St. John’s Church (Weinsberg)

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The Johanneskirche from the south, on the left below in front of the church the building of the ev. deanery

The Lutheran Church of St. John in Weinsberg, a Romanesque basilica built in the early 13th century, is the church of the Lutheran parish of Weinsberg.[1] Until the Reformation, St. John’s Church not only served as Weinsberg’s parish church, but was also the main church of the Weinsberg County Chapter of the Diocese of Würzburg, first mentioned in 1291. Since the introduction of the Reformation, it has been the main church of the Protestant church district Weinsberg of the Württembergische Landeskirche (with an interruption from 1586 to 1710, when there was no church district Weinsberg), and since January 1, 2020, it has been the main church of the church district Weinsberg-Neuenstadtnewly formed from the two former church districts Weinsberg and Neuenstadtam Kocher[2] (with the two parts Weinsberg and Neuenstadt). The Johanneskirche is a cultural monument of special importance.[b 1]

Location and surroundings

Site plan (1834, only slightly changed until today)

St. John’s Church is located at Ökolampadiusplatz 1 in the northwest corner of Weinsberg’s old town, higher than the other buildings in the old town with the exception of Weinsberg Castle, which in turn rises above the church to the northwest. The churchyard surrounding the church (today’s Ökolampadiusplatz), which borders directly on the town wall to the west and north, was used as a cemetery for a long time, from 1617 only for family graves. In 1807 the cemetery was finally abandoned. A monument erected on the square in 1869 to Johannes Oekolampadius, the reformer of Basel who was born in Weinsberg and had preached at the church, was removed again in 1967 because of weathering and replaced by an inscription on the enclosing wall of the square. In the immediate vicinity of the church, at Oekolampadiusplatz 2, is the former Weinsberg Girls’ School, built in 1807. The Kirchstaffel, a wide staircase, connects the Oekolampadiusplatz at its south-western corner with the Weinsberg market square below and to the south. At the Kirchstaffel, directly below the Oekolampadiusplatz, stands the deanery building of the Weinsberg church district. Other preserved buildings on the Kirchstaffel served over the centuries as parsonage, town hall, diaconate, Latin school and sacristy.


Floor plan

The nave seen from the east

No archival records of the construction of the church have been preserved, which is why all dating must be based on excavations, inscriptions and considerations of art history. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was probably built without a predecessor by order of the Lords of Weinsberg, a Staufian ministerial dynasty, which then also had the right of patronage. The rectangular Romanesque nave with a main aisle and two side aisles was built around 1200/1210. The main entrance was in the west, towards the east the building was closed off by a wall until the choir tower – square at the bottom and octagonal at the top – was added, probably around 1230/1240. The Gothic east choir was added as the last construction phase around 1350. Later, another two-bay room was added to the south of this, which is used today as a sacristy. According to unproven assumptions, this room originally served as a meeting room for the priests of the Weinsberg district chapter of Würzburg.

The Weinsberg town wall, built at the same time as the church, originally included the castle to the northwest. The richly decorated west portal of the church facing the castle was its main portal. Presumably in 1332, in the course of a dispute with the lords of the castle, the citizens of Weinsberg enclosed the town with a new town wall in the west opposite the castle, as documents from 1375 state.[3] The church, originally located between the castle and the settlement, was now situated in the most northwestern corner of the town, separated from the castle by the town wall. An entrance to the south of the church (today the westernmost of the three southern doors) developed into the main entrance.

After the town became Electoral Palatinate in 1440 and the castle in 1450, the right of patronage passed to the Palatine Electors, and from 1504 to the Dukes of Württemberg. During the conquest of Weinsberg in 1504 by Duke Ulrich, the church was damaged and the ceiling of the east choir collapsed. The damage was repaired by 1510. From 1510 to 1518 Johannes Oekolampadius, the later reformer of Basel, held a preacher’s post at Weinsberg’s Johanneskirche in his native town. In Weinsberg, however, he caused offence with his reform-oriented sermons and therefore left the town. A short time later, during the destruction of the town in the Peasants’ War on 21 May 1525, the church burned down and was subsequently rebuilt. The tower, which was still the refuge of some nobles during the Weinsberg Blood Easter on April 16, 1525 (Easter Sunday), lost one storey during the reconstruction. The church survived the later destruction of the town by fires in 1707 and 1945 unscathed.


During a church renovation from 1817 to 1820, the out-of-plumb west gable of the nave roof, originally designed as a gable roof, was removed and the roof was redesigned as a hip roof. The eagle that originally crowned the gable has since stood at the foot of the city wall directly opposite the west portal of the church.


The Romanesque rectangular nave, originally without a choir, with the side aisles has always been decorated on the outside with arched friezes, grimaces and ornaments, but is almost unadorned on the inside. The side aisles are connected to the nave by arcades. They are formed by pillars (rectangular) and columns (round). This change of pillars is rarely found in southern Germany. Four column capitals are richly decorated with tendril and leaf ornaments, but pier capitals are more geometrical. The nave opens in the east at the triumphal arch into a raised square chancel (with Romanesque altar), which is accompanied to the south and north by two apses. The exterior of the choir tower is carefully articulated by storeys and decorated with Romanesque capitals and diamond bars. Further east follows the Gothic choir separated from the nave by the tower choir.

This basically classical architectural form of a basilica “oriented” from west to east underwent a remarkable change for almost 350 years at the beginning of the 17th century, which is no longer perceptible today. It proceeded from the Reformation priority of the sermon over the altar service (the Lord’s Supper): The congregation no longer oriented itself toward the altar and the liturgical center there for the celebration of the Eucharist, but turned toward the long side of the nave toward the pulpit there, conveniently mounted on the central south pier, as the place for the proclamation of the Gospel. Accordingly, the parterre stalls and the galleries (one in the west, two in the northern aisle and an organ gallery in front of the triumphal arch) were aligned transversely to the longitudinal direction of the room towards the pulpit:[4] a transverse church. This genuinely Protestant form of church construction existed and still exists above all in Württemberg. The liturgy also corresponded to this until the beginning of the 20th century: except for the rare communion celebrations on the high feast days of the year, the pastor remained in the pulpit from the opening greeting to the closing benediction – the Word of God in the middle of the congregation.[5] It was not until 1947 that the west-east orientation, which corresponded to the Romanesque architecture, was taken up again by rebuilding the interior.


Stained glass

Note: Evidence for stained glass, as with other works of art, is primarily found on the art object, and in the case of several works by the same artist per church and year, usually only in one of the windows. Written records are not always available and are secondary. The stained glass windows in St. John’s Church all date from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Windows 1920

  • In the south wall and in the north chamber, three windows with leaded glass were installed in 1920 as a donation from the Betz family: Adoration of the Magi, Resurrection of Christ, and a Head of Christ. Their motifs appear to have been executed after oil paintings and woodcuts by the early Renaissance painter Albrecht Altdorfer, but with historicizing attributes, lettering and fictitious dating 1522. The Christmas motif of these so-called cabinet windows has an exact duplicate in the Lutheran Leonhardskirche in Gellmersbach and has been listed there until now as a presumed remnant of the church of the Heilbronn St. Klara monastery, which was demolished in 1889.[6]
  • The small tracery pane with the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit was also created in 1920. It is signed M. Auer, an unknown glass painter. Since the glass and the color pigments of this and the previous windows correspond to each other, a common authorship cannot be ruled out.

Window by Walter Kohler 1937/38

The theologian and humanist Johannes Oekolampad, who was born in Weinsberg, had introduced the Reformation in Basel in 1529. A few years after the 400th anniversary of the Reformation, the local Protestant Reformed congregation donated the south window with scenes from the Passion of Jesus and a dedication with the coat of arms of the city of Basel to his native city. The double-track window with rosette was not created in 1929, but in 1937/38 by the artist Walter Kohl[7] by the artist Walter Kohler. From 1933 onwards, the artist changed his originally strongly expressionist conception of art for reasons of contemporary history into a subtle application of classical Christian iconography, which is to be understood here with the emphasis on the first commandment and the world dominion of the Suffering and Crucified One and with the inscription as a confession in difficult times.

Windows by Adolf Valentin Saile 1956-1979

Adolf Valentin Saile, an academically trained glass artist and master glass painter, created several windows for St. John’s Church in his Stuttgart firm:[8]

  • 1956 The small organ windows above next to the organ with the musical motifs David with harp and trombones of Jericho
  • 1973 The Pentecost window next to the main entrance (“But they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayer”(Acts 2:42LUT))
  • 1979 The north wall window of the Great Invitation(Lk 14:16-24LUT)

Window by Peter Jakob Schober 1978

In 1978 the artist Peter Jakob Schober from Billensbach created the vine window (Christ speaks: “I am the vine, you are the branches”(Joh 15LUT)) and the round window above the small entrance door: “Adam and Eve under the tree of knowledge”.

Windows by Johannes Schreiter 2002-2011

The internationally renowned glass artist Johannes Schreiter could also be won for the design of all windows in the Gothic east choir after his Weinsberg glass painting realization in 2002.[9]

  • 2002 The Resurrection Window and
  • 2011 the Weinsberg cycle on Psalm 23 is not a factual illustration or interpretation of a biblical text. “With their interplay of forms, colors, and dynamic lines, the large-scale windows show the danger and transience of our earthly existence. At the same time, they invite the viewer to reflect on his or her own life in the beneficent light of God’s presence.”[10]


  • From the three phases of the church’s construction, there are remarkable sculptural designs on vaults (beginners or “services”, ribs, ring or keystones, capitals), on the fourfold staggered choir arch and above it on the blind arches of the dwarf gallery.
  • A late Romanesque crucifix from the 13th century, probably formerly hanging in the triumphal arch of the nave, corresponds in the east choir with the 800 year older central window.
  • The crucifix in the tower choir from 1685 rises at the altar.
  • Several gravestones, formerly probably outside, were placed inside on side walls as protection against weathering
  • The figurine shrine on the theme of diaconia was created by the object artist Jürgen Brodwolf in 1988. It was donated by the city of Weinsberg in 1992 at the end of the renovation work.
  • The torso of Christ made of sandstone was donated to his home church by the Weinsberg sculptor Karl-Heinrich Lumpp in 1997.

The Weinsberg devotional picture 1680/90

In the east choir, the depiction of God’s wandering people of Jews and Christians in a native landscape is hung on the south wall. Old Testament, New Testament and contemporary persons from Adam and Eve to the pastor with congregation are recognizable as they accompany the arrival of the scouts with the large bunch of grapes from the land of Canaan.


On the east side of the east choir is the Weinsberg war memorial for the fallen of the First World War. It was designed by the Weinsberg sculptor Albert Volk, who also executed the figure decoration of the monument. The architecture and the inscriptions were made by the Weinsberg sculptor J. Scheerer.[11] In 1995, a memorial plaque to John Oekolampadius was placed on the south side of the church.


Main organ

The first mention of an organ of the occurred in 1706. In 1823 Eberhard Friedrich Walcker built an organ, as his Opus 2, for the Johanneskirche. The instrument stood on the east wall in the upper gallery and had, according to Walcker’s opus book, 7 manual stops and 2 pedal stops. Other sources speak of 16 stops, possibly indicating a later expansion. In 1871 the organ was moved to the west wall, and in 1881 it was enlarged to now 24 stops. The case and at least two stops of this instrument are preserved. In 1956 the organ was rebuilt by the organ building company Friedrich Weigle (Leinfelden-Echterdingen) using old pipes and parts of the case. In 2005 a new organ was built by the organ building company Mühleisen (Leonberg), using a large part of the old pipe material. The organ now has 34 stops, distributed over three manuals and pedal. The stops of the 2nd and 3rd manuals are in a common swell, which can also be swelled at the back to achieve the effect of a Fernwerk. The key action is mechanical, the stop action is electric.[12] In spring 2021 some reed stops will be renewed, for the year 2024/25 the replacement of the remaining old material and the improvement of the wind system is planned.

I Main movement C-g3

1. Bourdon 16′
2. Principal 8′
3. Covered 8′
4. Viola di gamba 8′
5. Octave 4′
6. Traverse flute 4′
7. Fifth 2  2⁄3′
8. Superoctave 2′
9. Mixture V 2′
10. Trumpet 8′
II Swell C-g3

11. Violin Principal 8′
12. Salicional 8′
13. Voix céleste (from c0) 8′
14. Fugara 4′
15. Plein jeu V 2  2⁄3′
16. Basson 16′
17. Oboe 8′
III Swell C-g3

18. Covered 8′
19. Flute harmonique 8′
20. Reed Flute 4′
21. Nazard 2  2⁄3′
22. Flageolet 2′
23. Third 1  3⁄5′
24. Trompette harm. 8′
25. Clarinet 8′
Pedal unit C-f1

26. Principal Bass 16′
27. Subbass 16′
28. Nazard 10  2⁄3′
29. Octavbass 8′
30. Covered Bass 8′
31. Violoncello 8′
32. Tenor Octave 4′
33. Trombone 16′
34. Trompette 8′
  • Paddocks:
    • Normal couplings: II/I, III/I, III/II, I/P, II/P, III/P.
    • Superoctave couplings: II/II, III/III, III/P
    • Suboctave couplings: II/II, III/III
  • Secondary stop: pressure regulant, common for both swells
  • Playing aids: Electronic riser system, crescendo pedal

Choir organ

The organ in the east choir was built in 1989 by Marcus Kaul.[13]

I Main movement C-g3 II Chest C-g3 Pedal C-f1
Reed Flute 8′ Large cover 8′ Subbass 16′
Salizional 8′ Small top 4′ Covered bass 8′
Principal 4′ Nasat 2 2/3′ Flute bass 4′
Fifth 2 2/3′ Principal 2′ Bassoon 8′
Octave 2′ Third 1 3/5′
Third 1 3/5′ Sharps fifth 1 1/3′
Mixture 1 1/3′ 3-fold Octavlet 1′
Dulcian 8′ Rankettino 8′
  • Coupling
    • Normal Coupling I/II, I/Ped, II/Ped
  • Tremulant



  1. Denkmalschutzgesetz Baden-Württemberg, § 12 in conjunction with § 28


  • Eduard Paulus: Die Kunst- und Altertums-Denkmale im Königreich Württemberg. Neckarkreis – Inventory; Stuttgart 1889, p. 512
  • Simon M. Haag: Römer – Salier – Staufer – Weinsberger : kleine Geschichte von Burg und Stadt Weinsberg. Ed. by the city archive of Weinsberg. Publ. News sheet of the city of Weinsberg, Weinsberg 1996, ISBN 3-9802689-9-3
  • Simon M. Haag: Zur Baugeschichte der Oberamtsstadt Weinsberg. Publ. Nachrichtenblatt der Stadt Weinsberg, Weinsberg 1995, ISBN 3-9802689-8-5
  • Christoph Planck: Johanneskirche Weinsberg. 3. Edition. Evangelical parish Weinsberg, Weinsberg 1998
  • Otto Friedrich: Protestant churches in the deanery of Weinsberg – picture-reading book; published by the Protestant deanery of Weinsberg, 2003, page 54 f
  • 800 Years of St. John’s Church Weinsberg. Anniversary volume for the celebration year 2004, lectures and events. Evangelical parish Weinsberg, Weinsberg 2004
  • Leaflet: Ev. Kirchengemeinde Weinsberg (ed.): Johanneskirche Weinsberg; o. J. (after 2011)
  • Leaflet: Georg Ottmar: Die Ostchor-Fenster – Ev. Johanneskirche Weinsberg – Eine Verstehenshilfe; ed. Ev. Kirchengemeinde Weinsberg; n. d. (after 2011)
  • Georg Ottmar: Die Johanneskirche in Weinsberg – Beschreibung und Rundgang; ed. Ev. Kirchengemeinde Weinsberg, 2013

Individual references

  1. Website of the Evangelical Parish Weinsberg
  2. Website of the Protestant Church District Weinsberg-Neuenstadt
  3. Simon M. Haag, Helmut Deininger, Manfred Wiedmann: Die Schenkelmauern zwischen Burg und Stadt Weinsberg und die Vorburgsiedlung oder die Unterstützung historischer Forschung durch neuere naturwissenschaftliche Errungenschaften. In: Württembergisch Franken 84, Historical Society for Württemberg Franconia, Schwäbisch Hall 2000, pp. 75-101
  4. Georg Ottmar: Die Johanneskirche in Weinsberg – Beschreibung und Rundgang; ed. Ev. Kirchengemeinde Weinsberg, 2013, p. 8
  5. Matthias Figel: Der reformatorische Predigtgottesdienst. Eine liturgiegeschichtliche Untersuchung zu den Ursprüngen und Anfängen des evangelischen Gottesdienstes in Württemberg; Epfendorf/Neckar 2013 – sowie: Matthias Figel: Predigtgottesdienst, in: Württembergische Kirchengeschichte Online, 2014 – Permalink: [1]
  6. As a laterally reversed model could have served, for example: Adoration of the Magi (c. 1530-1535, oil painting on lime wood), Städel Collection (Frankfurt), inventory number SG 452, see [2]
  7. see damaged signature; made by Glasmalerei Gaiser/Stuttgart, restored 1992 by Glasmalerei V. Saile/Stuttgart
  8. Ehrenfried Kluckert, Axel Zimmermann (ed.): Adolf V. Saile – Städtische Galerie Filderstadt, Kleines Kunst-Kabinett Bernhausen; exhibition from 13.10.1985 – 6.11.1985; ed. by Städt. Galerie Filderstadt; volume 1: exhibition catalogue, volume 2: catalogue raisonné; Filderstadt 1985 – catalogue numbers 1a/56/12, 1a/74/1 and 1a/79/3
  9. For illustration and sermons on the east choir windows, see [3], last accessed 19 July 2020
  10. Text on the reverse of a Weinsberg picture postcard with the Schreiter choir windows
  11. Norbert Jung: 1914 – Albert Volk – Kriegerdenkmale – 2014, Heilbronn 2014, ISBN 978-3-934096-39-4, pp. 26-28.
  12. Main organ, at
  13. East choir organ, at

Web links

Commons: St. John’s Church Weinsberg– Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates 49° 9′ 10″ N, 9° 17′ 9″ O