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Michael Beer

The Baroque Master Builder, Michael Beer, from the Au Guild

From the time it was founded in 1657, the Au Guild produced a number of important master builders that worked for the most part in the Lake Constance region, but also in Alsace and as far away as Bohemia.  

Michael Beer, born in 1605 in Au, Argenau, was not only the beginning of the master builder tradition, but also the founder of the Au Guild.  One of his earliest constructions was the parish church in Bludesch, which he built in 1651.  From that time on, the master builders from the Bregenzerwald governed the ecclesiastical architecture in and around Lake Constance for over 100 years.

Michael Beer trained 19 apprentices in the Au guild, one of them was Michael Thumb.

Michael Thumb‘s most important work was the introduction and formulation of the so called pilaster church building.  He put this concept into practice when he built the Pilgramage church, Schönenberg, in Ellenwangen between 1682 and 1695.   He worked during the time that baroque architecture started to take hold in Austria and Southern Germany.  He trained 26 apprentices in the Au guild, among them, his brother, Christian Thumb who was a most reliable worker and who carried on the tradition - as well as Franz Beer von Blaichten.

Franz Beer von Blaichten was born in 1660 in Au, the son of Michael Beer.  He accomplished the most extensive work, scattered the furthest away from home of all the master builders.  The Benedictine convent in Rheinau, the Cistercian convent church in St. Urban, the Benedictine convent in Weingarten, the Cistercian monastery in Gaisheim, and the Cistercian church in Oberschönfled to name just a few.  Because he had so many contracts in the south of Germany, he moved to Constance in 1705.  

Franz Beer ran 13 building sites a year between 1698 and 1722.  He was also a member of the council in Constance and was socially respected.  In 1722 he was given a peerage.  The double tower façade with the towers set far out are characteristic of his building style.  

Kasper Moosbrugger, also a contemporary of Franz Beer, was born in Au in 1656 and is one of the most famous Vorarlberg Baroque master builders.  He was a stone mason apprentice under Christian Thumb in the Au guild and worked for Johann Georg Kuhen on the Benedictine Monastery in Einsiedeln.  The monastery became the focal point of Kasper Moosbrugger‘s life and in 1862 he joined the religious order as Brother Kasper where he made a new plan for the monastery.  He was called in as an advisor for many other Swiss monasteries as well.  When he came back to his homeland in 1715 for a vacation, he probably helped with the drafting of the Au training programme.

Peter Thumb, the son of Michael Thumb, was born in Bezau in 1681 and built excellent examples of the Vorarlberg ecclesiastical architecture.  He learned the trades of mason and engraver in the Au guild.  Afterwards, he worked as a draughtsman for Franz Beer and later married Beer‘s eldest daughter.   He lived for the most part in Bezau until 1724, but as Franz Beer‘s draughtsman, had to spend a lot of time in Constance.  In 1726 he became an official citizen of Constance.  

In the mean time, Peter Thumb had also made a reputation for himself as an independent master builder.  Apart from his work as a master builder, he also founded a trade company and was a member of the council in Constance.  He most important German rococo architecture works are the monastery church in St. Gallen, the great hall in the monastery library in St. Gallen and the pilgrimage church in Birnau.

We would like to mention here that apart from these five, well known master builders, there were another fifty master builders that also contributed to the success of the Au guild.

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