St Michael, aka, The Jesuits Come to Germany.
St Michael was one of the first Baroque churches built north of the Alps. Wilhelm V of Bavaria (a Wittelsbach, of course, and a Counter-Reformation Catholic monarch) had it built, starting in 1583. The Wittelsbachs were very active in the project of “confessionalization,” the name modern scholars give to the process where, after the Reformation and the formation of separate Protestant churches, Europe’s rulers tried to consolidate and entrench Christian practice in general — and Catholicism (or Lutheranism or Calvinism) in particular — in their own territory. The Jesuits were invited to Munich to start and run universities and educate the elite young men of 16th century Bavaria. The Jesuits were at that time the rising standard for a world-class international education.
The facade is under renovation, but apparently this is what it looks like. And here’s the side:
Generally speaking, Gothic churches use rib vaulting and Renaissance and Baroque churches go back to the use of the barrel vault. A barrel vault is just a semicircular arch, as above — and this vault has the widest span after St Peter’s in Rome. It spans more than 65 feet. Also notice how the vault is decorated. The stucco work here is very contained and regular, very geometric, with a few sculpted flowers and angels set neatly in their places. And there’s no color, which I think works beautifully with the lighting.
The high altar. I love the combination of green and gold on the columns. The quire (/choir/part of the chancel before the altar) collapsed soon after it was built, and was rebuilt in 1597 by Friedrich Sustris, who also added the transept and facade.
Here’s the south transept, with a bronze? wooden? crucifix. Look how shallow this transept is. It pokes out just enough to stick a side altar there…
And here are the side chapels along the other side of the nave. The angel statues in between the arcading are holding the Arma Christi or “instruments of the Passion” – a cross, hammers, nails, spears, etc., and other objects connected with the crucifixion. It’s a common iconographical motif with a long history. (This was taken a few days later, with incense still hanging in the church.)
Here is the pulpit (entrance from the back) — like most Baroque pulpits it is greatly emphasized in color, shape, and general excessive ornament, in part because of the extra emphasis on preaching and teaching that came with the Catholic Reformation. It is as decorated as the tabernacle, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept.
In the north transept, there’s a memorial to Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson, who commanded the Army of Italy in the Napoleonic Wars and retired to Munich after Napoleon’s fall in 1814. I never learned about the Napoleonic Wars in school (!) but a few weeks ago I learned that Bavaria (and most other German principalities) joined Napoleon’s French Empire as the Rhine Confederation, after Napoleon ordered that the Holy Roman Empire be dissolved. Bavaria was made a kingdom for its trouble, with its own constitution and parliament. Eventually, after the Russian campaign, when 30,000 Bavarians died, the Germans turned on Napoleon and he retreated back to France, where Wellington mopped him up in 1814.
But basically, I don’t know why this memorial is here. Maybe I’ll find out when I can read German, or when I get my public library card, hopefully soon…
And here’s the other side altar, depicting Mary enthroned with Christ, a variation of the iconographic motif “Mary Seat of Wisdom.” (Get it, her lap is the seat, Jesus is the wisdom… it’s kind of on the nose.)
And slightly closer to the chancel is another side altar, featuring that instantly recognizable pose of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. In this painting, he rests one hand on the Bible, and the other holds up a monstrance-like object with the letters IHS in the middle. “IHS,” which is short for “Jesus Christ,” was an old Christian symbol that became the official monogram of the Jesuits, and is usually associated with them nowadays. St Ignatius is gazing up at the Trinity. The inscription on top of the altar, below the wings, says OMNIA AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM (“All to the greater glory of God”) — the motto of the Jesuits. You also often see it written AMDG.
The fruits of a Jesuit education…
Above, an angel holds the “INRI” sign (and look how they have it in Hebrew, too — Jesuits showing off their new humanistic learning) and a bishop stands with book and crozier. Wish I could see who it is. Also — look at the use of the scallop shell at the top of the niche, so classical. (In medieval art it became a symbol of pilgrimage.)
Let’s look some more at the ceiling. I just love it.
Here’s one of the last angels with the Arma Christi (actually, the Holy Face), and then we transition to saints (the Apostles? I haven’t looked closely) as it transitions into the chancel and the sanctuary.
Here is front is St Paul – with his iconographic attributes, the book and the sword.
The west end of the nave, with the organ above. And what is that greyish thing the people are standing in front of, in the very back?
Oh it’s THIS. This must be artwork of some kind! I have no idea what it is!
Toward the back they also have a side chapel for a very Our Lady of Guadalupe-looking Mary…
And one for the relics of Cosmos and Damien!
This picture shows the back of the nave after 1945.
I like the picture on the bottom right, which shows a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the bishop on August 15, 1948. The church was full though, as you can see, the congregation had to carry umbrellas because it was raining and the ceiling was still missing.
St Michael also has a crypt with King Ludwig II buried in it… but when I went to go down there, I didn’t have enough coins to pay for it. So I’ll go back another time.
Aaaand that’s all!