Friday 14 September 2012

franconian churches

Spanning from Schmalkalden in the northeast to Schwabisch Hall in the southwest with a lot of culture and history in between, the Bavarian region of Franconia comprises a distinct part of Germany that’s bound by a shared identity, though it would be an overly-ambitious undertaking to try to give a succint and deserving definition. It would be beyond the scope of this blog to trace the tracks of empire, kingdom and diocese that united and distinguished this broad area, but its churches do remain as landmarks, anchors of communities large and small, as testament of those allegiances and shifting divisions that flowed with the people—the tribe called the Franks.
The first image is of a covered well and modern sculpture depicting the tableau of Calvary hidden in a remote valley by Münnerstadt in the modern district of Bad Kissingen county. The town and its possessions were over the last millennium under control of the Abbot of Fulda, part of a principality of the Holy Roman Empire—afforded the rights and license of immediacy, under the administration of the Teutonic Knights (Deutschritterorden) who helped from their bases of operation, establish a banking network through letters of credit and standardization (developed after the crusading was done from the association of outposts that remained)—a point of contention for the archbishops of Würzburg, held by Swedes and Napoleon’s armies, and finally annexed by the Kingdom of Bavaria.
That’s quite a secret history for such a seemingly small and out-of-the-way place, and they all have similar stories to tell. Both steeples and towers abound, and while there’s no signature style across the region or the ages, there are some renowned architects whose design, like Balthasar Neumann who built the Basilica Minor and pilgrimage church of the Holy Trinity in Gößweinstein. Here are two other impressive treasures in places that also might be regarded as tiny and out of the way: the church of Saint Lampertus rising from the fallow fields near Bergtheim on the road to Würzburg and the gilt interior of the Saint Nicolas church in Strahlungen in the Rhön.
The prime-mover of a refined and fused Baroque style planned many structures throughout the region, still standing as his legacy and all could well be included in this article. The final image is of resplendent interior of the abbey church of the monastery at Ebrach, close to Bamberg. The Trappist monks have moved their order to the highlands above the vineyards, and the cloister is used as a juvenile justice centre today, but the church remains.
For hundreds of years, it was tradition among the archbishops of Würzburg to have their hearts interred here, while their bodies were placed in the crypt at the Cathedral of Saint Kilian—their home church, and the rest was buried in the Fortress of Marienberg that overlooked the city.   This triangle was not shared as broadly as the power and influence of the cities of Fulda, Bamberg and Würzburg in Lower Franconia but it does not seem that the connection was ever far out of reach.