|The black pulpit contrasts|
starkly against the all-white
interior of the Theatine Church
of St. Cajetan in Munich.
Prof. Carmelo Tamayo is the reason images come into my mind when I hear the words Baroque, Rococo, Romanesque and Gothic architecture – which he used a lot when he took us on a tour of churches in the south of Cebu.
I remembered him when my family and I had the chance to visit churches in parts of Germany and Austria recently. Would he have remained articulate in describing and explaining the influences on the architecture and design of the churches in that part of the world, or would he have been rendered silent by their magnificence?
Because I was struck dumb. There are no words. It’s all feeling. The first few minutes inside the church doors are spent trying to take it all in. There’s just so much happening at once and it’s all beautiful.
|The towering alter piece called|
Fall of the Angels(1782) by Karl Georg Merville
inside St. Michael's Church in Vienna.
I do not know how many churches there are in Europe, but we were able to visit 18 churches and three chapels during our two-week stay in parts of Germany and Austria.
|This view of the Old Town of Salzburg reveals as many as|
three churches in one area: Kollegienkirche (Collegiate
Church), Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church)
and the Salzburg Cathedral.
Most of these visits were unplanned. We simply walked into these churches because they were in the vicinity of tourist spots and within walking distance of each other.
In Germany, there was the St. Nikolaus Church in Muhldorf am Inn; Theatine Church of St. Cajetan and Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady) in Munich; Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting or the Chapel of Grace, Basilica of St. Ann and Brother Konrad Church in Altotting; and the Parish of Maria Himmelfahrt Partenkirchen in Garmisch- Partenkirchen.
|Inside the Hospital Church of the Holy Ghost|
in Innsbruck, Austria
Charming and smaller were St. George’s Chapel located inside the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg, St. Barbara’s chapel (it was more an image protected by a structure) on the way to the salt mine in Hallstatt and the Maria Heimsuchung chapel on the slopes of Zugspitze.
|Taking of photos is not allowed inside the|
Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of Grace), seen
here in the middle of the square in Altotting.
Behind it is the Church of St. Magdalena
I ask my 14-year-old daughter who tuned out by the third? fourth? (“see one, see all Mommy”) church which ones stood out to her and she shrugs. “The small one that had this silver stuff on the walls and was very dark, and where people were praying.” I ask why and she says, “It was the most quiet and holy. And it was small.”
She is referring to the Chapel of Grace that houses the “Black Madonna,” a wood carving of a standing Mother Mary carrying the child Jesus, whose miraculous healing power draws over 1 million pilgrims each year to Altotting.
|Votive offerings line every|
available space on the chapel's
exterior ceiling and walls.
When I ask my husband the same question, he ruefully confesses that the churches are all one magnificent blur, but reconsiders. “Okay, the one with the hearts.” Like my daughter, he picks the Chapel of Grace.
It is easy to see why he remembers the silver urns containing the hearts of the Bavarian dukes, kings and prince-electors that stand in the wall niches of the chapel, “placed as a princely guard of honour” opposite the image of the Black Madonna.
He explains his choice further. “I like all the votive offerings outside the structure.” Framed drawings and pictures offered in thanksgiving to Our Lady for prayers granted line every space available on the exterior walls, posts and ceiling of the chapel.
|Outside St. Stephen's Cathedral|
The mind struggles to catch up with the eye that wanders from the Giant’s Door dotted with dragons, birds, lions, monks and demons, the two spires above it, the colored roof covered by glazed tiles, the Gothic south tower which soars above the city, etc.
Inside, it is even more beautiful with giant sculptural columns soaring high over the three-aisle church. We could not enter the main section which had been closed off for an event or see the High Altar, which was covered by a gigantic projector screen. Still, there was enough for the eyes to feast on. Among them, the pulpit that spirals around a column and side altars which include the Wiener-Neustädter Altar.
|The Wiener-Neustädter Altar inside|
St. Stephen's Cathedral
We did not have enough time to explore the entire church, but I remember thinking that the beauty and splendor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral also makes it the most tourist-infested.
|There are very few of us|
inside the St. Peter's
Abbey Church in Salzburg.
There is material online that says a number of churches in Europe has been closed down or re-purposed because they are too expensive to maintain. The numbers of the faithful have dwindled over the years, with less and less people going to church.1
I find this a pity because I come from a country where it can be difficult to find a seat in Church if you don’t come early to mass (and not just on Sundays), and where you can always find people inside praying, lighting candles, standing in line to pray before miraculous images and even walking on their knees all the way to the altar while praying the Rosary.
If only these churches were in the Philippines, professors like Mr. Tamayo and the country's dominantly Catholic population (80.3 million or 79.5 percent) would have a blast. 2
1 Europe's church creatively rethinks as numbers plummet (https://www.ncronline.org/news/world/europes-church-creatively-rethinks-numbers-plummet)
2 Source: 2015 Census of Population (POPCEN 2015) conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority