The Holy Spirit Church (Heiliggeistkirche) in Heidelberg, Germany, is the most famous church in Heidelberg and has served both Catholics and Protestants. The current church was built in 1398, on a site that had housed two different, earlier churches. This church, located right in the middle of Heidelberg, near the river, took over 150 years to be built. It is surrounded by old cobblestone streets, and is right in the middle of the marketplace (Marketplatz), across from the Old Town Hall. It is popularly said that the view from the tower viewing platform provides the best panoramic view of Heidelberg – you’ll just need to climb 200+ medieval circular stairs to get there!
Download a larger image and share the photo with your class, then try these discussion questions and classroom activities:
- Despite the medieval trappings of this church, there is a stained glass window that features a troublesome aspect of Western Civilization entitled Physics. This window was created by Johannes Schreiter, in response to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The stained glass window includes E=mc2, two verses from the New Testament, and the date of the bomb drop. Look at this article about Schreiter, and then discuss the role of art and influence in ancient churches. Was Schreiter right to pursue this controversial installation? Was the church right to not install the majority of his windows, and go with another, less controversial artist?
- Watch this short video of the Church. What surprised you about it? Have you ever seen a church adorned on the outside with souvenir and food shops? Discuss how towns – and churches – adapt to tourism.
- The Heiliggeistkirche has captured the eye of many famous artists, including Joseph Mallord William Turner. Take a look at Turner’s sketches and these photos of Heidelberg and the church. Then sketch the church and Marketplatz – what details will you add?