Itinera in partibus Germaniae I: Nevigeser Mariendom (from nightmares)

Time to write in English after a while. Finnish-speaking readers already know that I’ve recently moved to Wuppertal in order to work with my thesis in Germany for the next academic year. I hope to travel quite a lot both because of my studies and also in my free-time, so I start a new series of updates with the title “Itinera in partibus Germania”, where I’m going to write down experiences of travels around this peculiar land.

Our first weekend trip combined exploring our surroundings in the hilly part of Nordrhein-Westfalen called Bergisches Land, outdoors activity and sightseeing. Because the most important categories of attractions are churches and cloisters, I was happy to encounter at a local bookstore a guidebook for short treks to different ecclesiastical destinations around Bergisches Land.

As a parenthesis I’ve to say, that Germans seem to take hiking very seriously and it seems to be a very popular free-time activity. Even more popular than in Finland, and I’ve considered Finns to be outdoors people. (Although it has to be added that some German Wanderungen would in Finland be called “walks”.)

But to our first destination: Neviges with its hike routes and churches, only a good twenty-minutes train trip away from Wuppertal. The hiking track itself was a pleasant two-hour walk in the hilly agricultural landscape and ample display of autumnal colors. A surprise bonus was a market organized in the yard of local Schloss Hardenberg, nowadays a museum and a culture venue. Glühwein warmed nicely after the hike at the brisk autumn afternoon.

Neviges has since the late seventeeth century been a place of regional Marian cult, and the representatives of this spiritual activity include late-baroque Franciscan Church St Mariä Empfängnis and an attached convent, Marienberg and its early twentieth-century chapel and above all the latest addition to pilgrimage destinations: Mariendom or Nevigeser Wallfarhtsdom. The church, designed in the late 1960s in the spirit of II Vatican council by architect Gottfried Böhm should – according to the guidebook and Wikipedia – represent an idea of the church building as a tent, symbolizing the resting place of believers traveling towards God. The outward appearance should remind of town architecture and house facades, the inside of a market place.

Well, look at the pictures. The facade is indeed impressing, but the interior didn’t strike as a resting place or agora, more like torture chamber. Maybe it’s just me, but the closest resemblance I could imagine was the nightmarish dimension in the computer game Oblivion. The rose thematic of course refers to Virgin Mary, but the dark red light filtering through dim glass windows into dim, cold concrete hall was more sinister than comforting.

Mariendom, inside

Despite this, or precisely because of it, the place is worth visiting. And if you venture into this little town, don’t forget to take a stroll in its narrow streets. The old, late gothic, now evangelical-reformed church of the town is surrounded by very well preserved early modern town structure. The houses, many of them too built in the late eighteenth century are situated right next to the old church, creating an atmosphere of pre-modern small-town.

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