Station: [10] Nuns' Choir and Organ Loft

White walls, geometric shapes, clarity: for the Cistercians, a plain church interior is part of the agenda.

Nevertheless, the design of Heiligengrabe’s collegiate church wasn’t always as neat and functional as this. For example, have you noticed the horizontal projections running along the two long walls, about halfway up? As recently as the early 18th century, they supported a huge gallery, which must have affected the overall look of the nave.

That mezzanine floor was known as the "nuns' choir" and could only be entered via the abbey. Access was by a door high up in the wall, which is now boarded up. The canonesses followed the service from this gallery, invisible to the congregation at ground level.

The organ at the rear is from the workshop of David Baumann, and the composer Johann Sebastian Bach is said to have personally checked its sound! It was built in 1725, in the wake of a disaster that had struck the abbey some years earlier. A fire in 1719 destroyed large parts of the complex along with almost the entire medieval furnishings of the church. 

The windows on the long wall of the nave were donated in the 19th century by some of the canonesses. And the three colourful windows in the choir were created in 1960 from designs by the Berlin artist Inge Pape. 

The present winged altarpiece is on loan from St. Mary’s Church in Berlin. It originally came from the Franciscan abbey in Berlin, which was destroyed in the Second World War. The central shrine shows Mary surrounded by an aureole. She is the supreme patroness of the Cistercian order. 

Don't forget to look up at the vaulted ceiling. It includes mid-15th century painted decorations that were only uncovered a few years ago!

Depiction 1 © Hagen Immel
Depiction 2 © Hagen Immel
Depiction 3 © Dietmar Rabich
Depiction 4 © Hagen Immel