Parler Family

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Parler Family. German master-masons working in Swabia and Bohemia in C14 and early C15. Heinrich I (c.1300–1371) was Parlier (foreman with responsibility for a Mason's lodge) at Cologne Cathedral, when the choir was completed c.1322, but other works proceeded very slowly. He moved to Schwäbisch-Gmünd where he built the nave (from c.1330) and (probably) the choir (designed on hall-church principles) of the Stadtkirche zum Heiligen Kreuz (Town Church of Holy Cross), one of the most influential buildings of the Sondergotik style. He may have worked on the choir of the Cathedral at Augsburg, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) at Nuremberg, and the Minster at Ulm.

Peter Parler (1333/5–99), son of Heinrich, is the most celebrated of the tribe. He worked at Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Cologne Cathedral (possibly), and the Frauenkirche at Nuremberg before being summoned to Prague in 1356 by Kaiser Karl IV (1346–78) to work on the Cathedral of St Vitus (Veit), begun in 1344 by Matthias of Arras: he completed the choir (1385), the Wenceslas Chapel, and later the south transept. He also designed and built the Charles Bridge over the River Vltava (Moldau), Prague (begun 1357), added the choir to the Church of St Bartholomew, Kolín (1360–78), and carried out works at St Barbara, Kutná Hora (begun 1388), and was responsible for various tombs, shrines, and sculptures.

Johann, Heinrich's eldest son, repaired the Cathedral in Basel (completed 1363), and settled in Freiburg-im-Breisgau where he became Master of the Works at the Minster from 1359 (he may have designed the chancel). Johann's son, Michael II of Gmünd (d. c.1387), who was Master of the Works at Strasbourg Cathedral from 1383, may have been responsible for modifying Erwin von Steinbach's designs for the west front. He was also involved in the building of the Minsters at Freiburg and Ulm, and probably completed the towers of Basel Cathedral (c 1380). His brother, Heinrich II of Gmünd and Freiburg (d.c.1392), worked at Augsburg, Vienna, Cologne, and Prague, and succeeded Michael II at Ulm from 1387 to 1391. He also appears to have acted as a consultant for Milan Cathedral (1391–2), a job he probably got through his father-in-law, Michael of Savoy, who worked at Cologne.

Wenzel or Wenceslaus Parler (c. 1360–1404), Peter's second son, worked on the south tower of St Vitus's Cathedral in Prague from c.1375 to 1398. Settling in Vienna (c.1397), he became Master of the Works at the Stephensdom (Cathedral of St Stephen), and seems to have been responsible for the lower stages of the south tower. His brother, Johann the Younger, of Prague (d. c.1405), succeeded his father and brother as Master of the Works at St Vitus in 1398, proceeding with the erection of the south tower, and completing parts of the south transept. He was also involved at Kutná Hora.

The Parlers were masters of elegant, flowing tracery, complex vaulting, and fine carving; their works had a profound influence throughout Germany, Austria, and Bohemia in C15 and C16.


A. Legner (ed.) (1978–80);
Neuwirth (1890, 1891),
Nussbaum (1994);
Placzek (1982);
Recht (ed.) (1989);
Swoboda (1943);
Jane Turner (1996)