What Village Is That?

Today is Palm Sunday. Seems like a good time for some church pictures.

“What village is that” is a fairly common question my wife of I will ask as we walk though our area of Germany. So many little places in the distance, and in four years there are still a few we haven’t explored. Such as Wettelbrunn.

I vaguely remember the town is one of the local transit routes, but I have never bothered to get off the bus and explore. You reach the point where are small German towns look alike.

Which is true, and also not true. Each has something unique, though a casual visitor may not discover it. And we were very casual visitors.

My wife needed to stretch her legs after a train trip. I’d picked her up at the station, and we decided to walk for an hour before heading home. We parked by the Roman ruins in Heitersheim and headed into the vineyards. We could see a village a short distance away.

Actually, we could see several. There was Staufen, Ballrechten, Dottingen, Grunern and Sulzburg, depending on which direction you turned. And the one we hadn’t been to, Wettelbrun.

We didn’t explore Wettelbrun. I will admit, I was in a hurry to get home and have dinner. But we did leave the fields and looked at the church near the vineyards. I like to visit churches, Like German villages, they look similar but no two are identical.

St. Vitus is, in my mind, one of the newer churches in the area – constructed in 1216. or thereabouts. That makes it about 250 years newer than St. Cyriak in Sulzburg. Canada has a few churches that are more than a couple of centuries old, but 1216 was more than 800 years ago.

Not being overly literate when it comes to the roster of Roman Catholic saints, I had to look up St. Vitus. Turns out he dies in the early fourth century, and is the patron saint of actors and comedians. not to mention dogs and oversleeping. (There’s a patron saint for oversleeping – who knew?)

St. Vitus doesn’t strike me as an 800-year-old church, but that may be because of renovations after and 18th century fire. Then again, I’m not sure what an 800-year-old church is supposed to look like.

This is the sort of place you don’t discover when you embark on a European tour. It is a simple church, not a grand cathedral. I suspect Wettelbrunn can go years, maybe decades without seeing foreign tourists.

Yet there is a beauty in the simplicity. It is a reminder that generations of Christians have worshipped here, living simply with a simple faith. Christianity may no longer dominate Europe as it once did, but it hasn’t faded away yet.

Part of me thinks that as the 21st century progresses, churches like St. Vitus will dwindle and close. But closing churches does not mean a decline of faith.

The expression of Christianity may be moving away from formal liturgies and centuries-old buildings. The Church has evolved for two millennia. It thrives best when it knows and acknowledges its history, but is not bound by it.

While the old buildings are still around to be enjoyed, I will delight in exploring them. But their passage will only be a phase, not an ending.

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