Winged Altar: The late medieval style of winged altar is an expression of the Gothic attempt to unify architecture, sculpture and painting. This endeavour can be clearly seen in the architectural composition of the winged altar. The retable, consisting of a central painting or shrine with side wings is positioned above a painted or sculpted predella. Atop sits the richly carved crowning of the retable. Large winged altars often had multiple side wings allowing the altar to change appearance to fit the occasion (polyptych altar). Usually the wings were kept closed, presenting the side used for everyday mass; on holy days the altar was opened to display its decorated interior.
The late Gothic period between 1470 and 1520 represented the peak of popularity of winged altars,. At this time there were around 200 winged altars in Austria. The most famous winged altar in Austria is at St. Wolfgang and was completed in 1481 by M. Pacher. Other significant winged altars in Upper Austria can be found at Kefermarkt (around 1490), Gampern (1490-1500) and Hallstatt (1515, built in the workshop of L. Astl). A. Lackner (winged altar in Abtenau) as well as the master craftsmen of the winged altar in Hallein and in Laufen were active in their craft in Salzburg. In Lower Austria winged altars can be found in Zwettl, Pöggstall, Maria Laach, Schönbach, Waidhofen an der Ybbs and Pulkau (which shows the influence of the Danube School (Donauschule)). The winged altar in Mauer near Melk (Lower Austria) and the All Saints' Altar in Altmünster (Upper Austria) show the beginnings of Renaissance style.
The best-known winged altars in Austria's mountainous provinces, where the Gothic influence remained well into the late 15th century, can be found in Landeck, Wilten, Amras, Heiligenblut (1520), Ossiach, Maria Saal, St. Lambrecht, Gröbming and Bad Aussee. In Vorarlberg churches in the Walgau house several winged altars
The most significant winged altars in Vienna include the Wiener Neustädter Altar (1442) in St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Znaimer Altar (around 1440-1450) in the Österreichische Galerie museum.
Literature: M. Hasse, Der Flügelaltar, doctoral thesis, Berlin 1941; M. Brandstetter, Zur Sonderstellung der niederösterreichischen Flügelaltäre, doctoral thesis, Vienna 1950; W. Paatz, Süddt. Schnitzaltäre der Spätgotik, 1963; H. K. Ramisch, Zur Entwicklung des gotischen Flügelaltars, in: Gotik in Österreich, exhibition catalogue, Krems 1967; A. Fritz, Kä. Flügelalt., 1975; H. Schindler, Der Schnitzaltar, 1978; T. Seywald, Spätgot. Flügelalt. in Salzburg, doctoral thesis, Innsbruck 1986.
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