The Luther Church in the Oberstadt district of Mainz was built in 1949 as a notkirche or provisional church, after all the city’s Protestant churches were destroyed in World War II. It was designed by Otto Bartning, who is regarded as the founder of modern Protestant church architecture, gaining fame for his program of provisional churches. Many of his buildings, including the Luther Church, are now protected historical landmarks.
Bartning established his program for building churches after the war with financial support from overseas church parishes. He developed various types of provisional churches based on serial and cost-effective production of construction parts. The churches were made of prefabricated wooden trusses that were then bricked up with quarry stone. Stones from the rubble of buildings destroyed in the war were frequently used.
A total of forty-eight provisional churches were planned in Germany, of which forty-three were ultimately built: forty-one still stand today. The Luther church in Mainz, which belongs to Type B, featuring a masonry altar space, is located on a hill above the Römisches Theater station. Extending between the church and railway station is the excavation site of the largest Roman theater north of the Alps. To the west of the church is a citadel built in the seventeenth century as fortification.
The exterior masonry of the church’s simple structure is unplastered quarry stone. The interior, by contrast, is bricked in with darker, red brick. Together with the wooden floor and trusses, this provides a warm, comforting atmosphere.
The original altar of layered quarry stone was replaced in 1995 by a wooden tabletop on steel supports designed by Helmut Kanis. The pews are not original either. Nevertheless, the building still conveys the typical character of the provisional churches. Otto Bartning’s concept made it possible to realize appropriate sacred spaces that were distinctive from the usual “barracks churches” of the postwar period despite limited financial means. [KS/HY]
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