Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg

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The Church of the Holy Spirit from the castle Heidelberg 20060420 021.jpg
The Church of the Holy Spirit from the castle
Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg.jpg
Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg

The Church of the Holy Spirit (German : Heiliggeistkirche) is the most famous church in Heidelberg, Germany. It stands in the middle of the market place in the old center of Heidelberg not far from the Heidelberg Castle. The steeple of the church, rising above the roofs, dominates the town.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Heidelberg Castle castle in Germany

Heidelberg Castle is a ruin in Germany and landmark of Heidelberg. The castle ruins are among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps.


Early history

The Church of the Holy Spirit is first mentioned in a manuscript from 1239. In 1398, the foundations of the current late Gothic church were laid on the site of a late Romanesque basilica which, in turn, had been erected in the place of an even older church. Thus the current church is the third sacral building on the site.

Brick Gothic architectural style of Northern Europe

Brick Gothic is a specific style of Gothic architecture common in Northwest and Central Europe especially in the regions in and around the Baltic Sea, which do not have resources of standing rock, but in many places a lot of glacial boulders. The buildings are essentially built using bricks. Buildings classified as Brick Gothic are found in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kaliningrad, Sweden and Finland.

Romanesque architecture architectural style of Medieval Europe

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque style, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 11th century, this later date being the most commonly held. In the 12th century it developed into the Gothic style, marked by pointed arches. Examples of Romanesque architecture can be found across the continent, making it the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial Roman architecture. The Romanesque style in England is traditionally referred to as Norman architecture.

Basilica building used as a place of Christian worship

The Latin word basilica has three distinct applications in modern English. Originally, the word was used to refer to an ancient Roman public building, where courts were held, as well as serving other official and public functions. It usually had the door at one end and a slightly raised platform and an apse at the other, where the magistrate or other officials were seated. The basilica was centrally located in every Roman town, usually adjacent to the main forum. Subsequently, the basilica was not built near a forum but adjacent to a palace and was known as a "palace basilica".


The church from the Heiligenberg Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche.jpg
The church from the Heiligenberg

Documents name Arnold Rype, who was also mayor of Heidelberg for a time, as the master builder. In the usage of the time, the term "master builder" referred not to the architect but the financial coordinator. The only known architects during the church's construction are Hans Marx, who worked on the church until 1426, as well as Jorg, who was responsible until 1439. Both men probably supervised work on the nave. Under the reign of Prince-elector Frederick I a noted specialist in the construction of church towers, Niclaus Eseler, came from Mainz to Heidelberg and was probably responsible for the execution of the primary work on the spire of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the steeple was completed by Lorenz Lechler.

Prince-elector members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire

The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire, or Electors for short, were the members of the lectoral college that elected the Holy Roman Emperor.

Frederick I, Elector Palatine Count Palatine of the Rhine and Elector Palatine from the House of Wittelsbach in 1451 - 1476

Frederick I, the Victorious was a Count Palatine of the Rhine and Elector Palatine from the House of Wittelsbach in 1451–76.

Lorenz Lechler was a late 15th-century German master mason who composed Instructions, a booklet on gothic design, and who contributed to the Heidelberg Church. As a master mason, Lechler's writing gives insight into Gothic architecture from the perspective of a builder as opposed to the more common contemporary perspectives written by clerics.

Stages of construction

The construction lasted for some one hundred and fifty years. The Choir was consecrated in 1411 and the nave was finished in 1441. Probably in the same year the construction of the steeple was started. The work was interrupted until 1508 and the tower was finished in 1544. In 1709, after the church had been set on fire by the French during the War of the Palatinian Succession, it was rebuilt and received a baroque spire.

Baroque cultural movement, starting around 1600

The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed the Renaissance style and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well. The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.


The interior of the church Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche Innen.jpg
The interior of the church

In the 14th century, the Church of the Holy Spirit took over as parish church from St. Peter's Church, which became the university church for the University of Heidelberg.

Originally, the Church of the Holy Spirit contained the tombs of the Palatinate electors but they were destroyed by fire during the War of the Palatine Succession. Today only the tomb of Prince-Elector Rupert III, the founder of the church, is still preserved.

The exterior of the church.
The building on the right in the background is the famous Hotel zum Ritter Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche Aussen.jpg
The exterior of the church.
The building on the right in the background is the famous Hotel zum Ritter

The famous Palatine Library, the Bibliotheca Palatina, was founded and at first kept in the gallery of the Church of the Holy Spirit, where good light for reading was available. During the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648, this collection of manuscripts and early printed books was taken as booty by Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria and presented to the Pope. Of the approximately 5,000 books and 3,524 manuscripts taken, a mere 885 were eventually returned in 1816. The rest form the Bibliotheca Palatina section of the Vatican Library. For the University Jubilee, many of these books were briefly brought back and displayed in Heidelberg.

The apsidal end with fountain, surrounded by bookstalls and cafes 2009-07-26-01 Germany Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche.jpg
The apsidal end with fountain, surrounded by bookstalls and cafés

In the course of its history, the Church of the Holy Spirit was used by both Catholics and Protestants, even simultaneously. Starting in 1706, a partition was inserted so that both congregations could hold their services without any mutual disturbance. In 1720, Karl III Philip, Elector Palatine came into conflict with the town's Protestants as a result of fully handing over the Church of the Holy Spirit to the Catholics. Karl Philip gave way, due to pressure for Prussia, the Dutch Republic, and Sweden and repartitioned the wall. In 1936 the separating wall was removed and the church is now exclusively Protestant (Protestant Church in Baden).

At the beginning of the 1970s, the steps at the rear of the Church of the Holy Spirit were popular with the Hippies and the Flower Power movement and became a tourist attraction during this time. In 1972, a rock concert by Werner Pieper and the English band Quintessence was organised in the church and attended by students and Hippies alike.[ citation needed ]

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Coordinates: 49°24′44″N8°42′34″E / 49.41222°N 8.70944°E / 49.41222; 8.70944