Allegorical Autobahn Church

Allegorical Autobahn Church

Autobahnkirche Siegerland

As Germany's 40th road church, the “Autobahnkirche Siegerland” provides nearness to God at the roadside.

“Man does not live by bread alone”, it is said in the Old Testament, and since this is also true when you are travelling on the A 45 (meaning the German motorway, Autobahn no. 45), there is, besides petrol stations, fast food restaurants, and public toilets, also a road church (Autobahnkirche in German) along this road. But this has not always been the case. No, many years were to pass before two souls on their way back from Southern Germany, thirsty for devotion, realized that something essential was missing in the Siegerland.

It was Hannelore and Hartmut Hering who initiated the “Förderverein Autobahnkirche Siegerland”, which then arranged a competition for a new road church. In March 2009, the architectural practice of schneider+schumacher won this competition, and, four years later, Germany's 40th road church was opened and consecrated.

The Veil of the Profane

What appears like the silhouette of a traditional village church from the autobahn slightly resembles an abstract cat's head from nearby. The main structure has a square floor plan and is accessed from the southwest corner by a bridge. Both corners next to the entrance reach for the sky with a spire in the shape of a tetrahedron, each with a glazed opening towards the building.

With the edgy outward appearance still in mind, a vaulting interior surprises on entering. A delicate cross-ribbed structure arches over most of the interior. Then, as if it was the Veil of the Profane itself that veils the Kingdom of God, the wooden vault opens to the right, revealing the chancel. This one is part of the cubic outer shell, the all-embracing whole, so to speak.

The chancel is – consistent with its metaphysical qualities – raised one step from the floor, also contrasting the wooden vault with a bright white. A simple, white wooden cross defines the visual centre of contemplation within the chancel. In front of it, there is the equally simple, white altar. The two spires provide the church with natural light that flows through the rectangles of the vault. Since the chancel is situated outside the vault and right under one of the towers, it shines all the brighter.

Elaborate Wooden Structure

As regards construction, the church consists of a wood stud structure (outer walls) and a wood beam structure (roof, spires). The vault in the interior is made of 66 vertical and horizontal semi-circular wooden ribs, each composed of 650 individual parts. The latter of which are interlocked in such a way that the structure supports itself, making anchorage to the floor largely unnecessary. The outer and inner walls of the main structure are – as well as the bridge – clad with OSB panels. White polyurethane spray sealant provides the colour to the façade.


“Autobahnkirche” (or road church) – this actually sounds like both spiritual and architectural fast food. But it's not! The Autobahnkirche im Siegerland is a small masterpiece, and, therefore, justly a nominee for the European Union Prize of Contemporary Architecture 2015.


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kapz08's picture
kapz08 26. January 2015 - 4:40

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