Visiting the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche, Weeze-Wemb, Germany: a past facing lightning and the French Revolution
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A peaceful present; a turbulent past
The Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (i.e., Holy Cross Church)(1) at Wemb, in North Rhine Westphalia (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen) has a conspicuous spire which is a landmark in the largely low-lying district near to the border with The Netherlands. The building was commenced in 1895 and completed the following year.
Within the past couple of centuries, the building and its antecedents has had to face two rather catastrophic events.
Just as today's building, has a very conspicuous spire, so, indeed, did the previous church building at Wemb, which dated from 1806, but in 1869 a rather destructive event occurred: it was struck by lightning.
As a result of lightning-induced fire, the spire and the building in their previous manifestation were badly damaged. An extension carried out in 1889 proved to be unsatisfactory; and finally the existing structure had to be destroyed and a new church building was planned and erected.
Going a century further back in the previous building's history, another event — or rather, series of events — occurred which in terms of their outcome proved to be as far reaching as the catastrophic lightning strike of 1869. Wemb and quiet, surrounding country villages were caught up in the French Revolution and the Revolutionary wars which followed it.
But what did the village of Wemb have to do with the French Revolution in Paris? some readers may ask.
Well, this is how events worked out, in any case, secularist revolutionaries in Paris issued their decrees and the remainder of the Continent of Europe — or such parts of it that the French Revolutionary armies could threaten — were expected to submit, right down to rural villages located nowhere near France. The monastery of Marienwasser, near Weeze, the nearest large town to Wemb, was secularized.
But gradually the secularist, revolutionary fervour waned, and some of the secularist measures were rescinded. A number of the artifacts from the Marienwasser monastery, including the pulpit, eventually found their way to Wemb parish church, built in 1806. This pulpit dates from 1620.
Prior to the French Revolution, another church building stood in Wemb; this was known not as the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (i.e., Holy Cross Church) but as the Kreuzerhöhungskapelle (Exaltation of the Cross Chapel).
The late 19th century Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche in Wemb, by architects Rüdell and Odenthal, is a three aisled building executed in neo-Gothic style. Thus we see familiar, Gothic features at the building: pointed arches, pinnacles and flying buttresses.
People often think of Germany from a religious point of view as illustrating two polarities: Lutheran / Protestant and Roman Catholic. I think the history of places such as Wemb and numerous localities in Germany actually show at least three or more polarities, or paradigms: Roman Catholic, Protestant and secularist. (With immigration the religious composition of the country is even more complex.) It seems far more helpful and conducive to clarity to think of a multipolar religious scene.
Wemb is situated in the municipality of Weeze, itself within Kreis Kleve (Cleves district) and is often referred to as Weeze-Wemb. The Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche was attached to the parish of Weeze in the early 21st century.
March 16, 2016
(1) See also: https://www.weeze.de/de/inhalt/historischer-rundweg-board-17/
Also worth seeing
Weeze (distance: approx. 11 kilometres) has the castles of Kalbeck, Wissen and Hertefeld.
In Well, The Netherlands, (distance: 11 kilometres) there is a castle, dating from the 14th century, now used by an American college; De Maasduinen National Park is popular with nature lovers, hikers and cyclists.
Duesseldorf (distance: 66.7 kilometres); its old city hall and the Rhine Tower (German: Rheinturm) are among the city's various visitor attractions.
How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. For North American travellers making London, England, their base, Ryanair flies directly to Airport-Weeze, close to Weeze-Wemb; car rental is also available at the airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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