Wies, pilgrimage church in the municipality of Steingaden, Upper Bavaria, UNESCO World Heritage since 1983, built 1745–54 for the Steingaden Monastery.
The pilgrimage church in Steingaden, Bavaria, which was completed in 1754, is one of the most famous Rococo churches in the world with its stucco work and artistic ceiling paintings by the brothers D. and JB Zimmermann and is an impressive symbol of popular piety. The interior of the church is characterized by a unique blaze of color and abundance of light; here are sculptures of the four church fathers (1753–54) by A. Sturm . The priest’s house served the Steingaden abbots as a summer residence; the stucco in the prelate hall is by D. Zimmermann.
Pilgrimage church “Die Wies”: facts
|Pilgrimage church »Die Wies«
|Pilgrimage church in the Wies, also called “Wieskirche”
|near Steingaden (in the so-called Pfaffenwinkel), northwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
|Masterpiece of a colorful Bavarian Rococo
Pilgrimage church “Die Wies”: history
|built according to plans by Dominikus Zimmermann (1685-1766) in place of a small chapel built in 1740 for a miraculous image of the scourged Jesus
|Ceiling painting on the theme of “Reconciliation with the world through divine grace” by Johann Baptist Zimmermann (1680-1758), court painter to the Bavarian Elector
|Installation of the organ
|elaborate restoration, including to preserve the original color of the frescoes
|Reconstruction and restoration of the organ
Architecture with a Bible-proof swing
“Hoc loco habitat fortuna, hic quiescit cor” – “Here happiness is at home…” – this cheerful motto, engraved in a glass window in the rectory, is attributed to Abbot Marianus II, the builder of the “Wies”. After almost ten years of construction, what had once started as an expression of simple popular piety had suddenly developed into a jewel of southern German Rococo according to thereligionfaqs. Abbot Marianus may have carved his personal motto into the glass with a diamond ring: “… the heart finds peace here”. An age that saw itself as a thoroughly aesthetically designed total work of art and whose absolute desire for style did not shrink from sugar bowls or hairpins.
The Wieskirche is an art space of refinement to be discovered over and over again. Their ingenious creators, the brothers Dominikus and Johann Baptist Zimmermann, used light direction, painting, viewing and the perfect hierarchy of components with the greatest possible sophistication. Like other church builders of the 18th century, they primarily had to be Bible-proof. In the network of illustrated biblical quotations they designed, literally nothing was left to chance. The image program of the “Wies” is designed just as precisely as its statics.
At the very end – in the center of the gaze of the incomprehensible display of magnificence – there is the image of grace, an inconspicuous, scourged Christ, humiliated and bloody. The phenomenon of pilgrimage sparked off the naively conceived figurine at the time; it gave the Wieskirche its brief heyday. Just a few decades after construction was completed, the happy dream was a thing of the past. The neat pilgrimage church could only be saved from demolition with great difficulty. The sobering Enlightenment of the rational decades of the early 19th century valued classical austerity far more highly than the butterfly-like grace of the fallen ancien régime.
The shell motif, the key decoration of the rococo architecture, which is wrongly regarded as playful, takes hold of the classic column arrangements and strict room structuring. The clear formal language of antiquity is frayed in a symmetrical explosion of details. An ingenious amalgamation of the central building and the nave culminates in a spatial experience that conveys both breadth and depth, even though the Wieskirche is actually not that big.
Overlong groups of columns support a heavenly vault, the transparency of which is increased to the almost impossible by means of openings and galleries. The wide-span “vaulted mirror” seems to vehemently contradict any law of gravity. Sandstone, mortar and tuff were of course out of the question for this exhausted construction; Instead, the “Wies” has a wooden ceiling with stucco elements, visually enhanced by the perfect fresco painting by Johann Baptist Zimmermann. Straw with gypsum plastering and, last but not least, sculpted charcoal, the “styrofoam of the baroque”, were used in this type of shell construction.
The perfectly coordinated composition of the materials and not the formal preciousness of the noble material determined the appearance of the room. Seen in this way, not even the impressive pillars of the Wieskirche are “real”; the “artfully marbled stone” consists of colored stucco polished to a high gloss. While in other places severe damage to the vault was caused by the immense thrust of heavy building materials, the sensitive wooden »vault mirror« of the »Wies« was mainly endangered by the pressure waves of high-speed jets. It was only the policy of détente that gave the long-suffering preservationists a sigh of relief, because cracks and crumbling plaster previously corresponded to the number of low-level flights.