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Doppelkirche Schwarzrheindorf
Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia
Bonn  locality
Germany  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
50.750700° N, 7.114980° E

Description of Doppelkirche Schwarzrheindorf

The Double Church of Schwarzrheindorf has an attractive exterior plastered in white and decorated with pink and yellow paint. The paint job dates from a restoration of 1973 and provides a good sense of what many now-bare churches looked like in medieval times.

Inside, it has two levels: a lower church for the local community and an upper church for the lords of the castle and later the nuns. The two share the same plan: an apse with altar in the east end; small north and south transepts or apses; and a straight extension to the west for seating and entry. Over the transept crossing is a stout central tower topped with a spire.

The Doppelkirche's round, monumental design is inspired by Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen Cathedral, since the Emperor was provided with a throne here as well. It was also based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as it was intended as the burial place for Archbishop von Weid.

The upper church is accessed by a covered stone stairway on the south side. Here the Emperor could sit on an elevated throne in the west end, from which he could see the altar in the lower church through the octagonal opening in the center.

Schwarzrheindorf is especially famed for its medieval murals, which cover both levels of the church. Those of the lower church date from c.1150 and those of the Upper Church from closer to 1190. Together they constitute one of the most complete sets of Romanesque murals surviving in Germany.

The theme of the murals in the lower church derives from the theology of Abbot Rupert of Deutz (1075-1130), in which Ezekiel's vision of God is interpreted as predicting of the four mysteries of Christ.

Each of the four apses centers on a portrait of Christ; these are connected with four groups of four scenes of the judgment of Jerusalem in the vaults and four scenes of the New Jerusalem (including one in which angels measure out the new Temple) around the central vault.

In the east apse is Christ in Glory, adored by haloed saints and announced by the Four Evangelists depicted with their symbols on the pillars. In the vault is Ezekiel having his vision of the wheel and Jesus being born from Mary (the Lord in the gate).

In the north apse or transept, Christ is crucified and out of his open side the Church is born. Mary is supported by John under the cross. The faithful are rewarded, the unfaithful suffer judgment, and the altar is consecrated by the blood of the Lamb.

The south apse/transept centers on the Transfiguration of Christ, above which is the prophet who must make himself a sign and a vision of the New Jerusalem. Both transept vaults depict vices overcome by virtues and the four large kings in the corners (two in each transept) represent the four realms.

The west side of the sanctuary, which leads into a short nave, depicts Christ clearing the temple and announcing his Resurrection.

The upper church is also painted with murals, which date from the late 12th century. The east apse has an image of Christ in Glory, at whose feet are the church's founders. Next to Christ are the patron saints of the church, Mary and Clement, and below him are saints of the Diocese of Cologne.

The left wall of the upper church bears a mural of John receiving his Revelation on Patmos; the right wall shows Mary's walk to the temple. In the niche, Christ in misery is contrasted with Christ in glory.

Holly Hayes
October 16, 2011

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