area of Carniola. Besides the hitherto known church of the order of the Poor Claires and the fountain in the square of Stari trg, both in Ljubljana, several other buildings in the city and in the countryside can now be added to his oeuvre, although some of them only tentatively. Worth mentioning are particularly three sacred buildings, crucial to the developmental line of 17th century architecture in Slovenia: the hall church of the Holy Trinity in Vrhnika (1642–1654), the octagonal church of the Holy Virgin at Nova Štifta near Ribnica (1641–1671), whose relatedness to the former church has already been pointed out by Damjan Prelovšek, and the former Augustinian, now Franciscan, church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana (1646–1660), designed as a basilica hall with chapels. Among secular buildings the most important is the episcopal mansion at Goričane, whose ground plan was already designed in the Baroque sense, thus being the first in Slovenian territory to surpass the Renaissance concept. Judging from the north-Italian stylistic characteristics that can be traced in the above-mentioned buildings, Olivieri's homeland should most reasonably be looked for in Lombardy. The master, who is often called a stone-cutter in documents, came to Carniola via Rijeka (Fiume), where in 1638 he began the construction of the Jesuit church of St. Vitus to the plans of Giacomo Briano. During his life in Ljubljana, a son, Francesco Paolo, was born to him in 1652, but in January 1656 his wife Anna Maria was already mentioned as a widow.

Buchheim had his episcopal palace in Ljubljana raised by a storey and its façade embellished according to the fashion of the time. In 1644 the works were begun by the Ljubljana builder Abondio Donino Jr. Initially, Olivieri probably only assisted in preparing the plans, but after Donino's death (1652) he also finished the building by 1655. In 1644 Donino also made a plan for the reconstruction of the old episcopal castle at Goričane, which had been ruined in a fire, but Buchheim afterwards decided on a completely new construction on a site below the castle hill. The plans for this mansion were made by Olivieri, who also took on the building works; however, it is not clear whether any other architect might have collaborated as well.

In the cathedral, Buchheim had the presbytery rearranged and a new high altar made. It was executed by the carver Ludwig Schönleben. Meanwhile, the bishop began to entertain the idea of building an altogether new presbytery which should have canon stalls behind the altar on the example of the churches in Padua and Montecassino (see the drawing). The idea was only put into effect by bishop Josef Rabatta (1674–1675), who had an altar erected in the new presbytery with an altarpiece by the Venetian painter Pietro Liberi, featuring St. Nicholas. Although it is believed that this picture was commissioned by Rabatta, it is hypothetically possible, due to the uncertain destiny of Schönleben's retable, that it was commissioned by Buchheim, which is, however, very unlikely. The dating of Liberi's long-lost painting, rediscovered only recently, thus has to be left to a thorough stylistic analysis.

Buchheim also turned to Olivieri, who assisted in the works in the cathedral, for advice in the matter of vaulting St. Peter's church in Ljubljana. The bishop also watchfully followed the construction of the Holy Sepulchre chapel built (probably by Olivieri) in 1653/54 on the Viennese example at Štepanja vas, a suburb of Ljubljana. It was commissioned by Ljubljana provost Janez Andrej Stemberg, whose plans to build a new church there were followed similarly carefully by the bishop. On the Štepanja vas example Buchheim himself had a Holy Sepulchre chapel erected already in 1655 in the pilgrimage church in Nova Štifta near Gornji Grad. It was built by Olivieri, who also took part in the renovation of the episcopal residence in Vrbovec (Altenburg).

In Buchheim's time the Discalceates and the Poor Claires settled in Ljubljana. Hence a vigorous building campaign began in the city in which other religious orders also took part, particularly the Augustinians and the Jesuits, and from among secular notables mainly the Auersperg counts. The convent of the Order of Saint Claire (1650–1657) is supposed to have imitated, but on a smaller scale, the Order's convent in Gorizia. The plans were prepared by Olivieri in collaboration with Donino; the former also took on the building works which were, however, finished by Francesco Rosina, who also succeeded Olivieri in the post of the Province building master.

The Augustinians began to build a new church in 1646. The construction was financially supported by baron Konrad Ruessenstein. He donated to them the legacy he had intended for his son, who died in Rome in 1645 and was buried there in the Augustinian church S. Maria del Popolo (an epitaph should have been set up for him there; its preparatory drawing is kept in the Valvasor Print Collection and was published by Blaž Resman). After the Viennese model, the Ljubljana Augustinians also incorporated an imitation of the Loreto House in their church. The construction works were carried out by Olivieri, who had probably also made the design, but they were finished by Rosina. According to the hitherto discovered documents, Ruessenstein and the Augustinians were the first in Ljubljana to commission Olivieri to work for them, thus inducing him to come and settle in the city. In 1652 Olivieri also took on the building of the Jesuit grammar-school, which was finished by Rosina in 1658. The Discalceates began the construction of their monastery in 1654 (perhaps to Olivieri's plans, or at least with his collaboration), the building works on the new church, whose foundation stone was laid in 1657, were carried out by Rosina. As Lubej assumes, he also supervised the conversion of the palace of count Johann Andreas Auersperg (1654–1658, possibly designed by Olivieri) and perhaps also worked for other members of this family. As regards the renovation of the church-tower in Gornji Grad, which collapsed in 1658, Rosina as "stucco-worker" did not seem suitable to do the work (cf. Vaccano's remark on the construction of the Jesuit church in Gorizia), so it was entrusted to some other builder.

Buchheim would look everywhere for competent artists to meet his needs. Among the first with whom he established contacts as Ljubljana bishop were two painters from Rijeka. In 1642 he made appointment with the Franciscan painter Serafin Schön, a native of Switzerland who was active as a painter at Trsat above Rijeka, to do some work for him. They came into contact through Ljubljana provost Kumberg who met Schön at Trsat when in 1630 Kumberg, as the superior of the Franciscan province, commenced the renovation of the monastery there. Buchheim made the acquaintance of another painter of Rijeka, Janez Frančišek Gladič, through the latter's relatives in Ljubljana. Between 1651 and 1653 the painter was working for the bishop in Rome (Acta 2003). On his return he brought many handsome drawings and wax statuettes to Ljubljana, where he remained in the bishop's service for two more years. In the meantime, the bishop also invited him to Salzburg for four months. Gladič painted there, met a young woman, and looked in vain for a possibility to settle, therefore he returned to Ljubljana, where he married Katarina Rerenberg. He became famous in Carniola as the best painter in the province. His works will be discussed in a paper to be published in the next volume of Acta.