Wieskirche: A Little Piece of Heaven in Bavaria
The Swabian poet Peter Dörfler described the Wieskirche as “a bit of heaven”, and a visit to the church will surely make you wholeheartedly agree. Upon entering the Wieskirche (Pilgrimage Church of Weis), I was astonished by its beauty and opulence. Everywhere you look from the ornate altar to the frescoed ceiling is dripping with Rococo decoration. What’s the reason for this elaborate church in what seems like the middle of nowhere? Let me tell you.
In 1738, a local family brought a wooden statue of the Scourged Christ from a Germany abbey, which was no longer using it, to their farm in the village of Wies. They placed the statue in their bedroom as an object to which they could make their daily devotions. On July 14, 1738, the statue supposedly shed tears during the family’s prayers. As word of the miracle spread, pilgrims began journeying to Wies to see the statue, and in 1740, the family built a small chapel (which you can still look into) to house it. In 1748, the Bishop of Augsburg set up a commission to investigate the supposed miracle, but it came to no conclusions about the supernatural event. To accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims and to house the statue, between 1745 and 1754, the current Wieskirche was constructed, and it remains today as a place of religious devotion and artistic splendor.
The decoration of the Wieskirche tells the story of Christ from death to resurrection to his triumphant return in the last of days. On the altar, a baby Jesus is poised, as if on a cross, and looking up above the altar on the ceiling, Christ is shown whipped, chained, and crucified. The highest part of the ceiling shows a resurrected Jesus riding a rainbow, a symbol of forgiveness, and presiding over the Last Judgment. Finally, in the rear of the church, above the organ, the door to heaven has been closed, as all those who are worthy of entrance have been admitted. All of this religious artwork would have originally designed to help pilgrims and worshipers to understand and be inspired by the story of Christ and his teachings. Even if you’re not religious, the grandeur of the Wieskirche will surely inspire your imagination and be a marvelous treat for your senses. “It is left to the opinion and assessment of each individual whether a miracle is seen more in the drops on the face of the scourged, in the consolation and the benefaction for the pilgrims, or in the grandeur of the church’s art” (1).
Location of the Wieskirche
Before going, be sure to check the church’s website, as the building is closed to tourists during worship services.
The Wieskirche (Pilgrimage Church of Weis) is located at Wies 12, 86989 in Steingaden, Germany. Signs directing you to the church are clearly posted on roads leading to it, but you can click on the map below to obtain specific driving directions. The church lays in a scenic valley of the Bavarian Alps, making the outside of the building and its surroundings splendid and photo-worthy in themselves.
A visit to the Wieskirche fits conveniently into any sightseeing itinerary in Southern Bavaria. The church is only a 30 minute drive from Fussen/Neuschwanstein or from Oberammergau. If you’re driving from either of those locations to Oberammegau, the Wieskirche is an easy stop.
For more information about nearby attractions, see my other guides to southern Bavaria:
- Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria
- Oberammergau: A Fairy Tale of a Bavarian Town
- Alpine Coaster Oberammergau: Thrills for the Entire Family
- Ettal Monastery: Stop to Stare and Stay to Shop
- Mittenwald: Bavaria’s Prettiest Alpine Village
- Zugspitze: How to Get to Germany’s Tallest Peak and What to Do There
- Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go
(1) “Miracle of Tears” http://wieskirche.de/the-miracle-of-tears.en.html