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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Spitz Castle Church Spiez, Switzerland

Spiez, population 12,810, is a town and municipality on the shore of Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss canton of Bern.

Spiez Castle Church - Schlosskirche Spiez

The former Church of St. Laurentius, next to the castle, was first mentioned in 761-62, when the patronage rights over the church were given to Ettenheim Monastery in Breisgau. The church was one of the twelve Lake Thun churches in the Strättliger Chronicle. The current early Romanesque building was built during the 7th or 8th century, while the crypt dates from about 1000. Outside the church, a number of graves from the 7th and 8th centuries have also been discovered. It was the parish church for a parish that included Spiez, Spiezwiler, Einigen, Faulensee and Hondrich. When Bern adopted the new faith of the Protestant Reformation in 1528, the church became the center of the new Reformed parish.

Spiez Castle is a small romantic castle with lovely gardens, a fine Romanesque church, and spectacular views of Lake Thun and Alpine peaks of the Berner (Bernese) Oberland region of Switzerland. The castle has a history going back to at least the twelfth century.

Front of the castle

Back of the castle

Looking down at the castle and the church from one of the many hillside vineyards.

Spiez Castle Church

View of the castle and the church

The picture was taken at the church looking up toward the castle.

The early Romanesque basilica with its elevated chancel was built around 1050 AD and is one of Lake Thun’s “1000-year-old churches”. Of particular significance are the frescos from around 1200 AD, with Byzantine-like imagery.

The present church was built after the 1st millennium on the foundations of an earlier 8th century church. The old bell tower was incorporated in the new church. The early Romanesque architecture displays characteristics of the Lombardian (Northern Italian) style, similar to the church of Amsoldingen. In the 17th century, the church was remodeled according to baroque tastes: the difference in floor level between the chancel and the nave was eliminated, while the windows were enlarged. In 1949/50 these changes were reversed and the building was restored to its original Romanesque form.

Steps lead up from the flat-ceilinged, pillared, three-aisled-basilica, to the elevated chancel raised by some two meters; the crypt lies below.

Frescoes from the 12th century are preserved in the choir and central apse, partially obscured by subsequent imagery. In the barrel vault, the enthroned Christ is borne by four angels; below, to the either side, the Twelve Apostles; in the apse, the Throne of Mercy. A giant Saint Christopher from around 1300 AD can be discerned in the nave over the pulpit. As the patron saint of voyagers, he can be found in many churches in the Bernese Oberland.

The late-Gothic pulpit dating from the early 16th century consists of a stucco-covered wood.

The Erlach family had the seat made shortly after their purchase of the castle at the beginning of the 16th century.

There are various memorial slabs and sepulchres in the church. The plaque of Jeanne de la Sarraz, the second wife of Adrian von Bubenberg, is in the northern side-chapel. On the floor in the south west, the plaque of the Spiez clergyman Adrian von Rümlingen. On the wall in the southern aisle, the memorials to Franz Ludwig von Erlach, his second wife Johanna von Graffenried and their daughter Julia Margerita. In the northern side-chapel, the sepulchre of Sigismund von Erlach (1614–1699), Bernese mayor and general, is particularly impressive.

"The Spiez Castle Foundation has cared for the castle, garden and Romanesque church since 1927. It has opened the facility to the public and brought it to life through a newly created permanent exhibition of the castle inhabitants set in their historic context and facilitated by interactive media. Additionally, Spiez Castle has established a reputation for first-rate art exhibitions, including Rembrandt and Picasso.

The church does not belong to any denomination and it can be rented for one hour weddings, including verger, castle organ (without organ player), extra lounge, church decoration, preparation & cleaning, and a hand-rung wedding bell. The church availability is from Good Friday to mid-October."

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