Feldberg Church © KNA
Feldberg Church © CBA
When you approach the Feldberg from Lake Titisee, you will see the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, built in the early 1960s by Karlsruhe architect Rainer Disse, on your right when you reach the top of the pass. A visit.
Heeled shoes are rare in this church, but the footsteps of some visitors are nevertheless conspicuous: instead of hard clacks, deep stomps announce the guests who clean the traces of the afternoon off their soles in front of the church door and shortly thereafter place their hiking backpacks next to the pew. It’s quiet here, even though the parking spaces right next door are full. But Germany’s highest parish church is not a tourist magnet, like the chapel on the Zugspitzplatt or the "Wendelsteinkirchl". The Feldberg church is almost hidden between the pass road and the chairlift. From the street or the hiking trails, mostly only the pointed concrete tower of the church is visible.
When the first hikers are already heading back down into the valley late on Sunday afternoon, Nadja Marder awaits her guests. From Pentecost until the end of October, an ecumenical evening prayer attracts tourists and Black Forest residents to the Feldberg church every Sunday.
Nadja Marder is one of nine Catholic and Protestant prayer leaders. "It’s a nice way to end the day, and I really enjoy doing it," says the 45-year-old, who had previously been involved in children’s and youth ministry in her parish. Around
120 worshippers come to the evening prayer, during which a choir from the region sings Taize songs. The ecumenical evening prayer is not an abbreviated Eucharistic celebration, but has its own fixed components. Besides prayer and music, going to the icon is part of the service.
Shortly before the end of the evening prayer, which lasts about half an hour, each believer can place a candle in front of the image of Christ as a sign of his or her intentions. "On beautiful summer days, up to 180 people come to evening prayer. In bad weather, sometimes only 50 – that varies a lot," reports Marder.
During evening prayer, she reads thought-provoking texts. Burning candles stand in front of the visitors. Quiet songs and moments of silence alternate. When the door opens and new visitors enter the church, vehicles can be heard on the nearby pass road. But there is no sign of the hustle and bustle in the parking lot for the hikers or the traffic jam on the main road to Freiburg every evening. If you let your eyes wander, you can see the wooded hills of the Black Forest through the large windows on the valley side. The road cannot be seen.
For Doris and Rudolf Huber, the evening prayer in the Feldberg church is relaxation: "For us, it’s really relaxing because we don’t have to work here," says Rudolf Huber, who, as sacristan, prepares the services of his home parish in nearby Wiesental together with his wife. In order to enjoy the atmosphere at the Feldberg, they left a little earlier. With a view of the Black Forest, they could also chat with other visitors to the evening prayer.
This time, a Protestant choir from the Black Forest village of Bonndorf has come and brought many guests with them: Irene Blick and Ingeborg Dietzenschmidt are here mainly because the evening prayer is an ecumenical offer. The two women are Catholic, their Protestant husbands sing in the choir of the small Protestant diaspora parish. "It is enriching when there is such good togetherness between the denominations," the women say in unison.
When autumn comes or the sun remains hidden behind the clouds, a bit of the prayer atmosphere of the Taize community develops in the Feldberg church. Even if the evening prayer does not want to copy the ideas of the founder Rogers Schutz and is therefore officially a prayer with songs from Taize, the comparison of the Feldberg with the small place in Burgundy fits at least partially.
Close proximity to ski lifts
Taize has 200 inhabitants and is located near Cluny, attracting thousands of young people every year to the tent city of the ecumenical brotherhood. The parish church of Christ’s Transfiguration on the Feldberg – the name to which the Feldberg church was consecrated in 1965 by the then Freiburg Archbishop Hermann Schaufele – has even fewer parishioners. Even then the church was built for the region and tourism. But it became the highest parish church because it was the only parish church for Feldberg-Ort, the smallest district of the political municipality of Feldberg in the immediate vicinity of ski lifts, hotels and a youth hostel. Although there are also chapels or churches at higher altitudes in the Alps. These do not form a parish of their own, but belong to the parish of one of the lower-lying villages.
Restructuring has also changed parishes in the Upper Black Forest. Since 2002, Feldberg-Ort and the larger district of Altglashutten have formed a single parish. It is again a part of the Seelsorgeeinheit ostlicher Hochschwarzwald with a total of 5.200 faithful. The Feldberg church has kept the title of parish church despite the merger, but some other changes have not been able to do so
Prevent: For two years there have been no more regular mass celebrations in the Feldberg church. The Eucharist is only celebrated here on high feasts or special occasions, otherwise there is only Taize evening prayer.
However, the church continues to be an attraction for the region and for tourism, says pastoral advisor Gunther Hirt, who is in charge of the Feldberg church for the pastoral care unit. "Above all, it should be a place of prayer and rest, and in this way it wants to be a help to people," Hirt said. The Feldberg church is open every day, even in winter, when there is not even a Sunday evening prayer.
In summer, the official parking spaces are sufficient for the hikers. The road only becomes a problem again in the evening, when the daytime tourists heading for the highway along the nearby Lake Titi are stuck in traffic jams. The visitors of the Sunday Taize prayer in the Feldberg church do not notice anything of it yet. Only when the choir has sung the last bars do they, too, make their way back home.