New Churches in Bavaria Spiritual and Sensual Elements

New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim, Photo: Michael Heinrich
New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim | Photo: Michael Heinrich

Since the turn of the century there has been a strong increase in the number of churches built, particularly in southern Germany. These are celebrated as highlights of contemporary architecture.

The rumour that religious architecture no longer plays a significant role in Germany is not true. In contrast to northern and western Germany where there are signs of churches “dying out”, in Bavaria many new churches or modern church extensions have been built since the turn of the century. Some of these buildings – mostly designs from architectural competitions – are considered highlights of contemporary architecture. Nevertheless, the circumstances and the set tasks have changed significantly over the recent past. Unlike the period after the Second World War when church building activities were booming, there is no longer a demand for temple-like structures today, and the focus is more on modest buildings, these often being designed as chapels or “silent spaces”.

A church for a growing community

St. Peter in Wenzenbach near Regensburg St. Peter in Wenzenbach near Regensburg | Photo: Peter Manev, Selb The historic parish church of St. Peter in Wenzenbach, near Regensburg, had become too small for its rapidly growing community. Completed in 2003, the significantly enlarged house of worship now creates a centre for the parish. The architects Brückner and Brückner opened up the entire building and placed the visual emphasis on the “timber envelope“ that comprises 166 vertical beams. The new sacred space is designed in the shape of a ship with the altar positioned in the ship’s bow. To connect the new created space with the old building in the best and most practical way the stripped down nave was partially opened to insert the new structure, with the result that it stands at 90 degrees to the original building.

t. Peter in Wenzenbach near Regensburg t. Peter in Wenzenbach near Regensburg | Photo: Peter Manev, Selb The reduced former chancel is now used as a weekday chapel. The church’s new slat structure is 14.5 metres high and made from local larch wood. It forms the outer shell of the timber and glass facade with integrated steel columns. These columns support the roof structure with its distinctive larch wood ceiling. Exposed ribs ascend towards the sanctuary and then drop down again in the bow. Inside the church the atmosphere is coined by the blue glass walls that rise from the massive wall base. Towards the top the intensity of the computer-printed colour gradually decreases to symbolise heaven.

The church as a work of art

St. Bonifatius in Dietenhofen near Ansbach St. Bonifatius in Dietenhofen near Ansbach | Photo: Carl Lang The small church of St. Bonifatius in Dietenhofen, near Ansbach, was inaugurated in 2009 and was quick to draw international attention due to its most unusual design and artistic interior. It is also the first church in Germany to be powered solely by renewable energy. As the surrounding area did not feature a specific architectural style, the former diocesan master builder, Karl Frey, decided on an ellipse as the basic shape for the new church. There were reasons for choosing this form: it symbolises a basic movement of creation, its bipolarity allows different forms of liturgical worship and it would also establish a focal point in the neighbourhood that lacked distinctive character.

St. Bonifatius in Dietenhofen near Ansbach St. Bonifatius in Dietenhofen near Ansbach | Photo: Carl Lang The church has a supporting structure of steel that is encased by two shell segments made of glass. On the outside the frame has a “skin” of overlapping ribbed industrial glass panes and meets all requirements with respect to building physics. The inner shell is for the artistic design. Seven large glazing panels in the colours red, blue, green and ochre are integrated in the black and white glass panes that run around the perimeter. The superimposed play of light and colours, designed by the Swiss artists Godi und Lukas Hirschi, creates an almost mystic atmosphere in the area of worship. The places of liturgy as well as the stations of the cross have been beautifully designed by the artist Rudolf Ackermann. Supported by a lattice of vaulted steel fins the concrete ceiling appears to hover over the entire interior.

The church in historic surroundings

New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim | Photo: Michael Heinrich The New Apostolic Church used to erect its places of worship as simple functional buildings with a gable roof. For several years now, the Church has been inviting architects to present their individual designs. An outstanding example of this new approach to architectural practice is the church erected in the Munich district of Laim and completed in the autumn of 2013. The design of the architects Haack and Höpfner remains sensitive to the surrounding area, especially the listed residential buildings. There is a delightful area with a water feature In front of the set back cuboid church building. Also the low-rise community buildings stand out with their noble simplicity and an intelligent coordination of materials. The area of worship is flooded with light and can be enlarged for larger events, thanks to flexible moving walls.

New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim New Apostolic Church in Munich Laim | Photo: Michael Heinrich After a slump in ecclesiastical building at the end of the 20th century in Germany architects are again building new churches for the Evangelical Church in Bavaria. In these religious buildings the area of worship is designed to benefit from artistically integrated light, as in the church in Wolnzach, built in 2008, and the church in Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg, that was completed in 2010. Instead of rather ordinary community centres, these new buildings express a new symbiosis of spiritual and sensual elements. This new religious architecture signals a restored awareness for the sublime.