Dome painting

With its com­bi­na­tion of fres­co, lime­wash and sec­co tech­niques, the strong­ly lit paint­ing of the inner dome presents a har­mo­ny of blue, gold-ochre and red that is best seen in per­spec­tive from the west­ern focus of the church’s main ellipse. Odd­ly, the some­what inde­pen­dent tem­ple rotun­da (a so-called monopteros) which uni­fies the painting’s com­po­si­tion does not present the type of illu­sion­is­tic con­tin­u­a­tion of the church’s archi­tec­tur­al lan­guage which is so typ­i­cal of Baroque art. The base of this cir­cle of columns remains hid­den, and so seems to be weight­less. Medi­at­ing between the sub­dued light of the real space below and the light-filled heav­ens above is a frame-like wood­en coro­na held up by angels around the rim of the out­er dome – a sym­bol­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the crown of life that awaits the faith­ful at Heaven’s Gate. And peer­ing over the south­ern edge of this coro­na, we find the smil­ing bust of Cos­mas Dami­an Asam (cre­at­ed by his broth­er), with the sig­na­ture oblique­ly behind him (dat­ed 1721) iden­ti­fy­ing him as the cre­ator of the ceil­ing fres­coes and archi­tect of the church.

The massed fig­ures pop­u­lat­ing the dome rep­re­sent the con­gre­ga­tion of saints assem­bled before the cloud-borne throne of God. Above the  per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the church tri­umphant which crowns the sanc­tu­ary arch, they are arranged in hier­ar­chi­cal order from the vic­to­ri­ous fig­ure of St. George (trans­posed, as it were, from the high altar) to the Blessed Vir­gin, humbly await­ing her coro­na­tion, to the Holy Trin­i­ty itself, which forms the cen­tre of the scene. At the north­ern edge of the fres­co, the apos­tles are led by St. Peter; with St. Rupert tak­ing his place among them as the apos­tle of the Bavar­i­ans, to which he is said to have brought the mirac­u­lous Madon­nas of Altöt­ting and Wel­tenburg (Frauen­berg). Fur­ther on, the Archangel Gabriel fore­tells the birth of their son, John the Bap­tist, to the priest Zachary and his wife Eliz­a­beth; the Holy Kin­dred is com­plet­ed by the fig­ures of Mary’s par­ents, Joachim and Anne, and her spouse, Joseph – all of whom belonged to the House of David. King David him­self is por­trayed next in con­cert with St. Cecil­ia, the patron of church music. Their prox­im­i­ty to the monks’ choir and the organ makes the ref­er­ence of the paired fig­ures unmis­tak­able. A sim­i­lar inten­tion­al ref­er­ence is pro­vid­ed by the pen­i­tent Mag­dalen and the Angel of Judg­ment which pro­vide a tran­si­tion to the vestibule below.

Begin­ning again on the south­ern rim of the dome, one finds St. Peter, the foun­da­tion stone of the Church, stand­ing oppo­site St. Bene­dict, the founder of the order and the Rule to which the abbey adheres, and his sis­ter St. Scholas­ti­ca. Under his pro­tec­tion, we find Abbot Mau­rus Bächl, the builder of Wel­tenburg, and the monks of this com­mu­ni­ty. Between this group and the church’s sec­ond patron, St. Mar­tin of Tours, stands a fig­ure bear­ing the facial fea­tures of Egid Quirin Asam – close to the laugh­ing stuc­co bust of his broth­er. This panoply of fig­ures is com­plet­ed by St. Wolf­gang, one of the patrons of the dio­cese of Regens­burg, the sib­ling saints Placidus und Flavia (all mem­bers of the Bene­dic­tine Order), and final­ly by a dense throng of jubi­lant female saints, among them the saints Hele­na, Ursu­la, Bar­bara, and Catherine.