Pilgrimage Church Of Wies

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Dominikus Zimmermann, Pilgrimage Church of Wies, 1745-54

Is it a palace? Is it a museum? Nope. It’s a church in Steingaden, Germany, and ornate doesn’t even begin to describe this Rococo masterpiece created by Dominikus Zimmermann. From the outside, the building appears to be simple, plain, a place you go to worship, but the closer you get to the door, the more detail you begin to notice. Then, when you open the doors, your senses immediately go into overdrive, as you try to take in every minute detail Zimmermann presents to you. The gold detailing on the columns that lead your eye up. The religious frescos that greet your gaze at the ceiling. The angels that spread their wings in the painted, heavenly sky. The white walls that contrast the lavish and ornate center. These elements make the architecture and design of this church a force to be reckoned with, and it all started with a wooden statue of Christ.

A woman from the town of Steingaden, Germany, claimed to have seen the wooden Christ cry, and when people flocked to pray to the tear-stained statue, the town realized that a small chapel could not host this amount of visitors. Thus, the town decided to erect a church that would be built around the statue.

Zimmermann began the creation of this holy place in 1745, and completed the project in 1754. With the help of his talented brother, Johann Baptist Zimmermann, Dominikus created a sanctuary for not only worshippers, but also those who admire the skills and details that make up the Rococo Period. 

I was immediately drawn to this church as all the bright colors, gold, and detail captured my eye, but I also found it interesting how the Rococo design influenced the building techniques of churches. The Fleming textbook describes the Enlightenment Period, in which Rococo flourished, as a time that “challenged the entrenched power of religion and government with the authority of knowledge,” and if this is so, why did a trending design that was linked to the Enlightenment spread to the church? Zimmerman understood that while some pushed against the church, others still remained loyal, and  Zimmermann attempted to give both groups what they wanted. Zimmerman pushed the boundary between the church and the changing society, using elements of both to create one structure. A church for worship, and an architectural masterpiece to examine for centuries.

Today, the Pilgrimage Church of Weis, also known as Wieskirche, is under the protection of UNESCO, and will be preserved as a piece of history forever. 


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