The chilly welcome at Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim

December 23, 2009 by  

Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim, Munich

Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim, Munich

My mother had been especially recommended to see the Michaelkirche or church of St Michael in Berg am Laim which is reputed to be one of the most beautiful Rococo churches in Southern Germany and so we duly left the well-trodden tourist routes of central Munich for the suburbs. Although Berg am Laim is only 5 stops on the S-Bahn from Marienplatz, it felt a world away with a sprinkling of snow over modern houses and apartments. We walked for about 20 minutes from the station, regularly asking passers-by in our best phrasebook German “Wo ist die Michelkirche?” and they would point us ever onwards.

Finally we passed through the village centre and down a residential road where we found the Michaelkirche looking much like any other local parish church from the outside. We entered and found the main church barred by a wrought iron grille with a gate that was locked. Beyond, at the front of the church we could see a group of children practicing for their nativity play with a few parents sitting watching. We rattled the grille hoping someone would come to open it, but nobody did, and after further exploration, we found an open side door and ventured down the corridor and into the church near the altar.

As we stepped through the teacher of the children came forward and told us that the church was not open for visits at this time. We remonstrated with him, thinking of our train journey and long, chilly walk to get here.  “We’ve come all the way from London to see this church!” exclaimed my mother indignantly. After a few more exchanges in broken English and German we convinced the teacher to let us stay to look around for a short while and he turned back to his rehearsal.

Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim, Munich

Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim, Munich

Feeling rather like the uninvited guests, we wandered around the church for admiring the rococo painted gilt cherubs and the skeleton of Archbishop Clemens, the founder of the church, in a glass case. We read in our guidebook that there was a memorial in the church to 300 Jews who had been rounded up in the church during the war, before being transported to concentration camps, but were unable to find it. I wondered what the parishioners had made of this at the time, whether they collaborated in the round-up or whether they thought there was nothing they could do to stop it. The love of order and following the social norms is deeply ingrained in the German culture – you’ll never see a German crossing the road when the red man is lit.

Body of Archbishop Clemens, founder of Michaelkirche at Berg am Laim

Body of Archbishop Clemens, founder of Michaelkirche at Berg am Laim

As we left the church, the teacher who had previously barred our way, obviously thought better of it and smiled and wished us a good day. And so we walked back to the station on the snowy pavements and took the train back to the heart of Munich – at least the tourist heart.

Personally I think there are enough beautiful Rococo churches in the centre of Munich not to bother with this one, unless you are a real connoisseur, but there again, perhaps it’s good to be reminded what it’s like to be an outsider, once in a while.

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Comments

7 Comments on "The chilly welcome at Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim"

  1. Chris on Wed, 23rd Dec 2009 10:39 am 

    What a nice church! I like Rococo style and according to your pics I think it is a place that must be seen

  2. Fly Girl on Wed, 23rd Dec 2009 2:12 pm 

    That’s a gorgeous church! It reminds me of a gold-filled one I saw in Brazil.

  3. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Wed, 23rd Dec 2009 8:51 pm 

    Churches are always a particular favorite of mine when I travel overseas, but it sometimes makes me wonder why I neer visit them here in the States.

  4. Dave -nibbleanibble on Thu, 24th Dec 2009 2:58 am 

    Call me crazy, but when I’m at a place like this the place really speaks to me. If you sit down, you can see and hear all the history behind this place almost like you’ve been magically transported back to the past. That’s what make a historical landmark such an unique destination in any travel agenda.

  5. Sherry Ott on Thu, 24th Dec 2009 5:24 pm 

    Good going…don’t take ‘no’ for an answer…it’s always worth trying again! Looks like a lovely (and warm) place to wander for a bit!

  6. Residenz Palace in Munich | Heather on her travels on Mon, 12th Apr 2010 3:49 pm 

    […] Visiting the Munich Christmas Markets – Podcast Postcard from the Christmas Markets in Munich A chilly welcome at Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim, Munich […]

  7. Snow in the Hofgarten in Munich | Heather on her travels on Sat, 7th Aug 2010 2:41 pm 

    […] Visiting the Munich Christmas Markets – Podcast Drinking Feuerzangenbowle to warm the spirits in Munich A chilly welcome at Michaelkirche in Berg am Laim […]

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