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Geistliche Impulse

The History of the Vierzehnheiligen Basilica

During the 18th century Stephan Moesinger, a young and dynamic abbot and a learned man, wanted a new church to be built at Vierzehnheiligen. The old church, because of the increase of pilgrimage, had become too small. It also would have needed badly some repairs. At first the abbot was dreaming to have a large new church for his convent Langheim. For this he ordered Balthasar Neumann to trace a plan (1742). That is why the means for a new church for pilgrimage at Vierzehnheiligen had to be cut down. In winter 1738/39 the abbot called Heinrich Krohne a protestant master builder from Weimar who was his favourite. He planned a central building with galleries which looked rather like a protestant church for the court of Weimar than a Catholic church for pilgrims. This plan was rejected by the Prince-Bishop Karl Friedrich von Schoenborn of Bamberg. Reviewers feared high costs to follow because of the wooden vault.


Now it was the turn of Michael Kuechel, the Prince Bishop´s master builder. In 1742 he proposed to the abbot a new central construction which looked very beautiful. It was larger than the previous one. The Altar of Grace he put into the centre of the church. The abbot rejected this plan because of the high costs of the cupola made of stone. Balthasar Neumann was called, possibly by the abbot. His plan showed a similar but simpler church as for Langheim convent (a basilica of three naves with columns) and front with two steeples. What made this plan special: the place of Vision was centred in the cruciform interior. Galleries were added on a second plan. The Prince Bishop agreed. But the abbot wanted to save some money. He feared the high costs for expensive works of plane and an expensive groundwork for the foundation. That is why he wanted the church to be moved 10 meters higher on the mountain. So he called back Krohne, his private master builder. Krohne guessed that he might have a new chance for his previous plans. Wilfully he changed Neumann's plan. He tried to build a protestant church where the sermon is the centre of the service. On St. George's Day (April 23 rd, 1743) Abbot Stephan Moesinger layed the foundation-stone of the church. The walls grew quickly under the direction of Thomas Nissler a skilful master mason who lived at Staffelstein. (There were three hemispherical niches on the plan.) The walls were made of the yellow sandstone broken where the church was built. In December 1743 Neumann and Kuechel came to check the building site. The truth was found out. Neumann and the Prince Bishop were shocked.

The abbot promised to change the plan according to the demands of a Catholic church and dismissed Krohne. Meanwhile the most honourable old General Maximilian Welsch (Mainz) proposed a very special plan to the abbot. This church would have had enormous dimensions and for that was rejected. Meanwhile Neumann took up his work again. He tried to find a new solution including the plan of Krohne whose walls could not be removed. The place of the Vision which would have been somewhere in the nave had to be centred again. Neumann could not change the exterior of the building. He could only change the church inside. On both sides of the Vision place he put up four columns in that way that they formed an oval. So the galleries connected with them equally could be added: a brilliant idea! Two smaller oval basements were added in the East and in the West. Neumann supervised the building until he died in 1753.

Giuseppe Appiani, court painter at Mainz, came to paint the frescos and the altar-pieces. The stucco work was done under the direction of Johann Michael Feichtmayr and Johann Georg Uebelher (Wessobrunn) in the new style of rococo (decoration of the church, altars, the pulpit and the Altar of Grace). The almost best sculpture of the church shows St. Wendelin, the patron of shepherds standing on the right side of the side-altar located on the left side in the background.

On September 16th, 1772, after 29 years of construction, the magnificent church in baroque and rococo style was consecrated by the Prince Bishop Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim in the presence of Malachias Limmer, abbot of Langheim. At the same time the priorat of the Cistercians next to the church and a building for servants were constructed by Kuechel. These buildings were erected of the same yellow sandstone. The former priorat is the actual monastery of the Franciscans.


Vierzehnheiligen 2
96231 Bad Staffelstein
Tel: +499571 / 9508-0
Fax: +499571 / 9508-45