Wormser Dom's sanctuary interiors
What gift do you give a cathedral for it's 1000th birthday?
The cathedral St. Peter of Worms, an important place in the German history (the songs of the Nibelungs, Martin Luther's "Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum", etc) celebrated it`s anniversary in 2019. It is a truely beautiful cathedral, much loved by the former emperors and by visitors from all over the world until today. In the Baroque period, the altar was designed and built by the famous Baroque architect Balthasar Neumann. But after the Second Vatican Council, announced by Pope John XXIII in 1959, the altar lost it`s original function to celebrate the Eucharist. Since that year a temporary wooden altar was established under the central dome that allowed the priest to face the people. But the baroque design of Balthasar Neumann was just so immensely beautiful that one priest after another didn't dare to make a decision for a permanent solution. In 2018 a competition was held with sculptors and architects participating. Together with the artist Martin Rauch I handed in the design for an altar as well as the design of the process how to build it.
For me it was - after building in Asia - the first project in Germany, my country of origin. I believe in a global strategy of sustainability. Building in Germany is not a question of material scarcity like in my other projects. But we are one humankind on one planet and in our human essence I believe we are the same whatever cultural context might have had it's imprint on us. We all need meaning in our lives, we need to be loved, be needed.
Surrounded by all the gold, stones, precious wood under the central dome of the cathedral it was clear that the new altar shouldn`t attract with sophisticated design and materials. In our materialistic society we do not miss materials or attraction. What we miss is a meaning and relationships. So we proposed an altar made of the most humble material - earth - to be built by the community. We won the competition. From young to old, weak to strong everyone was invited to build the new altar for the coming generations.
The process was both physically exhausting and emotionally liberating. It felt truly great. Looking back it was just the right approach. In the past communities came together, joined their efforts over long periods to build a cathedral, or a mosque, or a school, or a market place. That strengthened the sense of community and belonging, the feeling of being a needed and a respected part of the society. That is what I experience on every place I built: happiness is to have an aim that goes beyond your personal bliss, to reach it with some effort and your own means and to share this experience with others.
Construction: August 2018
Client: Dompfarrei St. Peter und St. Martin
Location: St Peter's Cathedral, Worms, Germany
Concept and design: Studio Anna Heringer / Lehm Ton Erde - Martin Rauch
Materials/techniques: rammed earth (Altar and Ambo), timber covered with "Lehm-Kasein Spachtel" (Sedilia)