The church on the prairie (Wieskirche)

The church on the prairie (Wieskirche)

No other architectural style has shaped Bavaria more than the Baroque movement – and its playful version, the Rococo. Numerous monasteries and pilgrimage churches were built during this era. Among those is the “Wies”, a pilgrimage church built near Steingaden, at the foot of the Upper Bavarian Alps, between 1745 and 1754. 

In 1739, the abbot of the Steingaden monastery realized that a small statue of the castigated Savior, which was said to have shed real tears, attracted big waves of pilgrims who believed it had healing powers. By then, this statue was stored at a farmer’s place « auf der Wies », which literally translates « on the prairie », close to the Steingaden monks’ summer retreat. The Wieskirche – the « church on the prairie » – was thus built as a shrine around this statue, perched on a small hill and seen from far and wide. 

The Wieskirche is built on an oval ground plan and decorated in a pure rococo style, in an unparalleled level of perfection. Its central nave, rising above 8 pillars, is decorated with a splendid trompe-l’œil fresco that gives visitors the illusion of a giant dome above them, although architecturally, there is none. Frescoes, sculptures, bas-reliefs and gold decorations are interwoven into a uniquely refined ensemble of remarkable sumptuousness. 

The beauty of the Wieskirche brought its creators, the Zimmermann brothers, wide fame across Europe: one can see their tracks from France to Poland. 

The church itself was listed as a UNESCO world heritage in 1983, as a masterpiece of human creativity and an exceptional reminder of a lost cultural tradition.