Posted by: Nazausgraben | November 25, 2010

THE GRAND ULRICHSKIRCHE RENOVATION PROJECT: PART V – IT IS FINISHED


October. The digging has ceased, the artifacts collected and researched, measurements taken, the remains of the baby by the wall removed. Hundreds of photographs have been made, documenting the entire archeological process. The ancient stone floor that was removed so many months ago has been cleaned, sanded and restored. The interior of the church has been painted; the Frescos cleaned, the statues dusted. Now it is time to rebuild, to put it all back together again, making it more beautiful than ever.

The project must be completed in abit more than a month; the Blessing of the renovated St. Ulrichs is to take place during the week just before Advent.

Tons of earth, stone and a special cement that provides protection against moisture and frost is poured in over the remains of the 13th and 14th century chapels. It hardens quickly and is smoothed, looking brilliant as the afternoon sunlight streams through the cleaned thick clear  glass windows. Our works hours shorten as we note the sun is beginning to set earlier with each passing day.

Our village Master woodworker has begun to construct the bases upon which the restored pews are to be placed.  The oils with which these bases are covered produce a glass-like sheen, smoothing the bases into what appears to be a lovely pair of dancefloors. I mention this to Herr Pfarrer; our good patient shepherd smiles, clearly pitying me for making such an ignoramus remark.

Mid-October, and the pews are now in place; two large sections of finely crafted benches of new light wood with the original 18th century hand carved ends cleaned and fitted to the new wood. The pews look almost exactly like those they replaced. The only differences are that the very hard wood is now covered in heated pillows, and the fixed kneeling platforms have been replaced with folding platforms sporting thickly upholstered pillows designed to lighten the physical loads on aging knees. The rounded wood that extended from the upper backs of the pews was removed; no longer would the parishioner attempting to get too comfortable be tormented by a hunk of pine protruding into ones thoracic level spine. All of these ‘improvements’ are subtle and do not compete with the 18th century architecture of the pews. Still, between the comforting warmth washing one from ones popo to toes on frigid Winter days, upholstered kneelers and seats and the absence of spinal crushers, there is the increased risk of one falling into blissful peaceful holy somnabulence. Perhaps the heroic tones form the grand new organ that is due for installation in a year or two will preclude that from happening.

The electricians have taken over, wiring miles of cable to new interior and exterior loudspeakers (cleverly hidden at that), a new audio system, new lighting (the old chandeliers were beautiful, but sadly inadequate). Newly installed spots and handing lamps now permit all to see the very beautiful high altar and the large painting of the Heilige Ulrich at the slaughter at the Lechfeld.

I am slightly saddened that the Altar rail has not been restored. That which graced the altar until this restoration was a late (recent) addition. However, rather than replace it with an elegant older or newly built rail (in the ancient style), it was decided to not set a rail at all fore the High Altar, thus expanding the area atop the slightly raised Altar platform. There are no old photos of the Church interior, thus there is no way to see if such an Altar rail ever existed, and how it might have looked.

The large, heavy polished stones from the Lech River have been set once again to form the floor. Most Baroque Churches in Bavaria and the Tirol have had such floors replaced with heavy marble plates. That the Ulrichskirche has retained these beautiful original stone plates is a testament to not only the beauty and tradition of this area, but of the respect that all those involved in this project have for restoring as much of the church to the way it looked so many centuries ago. It is a much cherished one-of-a kind (einmalig).

ULRICHS KIRCHE. LOOKING FROM THE HIGH ALTAR TOWARD THE MAIN ENTRANCE

Now, the hand carved statues of the Saints are returned to their platforms high upon the church walls. The golden ornamented facades of the side and High Altars have been cleaned and returned to their original places. The High Altar itself has been reconstructed to its majesty.

The Master Electrician Reinhold checks every connection leading to the massive electronics control panel located in the Sacristy. He asks us to sit in the pews, to test out the heated pillows so as to find the most comfortable temperature. One can tell they are working, as sighs of contentment echo throughout the church.

Mid-November.  Two days before the Church is to be blessed. Some of the ladies of our village are cleaning the Altar, dressing the side altars, arranging large arrays of beautiful flowers and Fall leaves. The dust that has permeated every corner, every millimeter is being carefully swept away.

A niche; really, more of a deep opening, has been built into the wall, about 3-feet above the floor immediately to the left of the main entrance. Although we only see the opening, the interior of the wall has been opened for about 12-inches below the opening. A small lamp has been installed within the niche.

We gather around as Gebi approaches the niche cradling a large bundle in his arms; something wrapped in a large white sheet. The bundle is tenderly set upon the stones floor fore the niche and the contents unwrapped. There before us are the bones of  Brother Ulrich. There are some ribs, several segments of the spine, a tibia and femur. From these bones, one can estimate that Brother Ulrich was a rather tall man for his age, about 5 foot 10 inches in height.  There is no Skull; none was located in the stone burial cask unearthed close to the High Altar during the earlier excavations. It may be gracing a sacred space somewhere in Europe…noone seems to know for certain.

The Church becomes silent as Gebi carefully places the bones within the cavity of the niche. He does this slowly, ensuring that they are not otherwise desecrated or disturbed. Ulrich’s remains are piled until just below the opening. Marcus, the Master Woodworker, has ‘sculpted’ from wood a beautiful covering for the cavity, looking akin to a miniature concert grand piano lid. A simple elegant cross graces the lid, which is affixed in place above the bones, so as to protect them in the cavity of the niche. Then, a Baroque style glass and wood frame is placed over the entire niche opening, sealing it closed.  It is a perfect counterpoint to the 14th century stone Altar top, found during excavations,  that has been affixed upright to the wall.  A wooden tablet has also been attached to the wall upon which the story of Ulrich is described. Above the tablet has been placed a lovely hand-carved statue of Brother Ulrich that has until now been on display only in the Sacristy.

NICHE CONTAINING THE REMAINS OF BROTHER ULRICH

It is done. All is ready.

ULRICHSKIRCHE. VIEW TOWARD THE HIGH ALTAR

Sunday, 21 November…exactly one week before the first Sunday of Advent. The bells of St Ulrich peal the hour and reminder to the village that Mass is soon to begin. Villagers, many of whom have not seen the restored Church, are entering, gazing as if in amazement. It is a jewel (Schmuckstueck), glistening reverence, warm, comforting, transcendent, welcoming.  The Church fills to overflowing. Some of the men go to their accustomed spots in the pews on the upper decks over the main entrance; the women take their usual seats to the left of the main aisle. Others go to their places on the newly built main stairway leading up to these upper levels…just as they, their parents and grandparents have been doing for all of their lives here in Pinswang.

We are back in our Church…back at home…together. The Musikkapelle and Choir make beautiful music for the liturgy. It resonates through the building, bringing life back to the ancient beams and mortar that have been in repose for many many months. The Holy Water is sprinkled, the words of thanks to all those who gave of their time and craft to this noble project. It is announced that a special meal is to be served to all at the Village Hall in celebration after Mass; the Musikkapelle will play.

But for now, as we kneel upon the warm pillowed wood before us, gazing upward into the Heavens so magnificently painted on the ceiling high above us, we give thanks to God for this wonderful day, our new old Church, our dear families and friends….for these and all of His many blessings.

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