Gottfried Böhm 90!

In autumn we went on a ‘pilgrimage’. We went to the Mariendom in Neviges. The sensational Church near Wuppertal is worth any detour. We walked the steps barefoot and wore a rope around our neck while calling out Mary…

The sculptural quality of this masterpiece by Gottfried Böhm is hardcore and sensitive. The expressionistic roofscape seems to be a ‘sublimation’ of the Fachwerk houses that surround it. It’s elementary concrete character seems more Protestant than Catholic.

The interior is overwhelming: a low entrance leads into an immense cave. This gloomy interior, that is really an indoor square, for it is a continuation of the plaza outside: it is paved with the same material. And it features similar light poles that scarcely illuminate the interior. A strange sensation of outside-in.

The darkness is breathtaking. Did Bladerunner have a church in it?

According to Karl Kiem, the Archbishop Josef Cardinal Frings played an crucial role in the development of the church. He understood the work of good architects to be an expression of God’s creative power and therefore considered himself as the final earthly authority in questions of design!  The Handbook for Church Building from ’59, that expressed the cardinals position, argued for simple and elegantly designed hall churches, modeled on Mies’ IIT Chapel. Plastic forms and symbolic connotations were rejected in contemporary sacred architecture. This attitude was a precondition for the competition -at first Böhm’s design was put aside: the jury clearly deplored the formal language: an over-escalation into the Mannerist… But while working on Kenzo Tange’s Church of Mary in Tokyo, also instigated and largely financed by the archdiocese of Cologne, the Cardinal’s understanding of architecture was able to develop…

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