On the road again: Romance and Romanesque culture at the Chiemsee

In the beginning of August 2020, I visit my friend at Munich and we spend a few days at Ruhpolding in the Chiemgauer Alps of Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria). I am surprised to find so many churches with a Romanesque and Gothic heritage here. So far I have mostly come across churches built in baroque or rococo style in Bayern.

On the way from Munich to Ruhpolding, we visit first the St. James church of Urschalling with the gothic frescoes. Then we take the boat to the Fraueninsel that promises Romanesque culture and romantic gardens.

 

Urschalling  – St. James church with frescoes from the 12th and the 14th century

Since having read Eugen Diesel’s “philosophy at the steering wheel” (1951) earlier this year, the St. James church of Urschalling has been on my travel agenda. Now, I am here, above the Chiemsee, south of Prien.

The church originates from the 9/10th century and has been rebuilt later.

In the nave, an iron grating prevents visitors from approaching the choir. I take this photo standing behind the grating. The frescoes are from the 14th century.

Jesus Christ is in the middle of the choir, surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. Wikipedia  assumes that in the 14th century, the frescoes from the 12th century were repainted preserving the earlier Romanesque themes. This explains the Byzantine representation of Christ as Pantocrator that was common for early “western” Christianity as well. Below Christ are the apostles.

Female Saints decorate the  vault of the choir. To the left is Saint Hedwig carrying a model of the church.

The presentation of Trinity in the northern pendentive of the choir merits a separate entry in wikipedia. It shows godfather to the right (white hair), Christ to the left (fair hair) and the Holy Spirit in the middle (looks like a woman, whereby it is under debate, whether this is a young man or a woman). At the bottom, the three elements of Trinity end in ONE dress and coat (Brugger et alii, p. 12). This is an exceptional and creative representation of the Holy Trinity.

The south wall shows the passion of Christ starting with the Last Supper that has been cut out partially by the window.

Above the entrance to the tower is the gloomy picture of a hanged boy.

It is difficult to discern all frescoes from where we stand behind the grating. We enjoy the solemn atmosphere.

The church had already been decorated with frescoes in the 12th century. Adam and Eva have been preserved. I took them out of the brochure of Brugger et alii. This fresco is on the northern wall of the choir, and can hardly be seen from the grating.

After a delicious lunch at Urschalling, we take the boat to the Fraueninsel.

The roof of the famous cathedral belfry appears behind the trees.

 

Fraueninsel: The Carolingian Torhalle (gate hall) 

In 782, Tassilo III, duke of Bayern, founded the Benedictine nun monastery on the Fraueninsel. The Torhalle or gate hall has been preserved from those times.

It reminds me of the Torhalle of Lorsch near Heidelberg that I have seen in 2016.

On the first floor, we find a museum with frescoes and with some interesting exhibits.

This lion served as a door handle to the cathedral. The lion was the heraldic animal of duke Tassilo.

In addition, the elegant wedding cup of Tassilo III and his wife Liutberga has  been preserved.

I liked the vine branches on this gilded cross from the 8th or 9th century.

 

Fraueninsel: The cathedral

The octagonal tower of the cathedral is THE landmark of the Chiemsee region. Originally it has been built as a fortification tower in the 11th century. In the 13th/14th century it became the belfry of the cathedral. In the 16th century, the onion shaped “Bavarian” roof was added.

Irmgard, a grand-grand-daughter of Charlemagne, was the first abbess of the nun monastery. She was beatified in 1928 and was then painted for the altar of her cathedral under the gothic vaults. She is also buried here.

I look back at the organ of 1980 on the gallery.

The plain Romanesque entrance is protected by a second door. Taking a photo is difficult.

 

Fraueninsel – romantic gardens

To round off our visit to the Fraueninsel, we stroll along the so-called ladies’ walk around the island and we see many beautiful gardens. From this small house with the yellow rose bush we can see the big brother of the Fraueninsel, Herrenchiemsee, with one of the castles. Ducks seem to love this garden.

I would like to enjoy a barbecue at this charming spot…

…or just to read and rest here.

All the gardens are well kept – such as this one with dahlias.

The huge oak tree above this garden has been planted in 1901, 120 years ago, as a small seedling that was protected against the sun by a cabbage leaf. The seedling developed marvellously.

The cathedral belfry appears behind these colourful flower bushes.

My friend shows me her favourite swimming spot with the view of Herrenchiemsee.

But – no swimming today. It is already late and we have a date with my friend’s friend at Ruhpolding. We take the boat back and leave the Chiemsee to settle at Ruhpolding.

 

Sources:

Walter Brugger and Lisa Bahnmüller, “Urschalling”, Katholische Filialkirchenstiftung Urschalling, Prien am Chiemsee 2016.
“Abtei Frauenwörth und die Fraueninsel – kleiner Inselführer”, Benediktinerinnen-Abtei Frauenwört im Chiemsee, without year.

One thought on “On the road again: Romance and Romanesque culture at the Chiemsee

  1. This place is filled with so many beautiful buildings. Love the paintings they have on the inside of the cathedrals.

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