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St. Nicholas Church (Oberndorf)

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General view from the east

The Nikolaikirche is the village church of the Arnstadt district of Oberndorf (Thuringia). It is one of the best-preserved Romanesque village churches in the region. It is assigned to the Protestant parish of Angelhausen-Oberndorf in the Arnstadt-Ilmenau church district of the Evangelical Church in Central Germany. The sights of the small church include a Romanesque octagonal window and the round arch friezes with acanthus ornaments made of stucco in high craftsmanship quality.[1]

Building history

The Romanesque eight-pane window
(popularly known as the “cupcake window”)

Construction work on the church began in the first half of the 12th century, when a Romanesque hall church with a semicircular apse and crossing was first built.

Tower of the church

Around 1170/1180 the church was rebuilt for the first time. The church tower was built above the crossing, the apse was replaced by today’s choir room and arcades were added to the side walls. The round arch friezes of the church and the stained glass window in the apse, which depicts the patron saint of the church, Nicholas of Myra, also date from around 1170. It is thus one of the oldest preserved stained glass windows in Germany and was transferred to the Thuringian Museum in Eisenach after 1900. A copy is installed in the church today.

Walled arcades on the south wall, above baroque windows

The third phase of the church’s construction dates back to the first third of the 13th century. At that time the church building was rebuilt into a three-nave basilica with transept. This reconstruction was probably commissioned by the counts of Schwarzburg-Kevernburg, as their residence, Kevernburg (today Käfernburg), was only a few hundred metres away. The counts probably used the church as a castle chapel, which would justify its building size. In 1353, the papal court in Avignon even issued a letter of indulgence on the Oberndorf church.

Towards the end of the 16th century, a fourth building phase followed, combined with a massive reversion of the church. Thus, around 1595, the dilapidated side aisles, the transept and the west building were demolished without replacement. In the process, the arcades were walled up, which is still clearly visible today.

Later, probably after the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War, the church received angular, baroque windows. In 1978, the side galleries and the pulpit wall behind the late Gothic altar were removed in a further building project.

Not a mission church

As early as 1931, the local historian Otto Stiehl suspected that the beginnings of the church could date back to the Christian missionary period of St. Boniface. However, an archaeological exploratory excavation carried out by the University of Jena in 1962 in the course of construction work to determine the actual age of the building revealed ceramic fragments from the first half of the 12th century as the oldest findings. The extent of the plaster screed floor in the altar area also contradicted the expected situation.[2]

Literature

  • Matthias Werner (ed.): Romanische Wege um Arnstadt und Gotha. Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, Weimar 2007, ISBN 978-3-89739-549-7.

Web links

Commons: St. Nicholas Church– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. Dietrich Wohlfahrt: Fate of a village church: Oberndorf near Arnstadt. In: Evangelischer Presseverband in Mitteldeutschland e.V.. (Ed.): Faith and Homeland. Weimar 7 September 1969.
  2. Kaufmann: Short report on the excavation Arnstadt Oberndorf (Arnstadt district), church of St. Nikolaus (18.-29.06.1962). Jena 1963, p. 3 (typewritten + maps/drawings).

Coordinates 50° 49′ 8″ N, 10° 58′ 36″ E