The Dom of Bautzen

October 31, 2011

In the city of Bautzen in the Saxony region of Germany stands St. Peter’s Cathedral.  It was built between 1456 and 1463, and had major restorations in 1634 after much of the town was destroyed by fire.

Exterior of St. Peter's Church in Bautzen

What I find most intriguing about this church is that it is shared by Catholics and Protestants.  Since 1530, the church has been home to two different congregations.  The church is divided into two halves, each of which has its own alter, pulpit, organ, and pews.  The two organs are sonically matched to one another, allowing them to be played together.  The separate hours of services are set by a contract made between the two groups in the year 1583 and which is still in effect today.

gan in St. Peter's Church -- Protestant Portion

Organ in St. Peter's Church (Protestant Portion)

St. Peter’s is the oldest Catholic-Lutheran shared church in Germany.  Shared churches are known as “Simultaneum”, where public worship is conducted by adherents of two or more religious groups.  They became common in some parts of Europe in the wake of the Protestant Reformation.  In Bautzen, an Evangelical Lutheran started preaching in the church in 1523, which eventually lead to the sharing of the church by two different congregations.

This arrangement hasn’t been without some tension.  There is a railing about 1 meter high between the two halves of the church.  This railing is a diminutive replacement of its predecessor which was about 4 meters high (12 feet) and which was considered necessary in tenser times.  The Catholics were expelled from the church for a short time in the Bohemian Uprising on 1620.

I find it inspiring that in this town in the former East Germany, two different religious groups have been worshiping collaboratively in very close proximity for almost 500 years, while the same groups have clashed violently elsewhere (e.g. Northern Ireland).  Apparently religious tolerance is possible and sustainable.  I think they set a moving example for others to follow.

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Storm in Tuscany

October 26, 2011

We arrived in the city of La Spezia last evening.  It’s on the west coast of Italy, a couple of hours north of Pisa in the region of Tuscany.  Last night, this area was hit by a huge storm.  Nine people are confirmed dead and six more are missing.  Several villages were hit by mud slides or flooding.  We are safe and we are grateful.

Yesterday afternoon, we traveled north up the coast from the city of Lucca.  It was raining hard but the driving was manageable.  We followed the coast road and a strong surf was visible on the beaches.  At one point we crossed a bridge and could see the swollen river below.  It was brown with runoff and filled with debris.  People were frantically trying to save their boats moored on the sides of the river.  We were passed by several emergency vehicles heading to the scene.

We arrived in La Spezia in heavy rain.  We found a camping place near the port and hunkered down for the evening.  The rain came in torrents.  At one point, the water was cascading over the sides of the S&M Motel like a waterfall.  The thunder clapped and the storm raged.  It rained hard all night.  Both we and the S&M Motel survived undamaged.

Not so fortunate were the citizens of many nearby communities.   We came here to hike the famous Cinque Terre (‘Five Lands’), a 12 kilometer trail along the Ligurian Coast (‘Costa Ligure of Levante’), a rough stretch of Italian coastline that passes through five villages that are so unique and picturesque as to be deemed a Unesco World Heritage Site and to be protected by a national park.

Last night’s storm devastated this region, and in particular two of the villages along the Cinque Terre — Vernazza and Monterosso.   More information and video are available here.

The trail is closed for the foreseeable future as rescue efforts continue.  Most of the roads out of La Spezia are blocked, as are the train tracks, so we’ll probably wait here for another day or two then move on.

I sit in a bar watching the news with the local people, drinking wine, and writing.  Every day above the ground is a good day.