Germany – The Churches of Bavaria

I have a passion for churches and cathedrals. Perhaps because they breathe
something out of this world, something heavenly, totally different from what we
experience in our day-to-day life; perhaps it is due to the romanticism attached to
it; perhaps because they convey something pertaining to common humanity;
surely also because they are visible manifestations of what man is capable of
through his intellect, mind and spirit: comforting spaces and majestic,
overwhelming structures.

The churches found in Bavaria, the southern province of Germany, are splendid
examples surely not to be missed when visiting this beautiful region. I speak of
the churches of Ettal, Oberammergau and the Wieskirche – all within two hours
drive by car from one another.

The church in the small town of Ettal, near to Oberammergau, owes its
endowment and foundation in April 1330 to the Duke of Bavaria, also at that time
the Roman Emperor of Germany. The basic form of the church is a twelve-sided
Gothic structure, with flying buttresses. In the early 17th century there were
interior innovations with baroque decorations and furnishings. Due to the light
coming in through the large windows into the white and golden interior, one’s first
glance goes upwards to the walls and stucco merging into the marvellously
painted “heaven” in the dome, with the effect of having no ceiling. Reality thus
blends with the unreal, with the baroque intention to let the heavenly break into
earthly reality.

From Ettal it is about 30 km. to Oberammergau – the town where the famous
Passion Play is performed every 10 years. The town itself is something to
experience, with beautiful panoramas painted on the walls of almost every
building . You will be able to buy exquisite woodwork items here, as well as
handmade linen at Käthe Wohlfahrt’s shop!
The church isn’t overwhelmingly large, but the interior decorated in white and
gold is breathtaking. A finely crafted chandelier is suspended from the dome high
above, whilst at the back of the church you will see a panoramic portrayal of the
crucifixion of Christ.
From here we drove to Füssen, with the view of visiting King Ludwig’s castles the
next day. But on the way we turned of to the Wieskirche (Wies Church). The
“Wies” is not situated in a town, but on the open meadows in a broad valley. This
is a pilgrimage church, built in honour of a wooden figure of the “Scourged
Saviour”, which was kept at the farm “Wieshof”. In 1738 a miracle reputedly took
place: it was noticed that some drops were formed on the face of the likeness,
taken to be tears. This was the beginning of a rapidly increasing pilgrimage
movement to the “Wies”.
This pilgrimage has remained alive up till today and has become a centre of a
pilgrimage of European dimension. Among the more than one million yearly
visitors from all over the world, you will also find people in silent prayer.

In the Wieskirche the art of rococo has reached a high point of excellence. A few
years ago this masterpiece was included in the UNESCO’s list of Cultural
Heritage Buildings, thus receiving international recognition. With all its apparent
lightness and grace this church is characterized by a profound spirituality and
defined by the greatness of the theological themes depicted inside.


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