Hofkirche in Innsbruck: Tomb of Emperor Maximilian I

When we arrived in Innsbruck, we didn’t really have any plans, so we wandered around Old Town until we got hungry. After we had a bite to eat, we started looking for things to do. We first stopped at the Hofburg Imperial Palace, but they were closed for the day, so then we wandered over to the adjacent Hofkirche (Court Church) to check out the imperial tomb of Emperor Maximilian I.

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The outside of the church really isn’t much to speak of, except for the beautiful front entrance. The church had placed a sign in front of those lovely wooden doors directing people to the visitors entrance, but it was really detracting from my photo. I asked Cory to grab it and move it out of the frame for a few seconds so I could get the photo I wanted, and what does he do? He picks it up while someone is reading it and hides behind one of the columns with it. I was silent laughing so hard that tears were coming out, but hey, I got my photo!

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

After purchasing our tickets (€5 for adults, no charge for children), we entered the church courtyard where pristine hedges and greenery line the paths leading to the fountain at the courtyard’s center. Tangled vines cover nearly every inch of the arches lining the interior walkway. (If these are blooming vines, they’ll be beautiful in the spring!) The gardens are lovely, but the real beauty is inside the Hofkirche.

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

Before we came to Innsbruck, I didn’t have a clue who Emperor Maximilian I was, but after seeing his palace, his museum, and now his memorial, I feel like we’re good friends. The hotel we stayed in was even named after him. Clearly, this guy was important.

The Hofkirche in Innsbruck was built for Emperor Maximilian I by his grandson after his death. His tomb in the center is actually empty – he preferred his body to be buried in Vienna, but it proved too difficult to build a large memorial for him there, so the Hofkirche was constructed in his honor in Innsbruck. His tomb is surrounded by 28 large bronze statues representing his ancestors and heroes. Even though they’re known as the Black Men, both males and females are presented here. The cenotaph itself is decorated with marble reliefs of scenes from Emperor Maximilian’s life. Even more statues line the gallery wall above, beneath Jesus on the cross. Throw in a gorgeous vaulted ceiling, red marble columns, and a 450-year-old organ, and it all seems like a lot for an empty tomb, doesn’t it? Guess that’s royalty for you.

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

After we finished wandering around the tomb, we headed upstairs to see a second chapel. This one was more colorful than the one below, and I loved it until I realized the pattern on the walls and ceiling was actually made up of faces, lots of them. Hundreds of little eyes were following our every move inside the chapel. It’s just a little too creepy, in my opinion.

My favorite experience while in the Hofkirche occurred while I was admiring the statues around the tomb. I was taking photos of a particularly cocky-looking bloke when a man approached me, speaking in German. He was laughing and gesturing towards the statue I was photographing, so I could guess what he was saying, but I didn’t want to smile and laugh for fear he’d assume that I actually spoke German, so instead I awkwardly interjected and asked if he spoke English. He graciously switched to English and asked me where I was from, which is always a difficult question to answer when you’re a traveling expat. This spurred a half-hour conversation about traveling, Austria, Germany, and Black Forest cake. (My new friend was from Black Forest, Germany – I never knew that was where the cake came from!) I enjoyed talking with him and his traveling partner so much that I almost asked them to join us for dinner, but I didn’t want to put them in the awkward position of having to come up with an excuse to get out of dining with the overly friendly American, so I held my tongue.

I love meeting new people while traveling. Locals, other travelers, it doesn’t matter – they all have interesting stories to share. (Fellow travelers are the few people I can tell my own travel stories to without worrying that their eyes will begin to glaze over out of boredom!) Even without the fun encounter with the German travelers, visiting the Hofkirche was one of my favorite things we did in Innsbruck. It was fairly cheap to get into, not the least bit crowded, and they allow photography. All super important things in my opinion!

Hofkirche: Website
Address: Universitätsstraße 2, 6020 Innsbruck

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The Hofkirche In Innsbruck: Tomb Of Emperor Maximilian I

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  • Hans Thorsen
    July 4, 2017 at 8:56 AM

    Beautiful website, wonderful photos. I visited Maximilian’s tomb roughly ten years ago and was greatly impressed. The statues are magical. Someone on another blog, who also visited the Hofkirche, was of the opinion that the church wasn’t about giving glory to God, since the emperor’s cenotaph blocked the altar from the view of anyone seated in the pews directly behind it. Nonsense, I say. For centuries altars in churches in the west were hidden by choir screens, similar in function to an iconostasis in an Orthodox church. People went to HEAR Mass, not necessarily to “see” it. “Hear Mass” was an expression that was used by western Christians for centuries.

    • Sarah Shumate
      July 6, 2017 at 3:58 AM

      Very interesting! That thought didn’t even cross my mind when I visited. Having been in many even larger churches than this, I’m pretty sure it’s a rather common thing to go to mass and not be able to see the alter (at least well, anyway). I definitely agree with you – to hear the message would be the important thing!

      And thank you for the compliment about my website and photos. I appreciate that very much!

  • Diana Bockus
    April 9, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    Those doors! And the ceiling! I love these shots! Speaking of – what do you typically shoot with (out of curiosity)?

    • Sarah Shumate
      April 10, 2014 at 7:33 AM

      I am still using my entry level DSLR. I’ve had it for almost three years now. It’s a Canon 600D/T3i. By now Canon is probably up to a T6i. :) 95% of the time, I am using my 50mm fixed lens, but for these photos I used the kit lens. It’s not my favorite, but I knew I’d need to be able to take wider shots than my 50mm allows.

  • rorybore
    April 9, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    gorgeous — the detail keeps blowing my mind.
    that, and I definitely need a more interesting water faucet in my backyard garden.
    and some black forest cake :)

  • Amy | Club Narwhal
    April 8, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    What a gorgeous church–and a fun traveling story! I remember back in my backpacking days, it was so easy to just become instant friends with fellow travelers, even going on daytrips and new cities with totally random people. It’s kind of sad that these experiences became fewer and fewer as I got older. So it’s always fun to meet a kind stranger while traveling :)

  • Emmymom
    April 8, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Wow amazing how ornate and decorated it is on the inside when it really is so plain on the outside. Too funny the Cory took the sign while someone was reading it. Good job being a friendly American as too many don’t think of us that way :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      April 9, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      You think other countries don’t see Americans as friendly? I haven’t really come across that stereotype yet, but it doesn’t mean people don’t think it. Normally, I just hear others complaining about how loud and obnoxious we are. I try my best to disprove that when we travel. :)

  • Jo
    April 8, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    They don’t build churches like that anymore!

  • Katrin
    April 8, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    My dad is a huge fan of Black Forest cake. Sometimes they even pour schnapps over that cake when you order it in a cafe! What a beautiful church, I love visiting churches, they always have beautiful gardens.

  • Erica Baker
    April 7, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    Beautiful architecture! I love old, European churches.

  • Carly @ Let Us Wanderlust
    April 7, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Gosh your pictures of the interior of the Hofkirche are spectacular! What incredible architecture! I also love meeting travellers and locals when travelling and that is often the highlight of a great day for me :) and moving the sign while someone was reading it?? HILARIOUS!! Sounds so like something my fiancé would do while I silently laugh hysterically!

    • Sarah Shumate
      April 8, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      Meeting other people really is one of the best parts of traveling. One of my favorite memories from when we visited Bath, England was a lunch we had at just a regular pub-type place, but it’s so memorable because of the two old guys we hung out with while we were there. They were a hoot, and it totally made our day!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    April 7, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    My favourite part of traveling is the random conversations with people. We met some kiwis while doing a tour in Italy and ended up hanging out and bar hopping with them all night. I am still friends with them on Facebook :)

  • Alyx
    April 7, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    hahahahahaha that’s hilarious that he moved it while someone was reading it! I love meeting other travelers, too! It’s so fun to hear other people’s stories.

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    April 7, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    I didn’t know Black Forest cake came from there either! You learn something new everyday, huh? :)

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    April 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    I LOVE that Cory moved the sign WHILE someone was reading it! HILARIOUS!!! It’s always fun to chit chat with others traveling. I’m like you and have wanted to invite someone for dinner, but don’t want them to think I’m a freak! =P Beautiful church!