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Divi-Blasii-Kirche
Unstrut-Hainich-Kreis
Thüringen  Germany

Cemetery notes and/or description:
Also called The Church of Blaise the Divine.

Started as a Romanesque basilica in the l3th century, the church was completed around 1350 as a three-aisled Gothic hall church. Travertine stone, quarried in the immediate vicinity, was used as building material. The construction is believed to have taken about 100 years, with the various construction periods still clearly discernible.

The church was built by the Teutonic Order of Knights, led by Bishop Kristan of Samland, who originally came from Mühlhausen. You will find his tombstone on the south wall of the chancel. He was buried here in 1295. On the walls, you can see two further gravestones, namely, that of Bishop Theodor von Ammern, who died in 1353, and that of Hieronymus Tilesius, the first superintendent of the Evangelical Church, who died of plague in 1566.

The church was consecrated to Saint Blaise. In the Catholic Church, he is one of the 14 auxiliary saints and is regarded, for instance, as the patron saint of weavers. After the Reformation, which was fully imposed on Mühlhausen in 1557, the word "Saint" was replaced by "Divius" (the Divine), so that the church has been called Divi Blasii (Blaise the Divine) ever since.

In terms of art history, the stained glass choir windows dating from the middle of the l4th century are of particular interest. Elaborately restored and provided with protective glazing in the last few years, they produce a glow that is especially striking in the morning sun.

The 14-petal rose window in the north transept, measuring 6.2 m in diameter, was modelled on the rose window in the west pediment of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The pulpit, dating from around 1500 and fashioned of travertine, originally stood next to a column on the north aisle, which still bears the crowned head. In 1959 the pulpit was moved across to a pillar on the south aisle.

The font, which is believed to date from around 1600, is adorned with Late Gothic raguly. It rests on a foot shaped like the capital of an Ionic column.

A mediaeval altar, dedicated to Our Lady, dominates the chancel. It was presumably crafted as a winged altarpiece in an Erfurt workshop in the late 15th century. In its centre, you can see the Virgin Mary portrayed as the Queen of Heaven, framed by four panels. The two lower panels depict scenes from the life of Mary, mother of Christ. The two upper panels show Mary Magdalene, with the right-hand panel picturing her assumption.

From the chancel, you can look down into the nave. Two rows of columns divide the central aisle from the two side aisles, which have the same height as the main aisle. The outer walls of the transept project only slightly out from the side walls of the nave. The Luther statue located in the south transept was originally created for St. Mary's Church (Marienkirche) around 1900 by Friedrich Pfannschmidt, a local sculptor.

Johann Sebastian Bach, who was organist at Blaise the Divine Church from 1707 to 1708, drew up a design for the organ, which was approved by the Municipal Council at the time and which has kept its importance to this day. When a new organ had to be built in 1957, Schuke, an organ-building company from Potsdam, heeded the advice given by Albert Schweitzer - physician, theologian, and expert on Bach and organs - to follow Bach's design.

The two steeples house the largest dated mediaeval set of bells in Germany. Cast in 1281, the centre bell in the southern tower is the oldest of the bells. While the large bell in the northern tower was made in 1345, the small one was cast in 1448.

The north tower was built in late Romanesque style and comprises three storeys. The south tower, however, dates from Late Gothic times and features only two storeys. Broach spires rise from octagonal prisms. The central columns of the south tower are set into lancet windows decorated with tracery.

The window on the north side of the lower westwork deserves particular attention because of its staggered jamb and an unusual combination of columns. The west porch carries a Late Romanesque tympanum depicting a crucifixion scene. The two buttresses in front of the tower hide Romanesque windows. These buttresses date back to the time when the church was erected, i.e. around 1310. People must have feared then that the nave and side aisles would exert a dangerous degree of pressure on the towers. Today we know that, although the towers were built on an unstable travertine base, this base has remained firm.

Author: John Hill
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