Mayence or Mainz is a beautiful city with a long history. It’s situated on the banks of the river Rhein. Its center was completely destroyed during WWII but today one can hardly believe this, seeing so many old buildings standing around. They were restored thanks to those “women of the ruins”, who, after having lost their sons and their husbands, gathered their courage along with the remains of the buildings in piles so that these buildings could be later rebuilt. At least the public ones and the churches.
The churches of Mayence are many and of all sorts. The city was in the past, and still is, I believe, a religious centre and an Archbishop’s see. The churches are in their greatest part Catholic but there are some Protestant ones as well and they all dazzle the visitor thanks to their architecture and their interiors.
The Mainzer Dom, the Cathedral of the city, is one of the most important ones in Germany, along with the one in Cologne and one in the city of Worms. The Cathedral wasn’t spared the bombing, either. But here it stands, an impressive landmark, with its particular rhythm and colour, this pinkish colour one sees in all the buildings of Mainz. The facades of the buildings which surround the Dom are decorated with painted flowers and other designs, similar to the ones you can see in another city on the Rhine, the swiss Basel. Here, at the Dom square of Mainz, there is an open-market once a week and you can’t help admiring its order and cleanliness. Flower sellers offer neatly arranged pots and bouquets, they don’t cry out “come and buy” nor tease the competitors as people do in other countries. Nobody is shouting here, all exchanges take place peacefully as it becomes a church exterior.
A book lover like me can’t help adoring Mainz, the birthplace of Gutenberg who invented movable type. Here you can visit a museum bearing his name; it’s dedicated to him and to the history of books. Here you can also visit the ruins of a church where he is supposed to have been christened, here there is an important University which is also named after him.
Thanks to the many students, Mainz is a very lively city, full of cafes, bars, people who go around giving a certain colour to the narrow or broader streets. As for me, I’m here today to explore those churches I haven’t yet seen.
I’ve visited the Cathedral often and my favourite church of St.Stephan’s with Chagall’s stained glass windows; once or twice I also saw St.Christopher’s where as I’ve already mentioned, Gutenberg was christened some centuries ago. This church was open in the past, now is protected by iron railings, and it seems it’s soon going to be restored.
One must have a bit of luck in order to visit all churches in Mainz in just one day; most of them are usually closed during work days. But it was obviously my lucky day.
First stop Christ’s church on the Rhine. One can see it from all spots, thanks to its cupola and its height. It’s a Protestant church which looks like St.Paul’s in London. However, my tourist leaflet informs me that it was built after St.Peter’s in Rome. The interior is very simple, as in Evangelic churches.
Now I leave it behind and go along the Rhine. It’s a beautiful day and I entertain the thought of embarking on the cruise ship called Heinrich Heine (after the poet). It’s full of elderly passengers and I could get off at the next stop. But I change my mind and follow my initial plan.
Now I enter the next church with its twin onion-shaped towers. It is dedicated to Saint Peter. The interior is all gilded, its rococo decorations are radiant. Under the pulpit four exotic sculpted figures with turbaned heads and wearing earrings, are the symbols of the human fish which the Great Fisherman Peter caught with his teachings.
Peter is one of my favourite personalities in the New Testament, along with John the Baptist. The former was so human, he betrayed Jesus three times out of fear. John is the contrary. He had no fear. He said what he had to say, he did what he wanted to do and didn’t draw back when he saw death approaching.
The next church is not included in the pamphlet as it was renovated rather recently, end of 2011. I stumble upon it by chance. It’s the chapel of St.Joseph’s. It shines freshly painted, it’s simple, looks more like a lecture room in a cultural center than like a church. Then it’s St.Quentin’s turn where a new organ purchased in England has recently arrived. Here again there’s an artistic reference to fish or to our souls which look like fish out of water when they are not near Jesus Christ.
Now I can take a coffee break in one of the many cafes of Mainz and think of the other churches I’ve seen in this city during previous visits.
St.Augustin’s is situated on one of the prettiest and more touristic streets where one can find many shops and restaurants. With its white interior and golden ornaments, it looks like many other german baroque churches. I’ve read that the bombs barely touched it. There is also St.Ignatius which I believe to have seen in the past but can’t remember it. The same goes for the Carmelites church. Still, the oldest church of the city, St.John’s, is closed. I think it was closed the last time I wanted to visit it.
All churches have a visitors’ book. There I wrote a few words. Health, Love, Peace, Gratitude. Gratitude is the most beautiful word with the most beautiful meaning.
-First published in 2013