Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Versailles Palace Chapel

So far I have not included any churches from France! This example is special : the great chapel used by the Kings of France in their great palace at Versailles. I must have visited Versailles about six times and the tragedy is that this is one of the first rooms seen and is full of those ubiquitous umbrella-led groups. It is less of a bear garden than the the Sistine chapel though! Try a little of the video below to relive those chaotic moments!
                                                         See what I mean?!

For a detailed in depth description see the excellent article on Wikipedia here, It is the fifth such chapel. I had no idea! This present fifth chapel is a masterpiece by Jules Hardouin-Mansart begun in 1689 and consecrated in 1710. (This reminds me that Versailles must have been a building site much of Louis XIV'S reign : rather like the city of London now - different style of course).
Te Deums will have been sung here to celebrate victories and birth of children marriages, deaths etc.
Last year I saw advertised recreations of such performances : prices were astronomical and I regret I did not use Eurostar to Paris to attend! Therefore it is with pleasure that I am featuring some little videos to give the mood.

There is some nice atmosphere here. Watch a little to get the idea.Grand Dialogue by Louis Marchand played on the 1710 Cliquot organ


Now this is the real thing! Period instruments including a serpent recorded in the chapel, The famous Te Deum (Eurovision music) is very jolly! Chapelle Royale de Versailles, playing Marc Antoine CHARPENTIER, Te Deum, Conductor Martin Gester, Le Parlement de Musique. This is terrific!

Not in the Chapel but gives the idea of triumph superbly. What a super track. Just the thing to play through headphones to brighten up walks from the station!
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1636 - 1704)
Marche de Triomphe et Second Air de Trompette in D major: 2. Second Air de Trompette" by Musica Antiqua Köln & Reinhard Goebel
Here is a Funeral March for Louis XIV. Never heard this before and makes up for not going over to Versailles!


This Cistercian house was founded in 1137 in a river valley of the river Kamp. It was extensive and only completed in 1218. by the end of the 14th century it was in danger and plundered several times.The most serious occasion was in 1426 when 4000 Hussites attacked and burnt it down. Rebuilit in the first half of the 15th century there were 40 monks again by the end of the century. The Protestant Reformation reduced the community to six. Again it recovered and the 17th and 18th century saw the abbey at its height. It continues to this day as a working Abbey.
There are buildings from Romanesque through Baroque and a major rebuild took place in the 18th century. The massive church tower was constructed  by Josef Munggenast. at 325 feet it is the highest tower of a Cistercian monastery.

The famous Egedacher organ dates from 1728-1731. The video below of the organ  is wonderful and means a lot to me, because I play sections myself of this very piece by Muffat! The difference is of course that I play an Allen compuer organ and this is the real authentic organ sound played by Martin Haselbock!

Martin Haselböck plays Toccata undecima by Georg Muffat.

The 1731 Johann Ignaz Egedacher organ in the monastery church of Zwettl is quite unique in that all of the manual pipework is in the case hanging on the gallery (Brustwerk), while the two main cases only contain the pedal pipes.
Egedacher built a three-manual organ , of which the third manual is quite unique in that it doesn’t contain any 8-foot flue stops. The reed stop Fagot/Huboa is in actual fact a type of Regal with very short wooden resonators.
In 1753 the organ was re-voiced and exactly 100 years later the tracker action was rebuilt. Josef Breinbauer revoiced the organ in 1880 and added a few Romantic stops. Rieger altered the organ again in 1912. Then in 1941 Ferninand Molzer built a new 3-manual electro-pneumatic organ which could be played from the Egedacher console. As this turned out not to be a success, the organ was dismantled in 1983 and Gerhard Hradetzky reconstructed the original specification, tracker action, wind system and temperament. Jürgen Ahrend revoiced the organ in 1991.

Hauptwerk: Principal 8', Copl 8', Gamba 8', Biforo 8', Octav 4', Holle-Fleten 4', Quint 3', Superoctav 2', Mixtur 6 fach, Cymbal 4 fach, Horn 4 fach.
Positiv: Copl 8', Principal 4', Rohr-Fletten 4', Superoctav 2', Duodecima 1 1/2', Cornettino 3 fach.
Drittes Clavir (disk): Fletten 4', Flaschaleth 2’, Cornetti 2 fach, Huboa 8'.
Drittes Clavir (baß), Flauthen-Paß 4', Flaschaleth 2', Schwegel 2 fach, Fagot 8'.
Pedal: Principal 16', Subpahs 16', Octav 8', Suboctav 4', Quint 3', Mixtur 6 fach, Cymbal 4 fach, Horn 2 fach, Bombardon 16', Posaun 8'.
Coupler: Hauptwerk – Positiv.
Manual compass: CDE-c3
Pedal compass: CDE-g
Temperament: meantone
Pitch: 465Hz

Zwettl was blessed with outstanding abbots in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was Abbot Link (1646-71), Caspar Bernhardt (1672-1695) who created the series of closed courtyards characteristic of urban Baroque style.The library has frescos by Paul Troger. The Abbot's lodging has white facades with pale yellow plaster. Abbot Melchior Zaunagg (1706-47 transformed the church, complete with massive retable above the high altar. He was responsible for bringing in the best painters, sculptors, stucco workers, cabinet makers, stained glass makers and fresco painters to decorate his church. The result is a wonderful combination of medieval and Baroque : a tribute to the collaboration  of Abbot Zaunagg with his architect Josef Munggenast and art adviser Mathias Steinl.
We visited with guided tour in 2008. 

Abbey church .Photo by Welsserstler on Flickr CC

Zwettle Abbey aerial view

Library. Photo by Welsserstler on Flickr CC

                                          General video about Zwettl with interesting section on the library

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Neresheim was founded in 1095 as a house of (secular) Augustinian Canons, and converted to a Benedictine monastery in 1106.

In the 13th century, the abbey owned seven villages and it had an income from a further 71 places in the area. Ten parish churches were incorporated. During wars and conflicts the monastery was destroyed several times. The Thirty Years' War in the 17th century and Napoleonic Wars of the beginning of the 19th century were both disastrous.

After much internal debate, in 1745, the decision was taken to build a new abbey church instead of rebuilding the old Romanesque church, which had been superficially updated to the Baroque style in the late 17th century. Abbot Amandus Fischer (1711–29) had brought in architect Dominikus Zimmermann to rebuild and redecorate the abbey's Festsaal, which was carried out in 1719-20 in a high Rococo style. Seeking stylistic continuity with his predecessor's building program, Abbot Aurelius Braisch (1739–55) commissioned architect and building engineer Johann Balthasar Neumann to rebuild the abbey church in 1747. Neumann, the most sought-after architect in central Europe at the time, had designed the pilgrimage church of Vierzehnheiligen and the Residenz at Würzburg, which were admired for their light formal invention, sumptuous materials and lightness of touch. Neumann's plan called for a conventional basilica consisting of nave, crossing and choir which were articulated as a series of oval-shaped bays surmounted with shallow domes.

Work began on the new church in 1750, but Neumann's premature death in 1753 necessitated the finding of new builders willing to carry out Neumann's plans. Subsequent architects altered or abandoned the original design, particularly the construction and profile of the domes, which slowed progress. The finished church, consecrated in 1792, should be attributed to Neumann with reservations or characterized as the work of disparate hands.

The domes were frescoed by Austrian painter Martin Knoller over the 6 summers of 1770-75. Seven scenes from the Life of Christ are depicted, including Christ among the Doctors, the Last Supper and the Ascension.

Johann Nepomuk Holzhey of Ottobeuren built the last of the great South-German, Baroque organs at Neresheim over the years 1792-1797.

In 1802 the monastery was suppressed and secularized. Due to the disruptions caused by the Napoleonic invasion, custodianship over the abbey's assets and property was granted to the Princely House of Thurn und Taxis for the years 1803-06. Afterwards, the Bavarian state assumed ownership. Both the abbey and the County of Thurn un Taxis were annexed by the kingdom of Württemberg in 1810.[1]

Precious objects were bought from Thurn und Taxis by Bavaria. The Prince of Thurn und Taxis funded and refounded the monastery, which opened in 1919. The first abbot was Bernhard Durst (1921–65). In 1919, the abbey was resettled by Benedictines from Beuron Abbey and the Emaus Abbey in Prague.

Take a trip around inside the Abbey

Trip round the Abbey - mainly outside
Bruhns  Little Prelude in e


                                           Flickr : Andreas under CC

The pilgrimage church of Marienberg has been called called the "Pearl of the Salzach Valley".We encountered it by chance while cycling from Burghausen to Railtenhaslach. It was  amazing to find this jewel at that point.I often think of it. It came across as a special place and that is why I am featuring it!

When the Cistercians of Schiitzing moved their monastery to Raitenhaslach in the Middle Ages,  there was already a "capella" at Marienberg. In the course of the centuries, the church was rebuilt, extended, finally after 1760.

For the new building the abbot Emmanuel II Mayr commissioned  Franz Alois Mayr (1723-1771)    The Munich painter Martin Heigl, a student of Johann Baptist Zimmermann, did the frescoes: on a series of Marian themes. 

The ceiling pictures were the first great works of Martin Heigl as fresco painter. The monastery Raitenhaslach also gave him numerous orders.  Above the high altar, the Annunciation is portrayed, on the north side, the visitation and the birth of Christ, and the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple on the underside of the gallery.

On May 1, 1765, the prince-bishop Sigismund of Salzburg consecrated the church. The visitor ascends the  50 steps, which point to the 50 Ave Marias of the Rosary. The high altar  features a  holy image from the 17th century by Johann Georg Lindt, a sculptor who  lived in Burghausen since 1758: Mary as Queen of Heaven with sceptre in her hand and Jesus  in her arms surrounded by angels and saints.
The side altars come from the workshop of Georg Lindt and Georg Kapfer, the paintings of the Anna and Bernhard altar by Peter Lorenzoni, the cross and Johannes altar by Wilhelm Epple.

In 1806, the parish was moved from Marienberg to Raitenhaslach and  the church on the Marienberg was closed and "released" for demolition. The holy image and other fittings were brought to Raitenhaslach and some were auctioned.

The long "struggle for Marienberg" began when the Marienberger peasants protested against the demolition ordered by the landlord Franz von Armansperg. Some of the "resistors" were even imprisoned. A petition was sent to the Bavarian Crown Prince and later to King Ludwig I. With success, on 29 August 1811 a church service was held again in the church. On January 15, 1815, the image of grace again returned to the church.

Renovation work went on from 2001 to 2011 and was going on when we visited in 2009.


Engraving of Metten Abbey from the "Churbaierisches Atlas" of Anton Wilhelm Ertl, 1687

It is a great pleasure to feature this abbey as it is going to be high on my "to visit" list when next in the area. I have located some excellent photos from flickr and outstanding YouTube videos. I almost feel I have been there already!                                                                     

The Benedictine Abbey was founded in 766 by Gamelbert of Michaelsbuch. For many centuries Metten was under  the Dukes and Electors of Bavaria. When Charlemagne stayed in Regensburg for three years after 788, Utto turned his abbey over to the Frankish ruler, making the Ducal Abbey a Royal Abbey. After the Carolingians became extinct, Metten was turned into an Imperial Abbey. Besides the work of land clearance in the Bavarian border territories, the monks were very active in education. Members of the abbey were not only schoolteachers, but also members of the Bavarian Academy of Science in Munich and professors of philosophy and theology in Freising and Salzburg.

The late 15th century church was rebuilt in Baroque style  1712-1729 to form a wall-pillar church with 4 bay nave, narrower choir and twin-towered western façade with an apsidal central section under a half dome. Frescoes by Innozenz Warathi (of Sterzing in the Tirol) and the huge nave fresco covers the whole ceiling. Fine stucco work by Franz Josef Holzinger (also from the Tyrol) and high altar by Jakob Schopl with a painting of St Michael casting down satan by C. D. Asam.

 The library of  1722-6 with 150,000 volumes is outstanding with decorations again by F. J. Holzinger and Innozenz Warathi. Superb wooden bookshelves by Jakob Scopf. The Festsaal of 1734-59 by Benedict Schottl and his son Albert. has stucco work by Mathias Obermayer and ceiling fresco by Martin Speer.

After secularisation in 1803 the abbey's property was confiscated, and by 1815 had all been auctioned off. Over a number of years Johann von Pronath acquired the greater part of the former premises and succeeded in persuading King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1830 to re-establish the monastery, which by 1837 had been set up to incorporate a boarding school (Gymnasium), in continuance of its educational traditions, which the monastery has run to this day.

The re-founded abbey was very active in restoring new monasteries. Since 1858 it has been a member of the Bavarian Congregation of the Benedictine Confederation.

Nave of the church. Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Court of the abbey. Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Western facade of church.Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Confessionals in the church. Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Nave ceiling fresco.Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Organ gallery.Photo by Janos Korom (Flickr CC)

Introduction to the sung music tradition at Metten. Fantastic clear German diction.

Film about a day in the life of Father Marcus to celebrate 1250 years of Benedictines at Metten. I am trying to learn German and this was inspiring.
Short film showing the superb Baroque library.Rather different from the ones I have worked in.
And finally a 360 degree panorama of the Festsaal and more. Click on the arrowed circle at top left for a real treat!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


A hill 177 meters high at Andechs has long been regarded as a Holy Mountain. For many centuries until the mid 13th it contained a castle and was the seat of the Counts of Andechs and Diessen. Holy relics were brought from the Holy Land by Saint Rosso in the 10th century. After the Counts became extinct, the Wittelsbach family of Munich tried to take over the relics. However they were returned in the 15th century and eventually came under the charge of the newly founded Benedictine monastery in 1455/8. A 15th century hall church was built.A new two storey high altar was consecrated in 1609. The Holy Hosts and other sacred objects are exposed at the upper altar during great 1669 a major fire raged Kaspar Zuccali was involved in the rebuilding.Stucco work was done by artists from the Wessobrunn area.A renovated main altar was donated by the Bishop of Augsburg in 1678/98 and is the work of Johann Baptists Straub..Finally the interior decoration of the church was completed by Johann Baptist Zimmermann.  
Our featured music here is a Te Deum by Nonnosus Madlseder (1730-1797) who was a Benedictine monk at Andechs. Years later Carl Orff, the fanous composer of Carmina Burana was buried here at Andechs.
Beer has been brewed here for over 900 years. There is now a beer garden that purports to seat 3500 people! I have not sat in this yet, but the famous beer I have sampled, along with a souvenir glass....

                                                  Double high altar. (Allle-Caulfield from flickr under CC)

                                             Ceiling (Digital Cat from flickr under CC)

                                            Te Deum by Madlseder

                                        Perfection in a glass! (Andrew Fleming on flickr under CC)

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Salem Abbey by Jacob Andreas Fridrich (1648–1751) after a drawing by Christoph Lienhardt(1648–1714), published in Apiarium Salemitanum, 1708.

From about 1285 to 1425 the Cistercian Salem Abbey was built in the Gothic style. In the 17th century, the Thirty Years' War brought death and destruction.Following a huge fire during the night of 9 March 1697, which almost completely destroyed the imperial abbey, Abbot Emanuel Sulger ordered the Vorarlberg architect Franz Beer to rebuild the monastery. In just ten years, the architect built the 180 meter long complex comprising the Prelature and convent building, symmetrically divided by central and corner pavilions. Monks lived in the convent building while the abbot lived in the Prelature. The magnificent rooms emphasize the abbey's standing. The heyday of the monastery ended with the German secularisation in 1803 and the territory fell to the Margraviate of Baden.

Salem Abbey church. (Daniel H. from Flickr under CC)

Andreas Heichlinger (1746 - 1809) Cistercian Salem
Missa Solemnis Sancti Andreae


A monastery was founded in Lambach in Upper Austria in about 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg (later canonised), changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey in 1056.During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family.

Lambach escaped the dissolution of the monasteries of Emperor Joseph II in the 1780s. It was however dissolved by the National Socialists in 1941, in the Operation Klostersturm, and the premises were used for the accommodation of a Nazi school and training institution. The Benedictines were exiled or taken for forced labour. The dispossessed monastic community returned to Lambach Abbey after the end of World War II.

The abbey has preserved much of cultural interest. It contains the oldest extant Romanesque frescoes in Southern Germany and Austria, and the former abbey tavern, now a pharmacy, with a beautiful Baroque façade. The abbey's Baroque theatre has also been restored to working order and the summer refectory from the early 18th century by Carlo Antonio Carlone has been converted into a concert hall. The ambulatory by Diego Carlone from the same period is of great magnificence. An unexpected feature is the set of Baroque dwarves in the monastery garden (see also Gleink Abbey).

The abbey church was also refurbished in the Baroque style, with an organ by Christoph Egedacher and contains the tomb of Saint Adelbero. The abbey also possesses the medieval St. Adelbero's Chalice, although it is rarely on view to the public, besides a large collection of sacred art. The library was constructed about 1691 and contains approximately 50,000 volumes as well as archive material.

The above description from Wikipedia suggests this is very worthy of our attention!

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This photo of Lambach Abbey is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Romanus Weichlein (1650 - 1706) organist at Lambach
Missa Rectorum Cordium (violini, viola, violoncello, 3 clarini, timpani, 2 trombe, organi)


The abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Nicholas, and was founded in 1126/7 within the bishopric of Würzburg by Conrad III of Germany, It was dissolved during the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803. The abbey church became the local parish church.This monastery was the third Cistercian abbey in Germany and the oldest and most important in Franconia. Sponsors and patrons of Ebrach abbey at that time were the prince bishops of Wuerzburg and the noblemen and patricians from the country and municipalities that surrounded the monastery. The great Franconian architects Leonhard Dientzenhofer, Josef Greising and Balthasar Neumann designed the Baroque grounds of the former Cistercian abbey. Luckily they maintained the Gothic church with its wonderful rose window.

I have yet to spend enough time in this remarkable complex : only just popped in en route in 1990.Strictly it could fall outside the brief of this site as the church is Gothic with Baroque additions. But this was so common and the remains of the Abbey are so striking.THe twin organs in the choir are remarkable and they are largely unchanged since the 18th century.

I hope to fill out this post as more information becomes available to me.

The magnificent monastery church has got three organs. The most precious are two choir organs made by Joh. Chr, Köhler/ Frankfurt in the middle of the 18. century. They are still in a nearly original state. 
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THe Kaisersaal is used for concerts, especially in the Summer Festival.
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Sacristy door with the Miracle of Pentecost by J.B.Brenno above the door.Real Baroque exuberance!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Banz has a commanding position across the valley opposite Vierzehnheiligen.  I have visited both when in this area in 1989 and 1994.  This Benedictine foundation dates back to around 1070. After the Thirty Years' War the abbey had to be re-built. The abbots Eucharius Weiner and Kilian During commissioned Johann Leonhard Dientzenhofer and after his death in 1707, his brother Johann Dientzenhofer. Construction began in 1698. The church was consecrated in 1719. The interior is  built,  with a series of ellipses. The main altar, the chancel and the statues of saints in the church and on the facade are by Balthasar Esterbauer; the ceiling frescoes are by Melchior Steidl. The choir stalls were made by the court cabinet maker and ebonist of Schönborn, Johann Georg Nesstfell. In both visits I have not got beyond the main door, giving tantalising views of the interior. I look forward to going inside next time.
In the second half of the 18th century Banz Abbey was known throughout the Holy Roman Empire as a place of Catholic enlightenment and for the scholarship of its monks. Unfortunately this did not save it from secularisation and dissolution in 1803.
Since 1978 the former monastery has been in the possession of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

 Gregor Kollmorgen has written a very good tour of the church with photos here.

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Now we come to the fun part of this post. I am trying to bring these wonderful buildings back to life by finding matching music. I had slim hope of succeeding with Banz. I was so wrong because I have found a gem : Johann Valentin Rathgeber. 1682-1750. A discovery like this makes this blog worth the effort! Rathgeber was born in Oberelsbach. His father, an organist, gave him his first music lessons. At the beginning of the 18th century, he began studying at the University of Würzburg, initially studying rhetoric, mathematics and law; later he changed direction and continued his studies in theology.
His first position was as a teacher at the Julius Hospital in Würzburg. In 1707 he took up the post of chamber musician and servant of the abbot of the Banz Abbey, Kilian Düring. A short time later he joined the Benedictine Order, and in 1711 entered the priesthood. Thereafter, he was organist, choirmaster and preacher at the abbey. Between 1729 and 1738 he went on a study trip. It is an open question whether he did that with permission from his abbot or not. Documented stops on this trip were Mainz, Bonn, Cologne, Trier, Stuttgart, Regensburg, Germany, Switzerland, Vienna and Styria. Compositions from this period were primarily dedicated to his respective hosts. In 1738 he returned to the abbey, where he then lived in seclusion for a while. A short time later, he was allowed to regain his former office. He lived in  Banz Abbey until his death there, at the age of 68, which was attributed to gout.

Here are some examples of his output.

Gloria from Mass in D for soloists, chorus and orchestra from Pfarrkirche "Unsere Liebe Frau" conducted by Dieter Neuhof  on Easter Sunday 2014. This one brought tears to my eyes! If only we could have such a performance in our own church here!

10 Pastorales for Christmas time 1743.Delightful Christmas music!
                                        Chelys sonora, Op 6 - Concerto No.21 in C-major : jolly stuff!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


St. Lorenz Basilica is a Baroque minor Basilica in Kempten, Bavaria, named after the Christian martyr Lawrence of Rome.

The exterior of St. Lorenz Basilica
It is the former abbey church of the Benedictine Kempten Abbey,currently used as the parish church of the Roman Catholic parish of St. Lawrence in the Diocese of Augsburg.
A church was built on the site in the 13th Century but was burned down in 1478.
Roman Giel of Gielsberg, the Abbot of Kempten, commissioned the master builder Michael Beer from Graubünden to build a new church to serve the parish and monastery. The foundation stone of the Basilica of St. Lawrence was laid on 13 April 1652.[1] This was one of the first large churches built in Germany after the end of the Thirty Years' War.
Michael Beer built the nave, the ground floor of the towers and the choir. He was succeeded by Johann Serro on 24 March 1654.
The church was consecrated on 12 May 1748.

Evidently the abbey church experienced some pomp on high occasions. Franz Xaver Richter was here early in his career and composed the Te Deum in 1742.

Kemptener Te Deum in D-major (1742)
Chorus: Camerata Vocale Günzburg
Orchestra: Johann Christian Bach-Akademie Köln
Conductor: Jürgen Rettenmaier

In 1803 the monastery was dissolved and the church became a purely parish church.
In 1900 the twin towers were finally completed. 
In 1969 Pope Paul VI bestowed the honorary title of basilica minor.
The abbey building included a residence for the Prince-abbots.It is a splendid example of the kind of Baroque magnificence that such a ruler enjoyed. We must remember that the abbot was the ruler of the local area and required reception rooms.I look forward to the guided tours of these!

Day Room (Wikimedia Commons photo)

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Audience Chamber (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Throne room (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Monday, 26 September 2016


I have such good memories of visiting this old abbey back in late summer 2009.We were staying in nearby Burghausen with its gigantic castle. The weather was perfect and we hired bicycles, pedaling the few miles down the road and finding this wonderful historic place. En route was the Marienkapelle which I shall cover in another post.

Over 800 years old this is the oldest Cistercian foundation in Upper Bavaria. With a Romanesque core, the abbey  buildings were rebuilt in Baroque/ Rococo style. The church was rebuilt in 1698 as a Baroque wall pillar church, with the church interior decoration dating from 1743-6 under Abbot Robert Pendtner. Ceiling frescos by Johann Zick depict the life of St Bernard of Clairvaux.
Abbot Emmanuel II Mayr was the ambitious prelate who turned the place into a massive building site. The prelate's quarters, the Festsaal and whole commercial wing were rebuilt. A violent landslide destroyed the cloisters and led to yet more building work  The whole including the library was finished by 1785. Alas after the secularisation much of these buildings was destroyed.

I was fascinated by the remaining buildings of the abbey, peering through windows, but alas saw no opportunity to get inside.We shall have to return! I had no idea that there is a room where the Pope stayed on his way from Rome to Vienna on his abortive visit to see Emperor Joseph II. It sounds like time capsule! The Festsaal also looks beautiful and is used for concerts, It is too much to hope for experiencing this!

                               Interior of church. (Flickr. Andreas under CC)

                                      Abbey buildings,(Flickr, Susanne Tofern under CC

Room where Pope Pius VI stayed on his visit to the Emperor Joseph II in Vienna from Rome in 1782
Festsaal with ceiling by Johann Martin Heigl
Aerial view. We parked our bikes outside and touored on foot. The weather was glorious as on the photo
The prelate's dwelling alongside the church

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Christchurch Spitalfields, London

It is a great joy to see this wonderful Church restored to something like it its former glory in the heart of what is now a lively part of our great capital. Dating from 1714-1729 and designed by one of our greatest Baroque architects Nicholas Hawksmoor, it was one of the 50 new churches decreed by Act of Parliament in 1711 for the new settlements in London. This was an area full of Huguenot immigrants escaping from Louis XIV's France.

The architectural composition of Christ Church demonstrates Hawksmoor's usual abruptness: the very plain rectangular box of thenave is surmounted at its west end by a broad tower of three stages topped by a steeple more Gothic than classical. The magnificent porch with its semi circular pediment and Tuscan columns is attached bluntly to the west end: it may indeed be a late addition to the design intended to add further support to the tower. Like those of Hawksmoor’s other London churches and many of Wren’s, the central space is of the nave is organised around two axes, the shorter originally emphasised by two entrances of which only that to the south remains. It has a richly decorated flat ceiling and is lit by a clerestory. The aisles are roofed with elliptical barrel-vaults carried on a raised Composite order (cf. Wren's St James's, Piccadilly), and the same order is used for the screens across the east and west ends. The Venetian window at the east may show the growing influence of the revival of Palladian Architecture, or it may be a rhyme with the arched pediment of the entrance portico, repeated in the wide main stage of the tower. The east window is a double window, one inside, one outside, the effect now obscured by the Victorian stained glass window between the two.
By 1960 the church was practically derelict with the roof classed as unsafe.Indeed it was almost demolished. Can you imagine? Fotunately the church had friends and it was saved : particularly by the formation of the Friends of Christchurch Spitalfields in 1976. who have spearheaded fundraising and restoration project management. Church services resumed in 1987 and restoration fully completed in 2004. I can remember attending a performance of Handel's Saul in the 1980s and the church was still in a parlous state and there were no galleries that I can recall. Subsequent restoration has removed  Victorian alterations reinstating the aisle windows and galleries. The result is a stunning Baroque masterpiece : bright, airy and uplifting.However it is still very English, and  Protestant and un-Popish!

Then there is the magnificent 1735 Richard Bridge organ. This had  become defunct  and had not been heard in public after 1960.When built it was the largest organ in England. The Friends have organised a painstaking restoration completed in 2015. I am proud to have to have made a small contribution toward this! The inaugural concert by John Scott was a great event. It is a conoisseur's organ and I remember that music by Handel sounded so perfectly in tune with the acoustic and surroundings. Later in the summer I spent many happy hours stewarding the St Albans International Organ Festival competition stages held there. Couperin sounded great too!

Ettal, Germany

This Benedictine foundation near Oberammergau dates from 1330. It was badly damaged during the Reformation, and survived the Thirty Years War.Then in 1744 the abbey and church were largely destroyed by a major fire. This led to a rebuild by Enrico Zuccalli, the Swiss Italian architect in Munich, who had studied with Bernini. Decorations were by Josef Schmutzer of the Wessobrunn School and altars and chancel by Johann Baptist Straub. The abbey was dissolved in 1803 and then the Benedictines returned in the early 20th century.
I first visited, hopping off a bus, in 1989, and returned in 1994.
The situation near the Bavarian Alps is stunning. There is an excellent bookshop, from which my Bavarian cookbook came! The monks also produce an enticing liqueur.

                                          This is great for getting the atmosphere

Excerpt from evening Vespers
                                                This 360 panorama makes me feel cold!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Sao Miguel das Missoes

I will not just be covering Europe or places that I have visited! Sao Miguel is also known as San Miguel, when it was in Spanish territory. It is possibly the most well-known of the Jesuit Reduction churches in the southern part of South America. These "Reductions" were areas run as communities for the Guarani Indians by the Jesuits in parts of present Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The Jesuits decided to keep these areas separate from the growing Spanish and Portuguese colonies, in order to protect the Indians from enslavement by local slave  traders.The settlements coped with the material and spiritual needs of the Indians.Some have seen this like a Utopia. Certainly the achievement of only a few hundred Jesuits to create over 30 towns with over 80,000 Indians by 1772 was quite remarkable. I have been reading about it this week in Lost Cities of Paraguay by C.J.Naspy and J.M.Blanch. It is a good read and the illustrations of the Guarani art are wonderful. I would love to visit this place and other Reduction churches. The plight of the Reductions was graphically told in the 1986 epic film "The Mission" with Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro, and music by Ennio Morricone.
The church in question is fortunate to have survived in such scale and the west front is like a Hispanic cathedral.
The church by Agusto dos Santos on Flickr.
The Jesuits had  formidable musicians amongst them and the Indians proved receptive. CDs have appeared recently trying to recreate the kind of music that might have been used in the churches. I am giving an example and hope to come back to this in later posts.I could resist giving you Gabriel's Oboe from "The Mission" too.


Interior shot by Silvia Martin on Flickr 
Organ gallery by Janos Korom on Flickr

Birnau will always be a special place for me. The photo above by Hardo Muller on Flickr brings it all back to me. In September 1969 I was camping at Nussdorf  right beside the Bodensee. Keith and I were doing a trip around Bavaria with car and caravan. Being by the lake seemed a good idea and the church on the hill looked interesting : very different from the medieval stone churches of Lincolnshire from whence we came. So we toddled up to the church "and I shall never forget the sight which met my eyes when I opened the church door.Photos do not do it justice. The splendour and excellence of the craftsmanship is incredible" I wrote in my journal of the trip. I continued "Baroque is a style that appeals to me and one day I should like to tour the Baroque churches of South Germany".  I was still at University then, reading history. Little did I know then that Baroque churches have become an obsession , and since those Anglican days I have become Roman Catholic! And of course it is a masterpiece of the rococo style inside. But we must not get bogged down into the differences of baroque and rococo yet.Doubtless I shall have to return to this as I've read a fair bit on this topic....It is the three dimensional quality of an interior like this that defies photography and makes seeing the real thing so exciting. Clearly I was unprepared for such a sight in 1969!

Birnau was built 1746-50 and is on the north bank of the Bodensee - a stunning position. It was and is a Pilgrimage church managed by the Cistercians. This resonates with me as a resident of St Albans and Abbey guide.They do tours at Birnau just like we do lasting an hour! Wish I could do a swop,: except that my German  would not cope!!!!Birnau is the masterpiece of Peter Thumb. I shall not go into great detail in this first post as it may put you all off.I would rather post some pictures and some suitable music which I think helps to bring it to life. Now I could have selected a little movie but they seem to all have dreadful modern or inappropriate sound tracks. So here is another one of my interests ; organs! And you can see down into the church from the gallery. Pity its a small screen.