Located 55 km southwest of Cologne and 43km away from Bonn, the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel is a remarkable work of religious architecture set at the edge of a field near Mechernich. Last fall, we had the chance to stop by during a short one-week road trip around Western Germany.
For this occasion, we didn’t want to spend too much time travelling around and covering great distances, as we usually end up doing when we go on a road trip. Instead, we decided to find a nice spot, anywhere near a nature area where we could hike and cycle, and spend a few days there.
While doing research online, I found that we would be driving close to the Bruder Klaus Kapelle, a small chapel commissioned by local farmers to the award-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Since it somehow reminded me about the Doorkijkkerk in Belgium, I insisted to make the detour to have a look. And I’m glad we did!
The Story Behind the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel
About 20 years ago, Hermann-Josef Scheidtweiler and his wife Trudel, the farming couple who commissioned the work, wanted to build a chapel on their land. They wanted to dedicate the site to Bruder Klaus, a 15th-century hermit and holy man who is the patron saint of Switzerland and of Germany’s Catholic Rural Communities Movement. He also happened to be a favourite of Peter Zumthor’s mother; a happy coincidence that likely influenced his decision to accept the project.
Building the Chapel
To build the Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle, a team of local farmers got 112 tree trunks from a nearby forest. Those trunks were set together in a curved conical shape and then several layers of concrete, containing a mix of local elements, were poured all around them, leaving only their tops uncovered. The trunks were then all set on fire and they burned slowly for about three weeks, leaving behind empty spaces and a charred interior. This also gave shape to the oculus above, which opens to the sky letting light and rain come into the chapel.
Another peculiar element of the Bruder Klaus Chapel is its only door. Shaped as a triangle, the heavy metallic door features a very peculiar lock. Also outside, you can see many small holes in the walls, which are encrusted with glass balls on the inside; adding a special touch to the atmosphere of the place.
The ambience inside the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel is dark and mystical, a space that is thought-provoking and invites to introspection. The only elements you’ll find here are a bench, some candles, a sculpture of Bruder Klaus, and not much else.
Just as other Peter Zumthor buildings, the chapel is in perfect harmony with its surroundings and is pleasing to the senses. All this makes this intriguing chapel a very remarkable piece of religious architecture; which is really worth the detour if you find yourself travelling in the area.
For us, the Bruder Klaus chapel was a nice highlight of our road trip. It is a construction full of symbolism and was created with great attention to details. This is definitely a must for architecture fans.
Know Before You Go
- Entrance to the chapel is free.
- You can park your car, for free, in Wachendorf. From there, it is a 20-minute walk to get to the chapel.
- As this is a religious place, be mindful of other visitors.
- During summer, the chapel is open from 10 am to 5 pm (During winter, from 10 am to 4 pm).
- The chapel is closed on Mondays, except on Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Christmas.
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Have you visited the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel? How did you like it? Do you have any recommendations for things to see or do in the area? Leave a comment and let us know!