August 2021 #1 – World Heritage Status for Hagia Sophia at risk.

Welcome to this week’s European Churches Chronicle, your premier source for weekly news on churches in Europe. Free, in your inbox, every Friday.

News in brief.

Pope resumes weekly audiences. Pope Francis resumed his regular Wednesday audiences this week. It is usual for these audiences to be suspended over July to allow for a period of rest, and this year the summer break coincided with the pope’s recovery from surgery. 

Patriarch of Venice calls for a sustainable city. The patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, again expressed his support for the ban on large cruise ships visiting the Venetian lagoon, and called for the city to prioritise sustainability and liveability for its citizens.

UNESCO threatens to remove World Heritage Status from Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. At its annual conference, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee criticised the “lack of dialogue and information” from Turkey, following Turkey’s announcement last year that the historic sites of Hagia Sophia and Chora, ancient Christian basilicas in Istanbul, were having their status changed from museums to mosques. The UNESCO committee called for an “updated report on the state of conservation” and gave 1 February 2022 as the deadline for Turkey to submit information.

Lutheran Church in Bavaria backs COVID support groups. In Weiden, Germany, the lead bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (EKLB), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, last week launched a network of self-help groups for relatives of people who have died of COVID-19. The EKLB will work with other church and civil society institutions to set up and help facilitate these self-help groups.

A gift of faith in the future of the Anglican church in Didim. This week saw a reminder of the wide reach and continued growth of the Anglican church in Europe, when the small church of St Mary’s in Didim on the Aegean coast of Turkey received for the first time their own chalice and paten, donated by a parishioner.

Map flag outline with a photograph of one of the churches of Graz. Aim is to highlight the historic churches of Graz.

Spotlight on Graz.

Graz is the second-largest city of Austria, with a deep heritage as a university city. The city has played an important role in the history of not only Austria, but also Slovenia and Croatia, and has many churches that reflect the historical significance of the city.  
The Stadtpfarrkirche (Herrengasse), is the oldest parish church in Graz, first mentioned in historical records in 1343. Originally a small Gothic chapel, the church was redeveloped and expanded in the sixteenth century, and its baroque tower is now a notable feature of the Herrengasse in the old part of Graz. Inside the church, there is a magnificent picture of the Assumption of Mary by the Venetian master Tintoretto.
The Herz-Jesu-Kirche is the largest church in Graz. A striking example of neo-Gothic architecture, it was designed by Georg Hauberrisser, and constructed between 1881 and 1887. The windows are rare examples in Austria of neo-Gothic stained glass.
The Grazer Dom (Burggasse 3), the cathedral of Graz is considered to be one of the most important buildings in terms of art and cultural history in the city. Constructed at the same times as the castle of Graz in the 15th century, the cathedral’s simple-looking white facades  were once vividly painted. The best known is the picture of the plagues of God on the south side of the nave, attributed to Thomas von Villach. Next to the Grazer Dom is the mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II. 

Church of Our Lady of Succor (Mariahilferkirche). Founded in the 13th century as a monastery by the Fransicans, the church was expanded in 1607 by architect Giovanni Pietro de Pomis, a student of Tintoretto. A renovation based on plans by Josef Hueber in the mid-18th century gave the church its current shape with the two towers. The monastery is still in use and home to the Minorite Cultural Center, where music and art events are held. The monastery is also home to a chapel which holds services for the Orthodox community. 

Barmherzigenkirche (Mercy Church of the Annunciation) (Marschallgasse 12) After Archduke Maximilian Ernst was saved from an arm amputation by monk Gabriel Ferrara, Archduke Ferdinand funded the addition to the monastery of this opulent baroque church.  

The Josefskirche (Schönaugürtel 41) was an initiative by Prince-Bishop Leopold Schuster to commemorate the restoration of religious unity in this part of Austria. It was completed in 1908 and handed over to the Benedictine order for care. 

Heilandskirche (Kaiser Josef Platz) is a Protestant church built in 1853 by architect Franz Zehengruber. It was renovated in 1992, when it received a new look, including beautifully ornamented windows, new altar, and pulpit. The Helilandskirche congregation is the second largest congregation in Austria.

Saint of the week: Clare of Assisi.

Saint Clare was one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition. Her order is known informally as the Poor Clares. 
As a teenager she heard Francis preach in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi and asked him to help her devote her life to God. She left her parents’ home and Francis arranged for her to join the convent of the Benedictine nuns of San Paulo, near Bastia. Her father tried to force her to return home. Francis then arranged for her to move to another monastery and she was joined by her sister. They stayed there until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano, which Francis had repaired some years earlier. More women joined them, and they were known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano”. Clare died on 11 August 1253 after a period of illness. She was canonized in 1255. Pope Pius XII declared Clare the patron saint of television in 1958 on the grounds that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she was reportedly able to see and hear it on the wall of her house.

Looking ahead.

150th anniversary of St Peter’s chaplaincy in Zermatt. This weekend, 6-8 August,  the ICS Anglican chaplaincy in Zermatt is celebrating its 150th anniversary. 
As Zermatt became a popular destination for mountaineers and skiers in the 19th century, demand for an English chapel grew and funds were raised to build St Peter’s. The chapel has a strong association with the history of British expeditions to the Matterhorn, reminders of which can be seen in the chapel’s commemorative plaques to famous climbers. More details about the Reception on Friday and the Service on Sunday 8 August may be found here

Organ Recital, American Cathedral Paris. Today, 6 August, 19:00—20:00 CET the American Cathedral in Paris will hold an organ concert performed by William Buthod, who currently serves as Minister of Music at Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur, Georgia, USA.

Picture credits. Josh Hild; original Clare of Assisi from BL Add 71119F – The British Library, United Kingdom; graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.

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