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I See Your Gothic and Raise You A Rococo

Asam Baroque Gold Gilt photoCologne has its great gothic cathedral masterpiece, Berlin has it bombed symbolic Blaukirche, and Hamburg its Michel, indeed almost any village in Germany starts with a church surrounded by a town, but no city in Germany is perhaps as much defined by its churches as Munich. While the north of Germany embraced Luther’s reformation with a vengeance, the Bavarian south, with its ties to the Holy Roman Empire, retained its Catholic influence. Though Munich's great churches date from the middle ages to the Renaissance and grand époque, most of them bear the unique design marks of the Baroque period when the city was at its height of wealth and power.

Paintings at St Peters photoPeterskirche or St. Peters Catholic Cathedral is the oldest parish church in Munich dating from the Romanesque period. The original church was mostly destroyed by a fire in 1327 and is earlier architecture rebuilt in the Gothic style. The church is noted for its five gothic paintings along the nave and high Baroque altar. The Peterskirche bell tower which provides the 360 degree city view was added in the 1600s. Pulpit Peterskirche St Peters Cathedral Munich photoMusic concerts are performed at Peterskirche, check the schedule in the vestibule. Should climbing a bell tower for a view of the city, be your idea of getting to know the layout of the city, St. Peters Cathedral next to the Viktualien Markt, just off the central Marienplatz square is the best bet. It allows a look down on the market square and a vantage point for the twirling figures of the Rathaus Glockenspiel. From St. Peters you look across the old town to the twin onion domes tower of Munich’s symbolic Frauenkirche. This is the view that’s on so many postcards. But prepare for a line and a lot of steps.

Frauenkirche Domes photoThe Frauenkirche or Cathedral of the Blessed Lady is the largest church in Munich, located a few blocks to the west of the Town Hall. Its twin bell towers stand out above the city rooftops. A city ordinance requires than no building in central Munich be higher than 100 meters tall, so the skyline has remained with the high rise offices that have affected the view of other Germany cities. The interior of the Frauenkirche was severely damaged in WWII bombing and remains a little plain, Kings Burial Tomb photobut the skyward reaching gothic arches to the highest ceiling are imposing. Most striking is the burial bronze sculpture of the tomb monument of Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. When standing at the door, the columns of the nave hide the windows and near the door is the Devil's Footstep (Teufelstritt). The black mark in the floor appearing like a footprint with a hooked tail is said to be where the devil stomped his foot after discovering he’d been tricked by the builder for a bet on his soul with Lucifer he would build a church with no windows, but created a cathedral filled with God’s light anyway. The Frauenkirch clock tower is the next most popular to climb (and a few more steps).

archangel photoSt. Michaels Church is a few blocks down Kaufinger Strass, marked by its bronze sculpture of the archangel Michael's victory over the fallen one. He's unfortunately covered by a thin net as are most of Munich's exterior architecture sculptures. Good may triumph over evil, but the city's still locked in eternal battle with pigeons. Munich's Sankt Michael is the largest Renaissance era church north of the Alps. Constructed by Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria around 1590, it was his response to Martin Luther's reformation in the north (see Martin Luther's Wittenberg). The interior of the church is akin to Hamburg’s St. Michaels (see Hamburg Michaelskirche) and influenced much of the early Baroque style common throughout southern Germany (see Ettal Abbey Basilica).

Asam Kirche Munich photoThe Asamkirch is Munich’s hidden gem. Much less visited than the others along the main tourism walks of Kaufinger, officially the Church of Saint Johan Nepomuk, nicknamed for the rich fellow who had it built as a private worship spot, this little church, tightly sandwiched between two 1700's buildings is a rococo masterpiece. Rococo Church Design photoImpossibly ornate with great paintings of God the Father and Christ crucified, and the fraternity of angels alter. A step in the door will stun for a moment, with its gold gilt filigree skeletons and saints. It is located on Sendlinger Strasse, the street south from Marienplatz to Sendlingertor. Unfortunately for all the beauty of the artwork and gilt, this is a church with few windows and its splendors are often viewed in the dim light, unless a service is in progress, when it comes alive.

Theatiner Kirche Munich Odeonsplatz photoThe Theatinerkirche, at the edge of the Odeonsplatz, across from the Residence Palace (see Residence Jewels and Emperors) is the most visually remarkable from the outside. Its yellow and black exterior standing out in the sunlight, the Theatiner Church is perhaps Munich’s church with the most interesting history, and the latest of the city's great churches. It was ordered built by the Elector Ferdinand for Dome Church photohis wife Henriette, in honor of her giving birth to a male heir to the throne of Bavaria (after several girls). It was begun in 1663 and ultimately completed 100 years later. It was designed by Italian architects and is in an Italian influenced high-baroque style. The interior is noted for its wide open space, dome and white stucco designs, with contrasting black pulpit. The Theatinerkirche has a chapel where Bavaria's great unifier king, Maximillian II, is buried and the tomb is the burial place of several of the great Wittelsbach dynasty's figures.

St. Mary Seven Swords photoNot truly in Munich, but in Dachau near the Oberschleissheim Palaces, the Church of St. Jakob in the old town village of Dachau (see Dachau Palace and Garden), has a striking example of that peculiarly Baroque period iconic vision of St Mary with her heart pierced by the swords of seven sorrows. Worth a pilgrimage if visiting the sorrowful concentration camp (see Dachau Holocaust Museum) or the Wittelsbach summer palace. © Bargain Travel Europe

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