A church of snow and ice in Bavaria
By Stephanie Saueressig Feb 9, 2012, 3:06 GMT
Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany - Members of the small Bavarian municipality of Mitterfirmiansreut in southern Germany have constructed a church out of snow and ice this winter in memory of a protest carried out by their ancestors a century ago.
At that time the diocese was of the view that Mitterfirmiansreut, which is located close to the Czech border, didn't need a church so locals had to make the eight-kilometre journey to Mauth each Sunday for mass. 'There were occasions when it wasn't possible to bury our dead,' explains Christian Koch, chairman of the '100 years Mitterfirmiansreut snow church' group. 'Bodies simply had to be stored in attics.'
The miserable situation peaked around Christmas 1910 when the population refused to travel to Mauth for Christmas Mass due to the treacherous weather conditions. Instead, they decided to construct their own church and proceeded to build a prayer house out of snow collected in the forest to draw attention to their plight.
The snow church was eventually completed in March 1911 and, a century later, the village's residents decided to commemorate the protest by building a new snow church of their own. 'We came up with the idea about three years ago as we were sitting around a table in the local bar,' said Koch.
The snow church is unique in that it is the only building made out of snow that has no supports. The 26-metre-long church is constructed from approximately 1,100 cubic metres of snow. The entrance of the church is bathed in a beautiful blue light, while the interior is made entirely of snow and ice with two ice steps leading up to an ice altar.
The vaulted ceiling looks like it's made of marble but the impressive effect wasn't intentional but was in fact a result of a lack of sufficient snow, meaning dirty ice also had to be used.
The lack of snow, which meant the church opened a few days behind schedule, wasn't the only hurdle villagers had to overcome as the local bishop initially refused to consecrate the church officially. The huge effort has been worthwhile, however, as around 10,000 people have already visited the church in the few weeks since it opened.
The original church was also a success as although it melted away in the spring, it received significant media coverage and donations began to flood in for the construction of a proper church. A stone chapel was finally built in Mitterfirmiansreut in 1923.