Monday, June 18, 2012

Abbey of St. Peter in the Black Forest

St. Peter in the Black Forest is the almost unbelievable name of a beautiful small village in the rolling hills of the Black Forest (or Schwarzwald) in southeastern Germany.

In looking up the information for this post, it took me a while to realize that St. Peter in the Black Forest was not the name of the abbey with a description of where it was, but actually the name of the village. With a village by that name, you can get by with the simple name of “abbey” for the abbey. Without knowing more, I can guess that the name of the abbey was St. Peter, which existed before the village, and the village later took on the name of the abbey. It is mind blowing to learn that this abbey first started in 1073, if not earlier, more than four centuries before Columbus discovered the new world and about seven centuries before the Spanish built their missions in California. However, what really gives the current abbey church its appeal dates back to the 1720s when the two towers on the façade were built 

and the interior was decorated in rococo. 

I have only seen a few rococo churches and I love them. I love the pure white, 

which makes the beautiful reds, pinks, light blues and gold stand out by contrast. 

I go inside and I just want to smile: it is so whimsical and fun. 

It makes me happy. Franz Joseph Spiegler did 55 frescoes dominated by scenes from the life of St. Peter.  

St. Peter is depicted in the frescoes with a gold tunic and a light blue robe. 

Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer did the sculptures. Most of the sculptures are white with gold trim. 

I don’t know if Spiegler and Feuchtmayer coordinated on their depictions, but the sculpture of St. Peter in the center of the façade, identifiable by the ubiquitous keys, has a face and hair like the frescoes: a beard and mustache and a balding top with generous amounts of side and back hair. 

After the brightly painted frescoes, the most eye catching decorations are the outlandish marble, particularly the reds, pinks and light blues. 

As I look at my pictures, I realize that it must be painted marble. 

We have some reddish/pink marble in our home that looks somewhat like some in the church, but the uniformity of the veining between pieces, particularly the yellowish gold, looks too suspicious to be real. 

The church does not stand alone, but is built into a structure that covers about a city block, 

which I am guessing was the abbey.  

It also appears that it may have been surrounded by a wall at one point. 

Right next door is a beautiful, well-kept cemetery, that I wish I could have spent more time in. The grave stones are in great condition and are surrounded by colorful flowers.

The monastery has been there since 1090, over 920 years, when Duke Berthold II of Zahringen established the existing monastery in Hirsau as a family monastery and then moved it to its current location. In its apparently short existence prior to that, it was moved to Hirsau from Weilheim because of military action during the Investiture Controversy. It developed as a reformed Benedictine monastery answerable to the pope. The Zahringen family were the initial lord protectors, until about 1218, when their main line became extinct. This particular property was given to the Counts of Urach, who had married into the Zahringen family. The monks were not happy with them and sought protection from Emperor Charles IV. In 1526, the Hapsburgs, who also inherited other properties passed down from the Zahringen family, assumed the duty of protectors. In 1806, the monastery was disestablished and given to the village. 
St. Peter being crucified upside down on a cross.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love the riot of color--such a change from the gloomy gothic cathedrals. This is a much more approachable God--one who suffers but who also smiles and laughs.