View from my window

I’m spending a month in Germany as a visiting scholar at the University of Würzburg, as guest of the liturgy chair. Over the next few days I intend to do some blogging about my experiences here. Thought a good place to begin might be with the view from the window of my office here:  the apse and towers of St. Kilian’s cathedral.

Here is some background. St. Kilian’s Cathedral is located in the center of the old town. The diocese dates from 741. There were two predecessor buildings to the current one. The present Romanesque building was originally completed around 1187, and of course went through  modifications as the centuries passed. The building was almost completely destroyed in World War II and later rebuilt, so it is very much a combination of old and new.


  1. That picture brings back happy memories of visiting Wurzburg with my father, who was raised there and went to University there. It was a beautiful town that still had all the old world charm intact. And they have their own brewery there – the the Hospital, I believe!

  2. Thanks for all these comments!

    Michael, good to see you here — I had no idea you had these links to Würzburg! The locals are also proud of their Franconian wine, by the way. Vineyards cover the hillsides along the Main. Your father may remember the Juliusspital (a hospital) which has their own lovely wine and outstanding fish dishes. I’ll have to look for the brewery you mention.

    Brendan, yes, there were three Celtic saints who brought Christianity to Franconia, and they got their heads handed to them for it. All honor to their courage and faith and hope! A tough bunch, the Celtic Christians.

    Padraig, how I’d love to visit these places you linked to! But only if you’d show me around. 🙂 Seriously, though, there is so much to see. I’ve heard of the Würzburg glosses! You are right. A trip to Ireland is in order. I’d better start looking for a scholarship there when I’ve gotten over this one.

    Finally, Karl Liam, thanks for the heartbreaking photographs. 90% is almost unimaginable until you see the pictures. Firebombing must be against the laws of war today, isn’t it? My knowledge of this is hazy, but the horrific effects on the civilian population must put it somewhere far down on the list of last resorts. The rebuilding is amazing though. You’d never know today how much of this was in rubble then.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #5:
      I thought someone might notice the statement in the link that most of the rebuilding was undertaken by women. The cathedral was not totally destroyed in the firebombing, but was so compromised that it collapsed in the following year.

      I have a fondness for St Kilian. He is the patron of the original parish of my hometown that was founded by Benedictines from St Leo Abbey in Florida in the 1890s; they cultivated quite a parish that was independent from the local diocese until the mid-1970s. St Kilian, the Irish apostle of Franconia, was chosen as patron because the local Catholics were in the 1890s roughly divided between Irish and southern German Catholics.

      In any event, the firebombing of Wurzburg is something we must remember along with the other firebombings. As time passes, we should resist the urge to elide atrocities of our own side. I can recall how in the last decade, the annual remembrances of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would erupt in flame wars (pardon the pun) at St Blog’s; we see less of that now. Critiques at an objective (if not subjective) level of our own atrocities don’t come only from the conventional left but increasingly from the right (and center, too).

  3. It looks like a beautiful place. Doubtless, the interior space must be just as wonderful. Have a fruitful time in Germany!

  4. This is a much belated comment, but I wanted to add a word of two about the interior of the church. There’s a “progressive” layout that tells a story. It begins with creation, depicted in abstract art on the doors. The seven-branch candelabrum in the rear represents the seven days of creation. (Yes, they do light those candles for certain Masses!)

    Halfway up the nave, in the center, the medieval baptismal font was restored to its central position, making it the next focus as you walk forward. The altar is beyond this, and naturally is placed in great prominence.

    Finally, one is drawn on by a bright image of Christ coming again in glory, which adorns the apse, in the eastern end. So one moves from creation to the life of the Church, to Eucharist, and to the eschaton.

    I grew to like the cathedral very much during my time there. All the doorways are noble. There are world-class artworks here and there (several Tilman Riemanschneider sculptures, for instance). There are restful places to pray individually on visits, as well as the strength of a unified liturgical space with this narrative dimension that I’ve just described.

    There are also surprises, like the pattern of light from stained glass that can project onto the whitewashed upper clerestory. At Mass on a rainy day, the sun came out unexpectedly for a moment, and the friend I was with pointed delightedly to a spot where suddenly there was projected a delicate, colorful medallion in light. Wow.

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