Friday, March 02, 2007

Mystery in Munich

Last weekend, I dragged myself from my sick bed (I`d had `flu and still seem to have something wrong) and went on a long-planned break to Munich with Graham`s Tours. It had been planned in November when I had failed to realise that it was the first weekend of Lent. I discovered in January that we were also scheduled to have the parish visitation to be conducted by the bishop that weekend. (The only one of the twelve parishes in the deanery to have the bishop for visitation as opposed to the episcopal vicar or vicar general!) The bishop graciously changed his appointments and will be with us on March 10th. This was beginning to look like a trip that was not meant to happen. It was planned as an opera trip and the thought of Cavalli`s La Callisto on stage was too good to miss. The final obstacle was overcome on the morning of departure. I had set my mobile phone and alarm clock to wake me at 4.15 am but in the event neither went off and by a stroke of good fortune, or the prompting of my guardian angel, I woke mysteriously at 4.45am and just managed to get to Newcastle airport by 5.20am!


The music was very enjoyable and the food great. However the ecclesiastical side to the trip was also very interesting. On Saturday morning we visited the churches of the Holy Spirit and St Peter`s ( Munich`s oldest church) just off the Marienplatz. What was striking was that neither church appeared to have a forward facing altar. Mass had just finished in St Peter`s and the server could be seen removing a veiled chalice from the high altar. In both churches (and in the cathedral) the side altars were properly dressed but in St Peter`s all of them were also equipped with altar cards for the traditional Mass. Here is a picture of one of them.

What was going on? Had I gone through some vortex into a parallel world where the liturgical changes of the 1960`s had not happened? A visit to the Theatinerkirche soon brought reality crashing back as the high altar appeared to have been completely removed and replaced with this!
I had noticed that the Damenstift was host to a 1962 Mass on Sundays and so off we went. It is a small church but was full which meant a congregation of about 60. We had a Missa Cantata. A one man choir struggled manfully on. The only really odd thing about the Mass was that at the Gospel instead of forming up at the Gospel side, the priest and servers assembled at the lectern, on the epistle side, where the priest read the Gospel in German. Instead of a sermon we had a pastoral letter which went on for about fifteen minutes!


Museums occupied other parts of the trip and worthy of note was the basement of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum much of which was completely given over to crib sets. Some of these were absolutely amazing. One that sticks in the memory was an Epiphany scene where the Wise Men had brought with them, amongst other things, a forty-piece military band! The figures were about a foot tall. Some of these sets had been made in Naples and most were eighteenth or nineteenth century but were more focused on the Nativity than the possibly even more remarkable cribs to be found in Italian churches which can feature volcanoes, ports and other improbabilities.


So back to the parish and Lent.

7 comments:

Hebdomadary said...

How very interesting, Father. Duly noted. Perhaps the Holy Father is seeing to it that a de-facto motu proprio is implemented in his homeland even before it is published. Germany will lead the way into the era of the new even-handedness...whether their clergy like it or not! Well, I LIKE IT! Find out more if you can.

Hebdomadary said...

By the way, those baroque altar cards are FANTASTIC!

Alnwickian said...

It sounds as if Graham's Tours did you proud, Father, - opera, churches with altar cards, Christmas cribs and good food. They sound a bit like Martin Randall or Travel for the Arts - or maybe even better!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Hebdomadary, I doubt I`ll be able to find out anything more. Although my site meter tells me I have readers in China and other exotic places I`ve never had a hit from Germany so I don`t think we`ll find out what is going on.

Thomas Pink said...

The Peterskirche has to my knowledge always celebrated ad orientem, from 1976 when I first attended mass there to my last visit in 2002. From memory that church was never alone in this in central Munich. Clearly Cardinal Doepfner (the fairly liturgically progressive in his day VII Archbishop, died around 76) and his successors, so not Ratzinger alone, were none of them versus populum fascists. Which makes a welcome change from some other places.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Thomas, thanks for the clarification. Very interesting. Have the side altars always had altar cards on them too?

thomas pink said...

I cannot remember about altar cards, but they were probably there. The Peterskirche has always seemed liturgically quite conservative. It is worth mentioning that some central Munich churches have very compact and finely designed and oriented Baroque sanctuaries. Moving the altar out or adding a post-conciliar versus populum altar would be immensely destructive to the interior. Not that that ever stopped this being done elsewhere.