Come and praise Him, in this sacred place
come seek Him out in the Wies .
Open - hearted, thank Him for His grace,
for He offers us His Peace.
Oh, my Jesus, fairest Jesus,
fairest Jesus, in the Wies
who so full of blessings is.
The Wies Song
From: v. Dietfurt, Fränkische Volkslieder
The figure of the Scourged Saviour in the Wies,
origin of the pilgrimage and the center of the Wies Church
Dear Visitors to the Wies Church!
First time visitors in the Wies, with no previous knowledge about the church, may well stand in wonder and ask themselves what could have possibly given rise to the building of such an unusually magnificent church in such a secluded place.
Indeed, something out of the ordinary, from many points of view, took place here. Human tears, an age-old phenomenon, were the spiritual building stones, the precious pearls from which the Wies Church, a world famous roccoco jewel, was created. In the 18th Century the Wies Church was already known throughout Europe as a place of reverence for the Scourged Saviour, and at the same time a famous gem of baroque architecture.
Even today the church lives from both these wellsprings: its spiritual and artistic richness. Thus, the Wies Church continues as a pilgrimage church, a place of prayer and worship, and is simultaneously a magical drawing point for millions of visitors. Through their encounter with this joyous Baroque, full of life and hope, they sense a world which moved the writer Peter Dörfler, in the first half of this century, to write: "The Wies is a bit of heaven in this suffering world."
Out of the miracle of June 14, 1738, when tears were seen on the face of the Scourged Saviour, there rapidly developed a pilgrimage of unexpected proportions.
In his 1779 booklet "Wahrer Ursprung und Fortgang der Wallfahrt des Gegeißelten Heilands auf der Wies" ("The True Origin and Continuation of the Pilgrimage to the Scourged Saviour in the Wies"), the Pilgrimage Priest of the Wies Church, Father Benno Schröfl, wrote: "What more can I say about this flow of grace, when all of Europe is streaming through: pilgrims from Petersburg in Russia, Göteborg in Sweden, Amsterdam in Holland, from Copenhagen in Denmark, from Christiansburg (i.e. Oslo) in Norway, from Nimes in France, from Cadiz in Spain, not to mention all the German provinces and neighboring kingdoms?". (Finkenstaedt, Th.u.H.: Die Wieswallfahrt, Regensburg 1981, p. 150). As the tiny chapel built in
1740 (still standing by the parking lot) was, despite a wooden addition, obviously far too small for the masses of pilgrims, the nearby Steingaden monastery decided that a church must be built.
The pilgrimage has remained alive up to the present. Among the visitors from all over the world you will also find people in silent prayer. The traditional pilgrimages in the local and surrounding areas have also experienced a profound revival during the past years. Even now new pilgrimages arise, such as a pilgrimage in the vicinity of Weilheim/Schongau, which each year brings about 1000 young people to the Wies.
Perfected Rococo in Harmony with Important Theological Themes
In the Wies Church rococo art reached a unique perfection. This masterpiece, created by the brothers Dominikus and Johann Baptist Zimmermann of Wessobrunn, was given international recognition a few years ago, when it was inscribed by UNESCO, the culture organization of the U.N., as a cultural site on the World Heritage List.
In spite of the lightness and grace typical of rococo style, the Wies Church has in fact a deep meditative quality coming from the important theological themes which are treated there. Spiritual center of the church is the Scourged Saviour, Jesus Christ, God's Son, who, giving his life for all humankind, offers himself as a sacrifice to God the Father. Out of this sacrifice is born redemption, blessing and the glory of heaven. This theology is summed up in the prayer which comes after the Consecration of bread and wine in the Mass, in which the center of our Christian belief is expressed: "We announce your death, o Lord, we praise your Ressurection until you come in glory". One sees this theology in the figure of the Scourged Saviour (the Lamb of God), and in the main ceiling fresco (the resurrected Christ, who will come again, sitting on the rainbow; the judgement throne; and the door to Eternal Life.)
People from all over the world come to the Wies. Many search for sense in their life and orientation. This church has the power, by its artistic expression and spiritual message, to give them an answer. Bringing into play all of a person's senses, it allows mind and soul to experience the "Good News of the Wies".
Its architect, Dominikus Zimmermann, almost 70, could not bear to leave this church, his most beautiful and complete work. Thus, he built himself a house almost at its door, where he lived until his death. In thankfulness for the happy completion of the church, he painted a votive tablet showing the pious master architect kneeling before the Scourged Saviour. He signed it: "D.Z. Ex voto A. 1757".
Every pilgrim and visitor to the Wies Church is rewarded by the magnificence and harmony of the wonderful song Zimmermann called forth in building the Wies Church. When the visitor, in encountering the resounding four-tone chord of art, theology, light and music, experiences the total beauty of the Wies, he can experience what the builder of the church, Abbot Marianus II Mayer, expressed:
"Hoc loco habitat fortuna, hic quiescit cor."
(In this place abideth happiness, here the heart findeth peace)
We wish with all our hearts that many who visit our "beautiful Wies" may experience this happiness and find inner peace.
Be praised, Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Living God!
Thou art the Redeemer of the World
our Saviour and Master
who was scourged for us.
Come, Lord Jesus and
stay by us
so that we, hand by hand,
can arrive in Thy Father's Kingdom.
The Wieskirche is considered one of the most beautiful rococo churches in southern Germany. Its architecture reached such a high point that works of art history frequently speak of the "spacial miracle" of the Wies. But there is a second miracle in this church to observe here: although mainly provincial artists took part- Aegid Verhelst and Balthasar Augustin Albrecht are the exceptions - a work of the highest quality was achieved. All the artists involved, up to and including Anton Sturm and Dominikus Zimmermann, have surpassed themselves, exceeding all their previous achievements. The Abbot and Monastery of Steingaden, who commissioned the work, also exceeded all expections, sparing neither effort nor cost, in order to realize the pilgrimage church in this ideal form. The style is fresh, there is no sign of stinginess. Even in the furnishing of vestments, monstrance and chalices, the monastery showed a well -nigh royal generosity. As a church built in the age of rationalism, it was thoroughly planned that every minute detail was thought through. However, this 18th Century also prized gifted people and allowed them to use their spontaneous inspiration. Such spontaneous inspiration is God-given. Therefore, the artists and theologians had here the mission of spreading and proclaiming joy. So was the aim of a contemporary engraving in which the Wies and its blessed figure were termed: "an ever-flowing source of forgiveness". And, in this vein, a book of miracles from 1746 was entitled: "Gnaden-Blum" (Flower of Grace). The theological program of the Wies takes special note of the eschatological character of Christ's church. They ought not limit themselves to an effect in the present, they aimed far more to present the second coming of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem. In both its architecture and its theological thinking was the Wies Church well ahead of its time. That this isolated pilgrimage church near Steingaden could be termed in 1803 "a totally useless building", shows that its message and sense of being were not any longer understood. Despite threatened demolition, immediately following the Secularization (1803), the Wies Church was preserved, and with it the possibility of experiencing God through beauty and a unique art experience.
Chronology of the Wies Church
1732 The figure of the Scourged Saviour was carried in Steingaden in the Good Friday procession.
1735 Because of its pitiful appearance the statue was put away in the monastery's attic,
and no longer carried in the procession.
1738 The Scourged Saviour is removed to the farmhouse of Maria Lori in the Wies.
On June 14th Maria Lori and her husband see tears in the eyes of the Scourged Saviour.
1739-40 As prayers to the Scourged Saviour were answered and the number of pilgrimages has increased, a small chapel was built.
1745-54 Dominikus Zimmermann built the pilgrimage church in the Wies.
1803-04 Because of the Secularization; the Wies Church was to be auctioned for subsequent demolition.
1811-30 The Church, through petitions and personal sacrifice of the local farmers, was saved.
1946-78 Under the Prelate Alfons Satzger the pilgrimage was encouraged, the liturgy made more festive, and in the countryside near the church, an educational center, the "Landvolkshochschule Wies", was founded.
1983 Bishop Josef Stimpfle of Augsburg revived the "Bruderschaft zum Gegeißelten Heiland auf der Wies" (Brotherhood of the Scourged Saviour in the Wies).
1985-91 The church was extensively renovated, after an elaborate analysis of its condition was made. Detailed measurements and extensive documentation to accompany the various stages of the renovation were prepared. The concept of a strict restoration which sought to restore the church as nearly as possible to its original 18th Century appearance, was reached in almost all cases. (The total restoration cost: 10.6 million Deutsch Marks).
1991 The church war reopened on May 5th.
The Wies Church remains full of life through some 200 pilgrimage groups per year, the festive worship services and the encouragement of art, as, for exemple, through the many church concerts.
Architects and Artists
The brothers Zimmermann are considered to be among the greatest artists of the Bavarian rococo . They came from Gaispoint, a tiny village belonging to the monastery of Wessobrunn in the Weilheim-Schongau district. This district had already produced a fair number of architects, stuccowork artists and painters. Examples of the two brothers' work are to be found throughout Europe, for example in France, Poland, Russia etc. . The Zimmermann brothers were the culmination of what is known as the great "Wessobrunn Epoch".
Born in Wessobrunn in 1685 and dying in 1766 in his house directly by the Wies Church, he was not only an architect, but also did stuccowork and marbling. He was one of the most talented and famous artists of his time. He learned from the local master Johann Schmuzer, and worked in Füssen for J. J. Herkomer. In 1716 he became a citizen of Landsberg. At various points in his artistic career he worked in Biberbach, Buxheim, Gutenzell, Maria Mödlingen, Landsberg, Neresheim, Steinhausen, Günzburg, and Fischingen in Switzerland, amongst others. The crowning of his life is the Wies Church, the most perfect rococo church in the world.
Johann Baptist Zimmermann, the brother of Dominikus, John Baptist, was born in Wessobrunn in 1680 and died in 1758 as a court painter in Munich . He was one of the most sought after fresco painters and stuccowork artists of his time. His work is found in Andechs, the Nymphenburg Castle, Wemding, Weyarn, and the convent of Herrenchiemsee amongst others. In the Wies, he did the stuccowork and painted the ceiling frescoes, the theological idea for which is attributable to the monks of Steingaden: healing, forgiveness and the fullness of grace.
Balthasar August Albrecht (1687-1765) He was court painter in Munich. In the Wies he created the high altar between 1753 and 1754.
Anton Sturm (1690-1757) His four large statues of the Western Church Fathers stand between the double pillars, along both sides of the nave, and smaller figures grace both sides altars.
Ägidius Verhelst (1696-1749) His statues of the four Evangelists and of two prophets stand on each side of the high altar.
Johann Georg Bergmüller (1688-1762): His painting adorns the north altar.
Joseph Mages (l728-1769) His painting adorns the south altar.