Saturday, April 5, 2014

2014 Germany Trip - Stift Haug @ Würzburg

Location: Würzburg, Germany

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

This is not a church high on most list for a visit to Würzburg, yet it was the first I stumbled onto while on my way to Würzburg Residenz, and its beauty mesmerized me. From afar the dome top of the church was unmistakable, a remarkably beautiful Baroque structure standing tall amongst the modern dwellings and shop houses.

The dome of Stift Haug is inspired by another famous religious building, St Peter's Basilica.

Its beauty would deceive gawker from the scars it faced in the past. The bombing of Würzburg during World War 2 had left much of the city in ruins, destroying many historically rich artefacts and structures, including the rich Baroque interior of the church. Renovation of Stift Haug's interior only completed in 2005, the scars of history existing only in dated photos and the minds of the locals.

Even before entering the church, one could see how Stift Haug was hailed as one of Würzburg's important architecture. Ornate sculptures of saints and angels stood in alcoves ringing the holy place, overlooking passer-bys and protecting the church in their silent way. Built by famed Italian architect Antonio Petrini, it became the first Baroque church not only in the city but also in the whole region of Franconia. But the church's history extended far beyond the Baroque era of 16th century.

According to online resources, Stift Haug originally existed as the Church of St John, dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evagelist. It was founded in 1000 by Bishop Henry I of Würzburg and was originally situated near the current site of the Würzburg train station, making it a millennial old building if it survived in its original state. It underwent several life-changing event, being looted and destroyed in Thirty Years War and restored again as a Romanesque building, only to be demolished again. 

The front of the church was marked by a plaque commemorating this church as one of the important Baroque buildings in Würzburg.

"Parish Church Stift Haug

Former collegiate church of St John in Haug. Important work of the Italian architect Antonio Petrini. First major Baroque church in Franconia. Built 1670-91."

The entrance itself was surrounded by works of art, from the saint hovering above to the ornately sculptured columns and the 5 unknown coat of arms.

The interior of Stift Haug reminded me of purity with its whitewash. A rather abstract sculpture of the crucifixion was an indication that what I saw within was no longer the original building. A search through the Internet later revealed that my suspicion was right - this was a bronze cross by Dietrich Klinge, a German sculpture and artist.

The altarpiece however proved to be a more medieval work of art - Jacopo Tintoretto's Crucifixion, a work that was done in the 15th century. Protected in a gilded frame, the painting was one of the most attention grabbing item in Stift Haug. A dark and moody scene captured the atmosphere surrounding the event of Christ's crucifixion, and although the altar was sealed from entering, the painting was large enough that even at a distance, I could work out the details easily.

The Bronze Cross, a modern work of art by Dietrich Klinge, was the first to welcome visitors into this church.

The inverted dome was situated towards the altar, so the ceiling felt as if it suddenly got higher there.

The organ in German churches and cathedrals would be an impressive thing to marvel at. In upcoming visits to other house of worships, I noticed that each of them were unique, making it another item to focus on upon entering each of those places.

Jacopo Tintoretto's Crucifixion was done in the 16th century, making this piece of art one of the most ancient within Stift Haug. A dark and moody scene was depicted, showing none other than the crucifixion of Christ. Framed by a gilded frame, it was truly an eye-catching piece upon entering the church.

Although Stift Haug did not have a lot of sculptures adorning the walls, they were nonetheless impressive, each one of them a work of art which required skill and patience.

Nice as Stift Haug was, it was but a stop in my travel within Würzburg. So I bade farewell to the fatherly priest who greeted me friendly when I entered, and proceeded to my next stop. I left the sculpted saints and pure white halls of Stift Haug and walked towards my real target of Würzburg, the UNESCO Heritage Listed building of Würzburg Residenz.

Environment:         A Baroque church, one of the first Baroque building in the region
Suitable for:            Marvel at the Baroque architecture
Visit worthiness:   6/10 (skip it if you have less time)
Historical value:        3.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  3.0/5.0
Photographic value:  3.0/5.0
Landmark value:       3.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                  free
Best Moment to Visit:  Any time of the day. Just check for mass session, when visits are not allowed.
Length of Visit:               1 hour or less
Address:                   Haugerpfarrgasse 14, 97070 Würzburg, Germany

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