The cordial church guide Magdalena Schäffer showed me her personal favorite places and revealed why she has enjoyed welcoming the most diverse people to St. Catherine's Church in Oppenheim for over 15 years.
A small town with a big church
I drive through the vineyards of Rheinhessen to Oppenheim. Even before I reach the medieval town, my gaze falls on the imposing St. Catherine's Church. Visible from afar, it shows me the way to the place above which it seems to hover. In front of the high Gothic south facade, I meet Magdalena Schäffer, a member of the Protestant parish of St. Katharinen and an enthusiastic church guide for over 15 years.
While we marvel at the detailed ornamentation of the facade, she tells me what the church, built between the 13th and 15th centuries, means to her. Despite its large dimensions and prominent position on the Rhine, the "cathedral in miniature" is a real gem. I'm looking forward to getting to know the "special place where you can come to and enjoy yourself" through the eyes of the long-time church guide.
The power point of the church
As soon as I enter St. Catherine's Church, a fascinating atmosphere surrounds me. It seems to emanate above all from the many stained glass windows, whose panes from eight centuries are illuminated by the sun. I admire the famous Oppenheimer Rose, a beautiful window rose designed after the ground plan of a hedge rose.
Magdalena Schäffer raves about the outstanding Woehl organ, which can be heard in church services and in numerous concerts and sometimes tells me touching stories about particularly beautiful grave monuments.
Finally, we find ourselves at the point where the nave and transept intersect in front of the sanctuary. "I always like to be in the crossing," says the church guide about her personal favorite place. Right here is the power point of the church and you can feel that, she remarks, and I follow her gaze upward. The 64-meter-high crossing tower rises above us, which can be climbed as part of a guided tour and from which one can enjoy a wonderful view of the surrounding vineyards and the ruins of Landskron Castle.
An oasis of peace and fragrances in Oppenheim
We leave St. Catherine's Church through a portal in the north facade and take a few steps to Magdalena Schäffer's favorite place outside the church. For her, the chapel garden next to St. Michael's Chapel is "an oasis of peace at any time of the year and any time of day." It was designed in the form of earlier chapel gardens with plants found there and invites visitors to linger.
As an important symbol of St. Catherine's Church, the rose must not be missing here either. Different varieties delight visitors with lush blooms. "Especially in May and June, it smells wonderful and many guests always like to sit down for a longer time in the chapel garden," the church guide tells. For all readers, she would wish at this point that texts and photos could reflect the beguiling fragrance of these moments.
Of people and kings
Between roses and lavender, we chat about special experiences during church tours. Magdalena Schäffer enthuses that the most beautiful thing is the variety of people you meet. Whether architects or art enthusiasts, company or family excursionists - each tour is different from the last, she says. "You never stop learning, and you shouldn't, so you can always tell interesting stories."
Magdalena Schäffer particularly enjoys guided tours with children, because they are incredibly open and curious. In front of St. Michael's Chapel, which houses the largest and best-preserved ossuary in Germany, she tells me one of her favorite anecdotes. Among the bones of some 20,000 Oppenheim citizens, a skull painted gold stands out in particular. For children, the case is clear: "The golden one, that was certainly a king!". In truth, it is a remnant of filming, although a real human skull is hidden under the paint. And who knows - maybe it really is that of a king...
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The church guides at St. Catherine's Church in Oppenheim try to tailor each tour to the individual needs of their visitors. So please feel free to contact us with your appointment requests and ideas. Contact them up!