Graubünden - Culture of Construction

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Chantun Grischun
Cantone dei Grigioni
The Late Gothic Period
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ehemalige Klosterkirche St. Maria und Michael*

7075 Churwalden
Part of the former premonstratensian cloister:
Founded around 1164, presumably as a beneficence of the Barons of Vaz, mentioned 1191/96, elevated to abbey 1446; interior and exterior decay after the Reformation, from 1599 to 1807 administration by the mother cloister in Roggenburg, Bavaria, afterwards in possession of St. Luzi in Chur; abrogated already in 1803; since 1877 own catholic parish.

The original cloister church stood near the bridge over the Rabiusa; used by both confessions between 1646-1967, Catholic since 1967; transfer to the present location in the first half of the 13th century, destroyed by fire 1472, newly built 1477-1502 re-using the external walls of the previous Romanesque building: restored and excavated 1966-1976.

The squat construction includes a tri-nave hall with steps, a square monk’s choir (at one time separated by a wall) and the altar house, which is closed in on three sides; the entire choir section covers the breadth of the mid-nave. The extensions on the side of the monk’s choir are rudiments of a former side-nave enclosed by an apse, which ran the length of the nave to the altar house. The Late Gothic new construction took over a previous building scheme, which is related to the Romanesque Cathedral of Chur. A uniform saddle back roof covers the entire building, re-roofed with shingles 2001-02. On the north side of the nave a massive unplastered tower with tent roof, built between 1250 and 1330/40, renovated 1511; clock faces with the coats of arms of abbot and cloister were painted at the same time. Roman-arched west portal with a profiled arch and coat of arms (today it is empty); a new entrance on the south side with a sign, an immured Romanesque capital spolia with two beardless heads over the door. In the double-bay nave reticulated vaulting rests on wall responds, the cloister coat of arms on the west apex stone. Over the immured block altar of the northern side nave is a painted Roman-arched niche with the Coronation of Mary from around 1330/40 by the Waltensburger Master; the stars on the Romanesque window embrasures on the north wall were painted at the same time. Between the monks’ and the laymen’s sections is a massive accessible rood screen with three pointed-arched arcades, on the front side the remains of a painted representation of the Last Judgement, dated 1481; on the choir arch the stone cutter’s insignia and the year 1502. In the former monks’ choir net vaults with formeret rest on wall responds, in the altar house double-bay stellar vault; renewed window. Late Gothic tabernacle with wooden covering and painting from the end of the 15th century.

Significant interior furnishings: high altar: large Late Gothic winged altarpiece dated 1477, the figures influenced by Ulm, the panels Upper-Rhine, restored 1972-74. The Mother of God is enthroned in the shrine between the Saints Emerita and Augustine, Magdalen and Lucius; the wings are painted on both sides: on the inside the Annunciation and the birth of Christ, on the outside the Visitation as well as St. Lawrence and John the Baptist, Christ and the Apostles and the crest of the cloister on the predella; in the crown the Calvary scene and Saint Paul, Margaretha and two angels, above them the Archangel Michael; on the painted back of the shrine is the death of Mary with the benefactor Abbot Ludwig von Lindau, the church fathers on the predella.

Lucius altar in the south side-nave in front of painted drapery from 1511: Late Gothic winged altarpiece, dated 1511, the figures possibly 1502, from the circle of Jakob Russ. In the shallow niches is a subdivided shrine with statues of the Saints Emerita, Lucius, and Magdalen; on the wings are reliefs of St. John the Baptist and Peter, disciples at the Passover meal and Christ saying farewell to his mother on the painted backside; carved predella with scenes from the Passion of Christ; on the crown the Man of Sorrows, Mary and John on narrowly spaced tabernacles; painted antependium of the Last Supper and the crest of the Cloister Churwalden and Austria around 1480.

Man of Sorrows from around 1480 in the north side-nave and from the same date an expressive crucifix over the rood screen. The Suffering of Christ from the end of the 15th century in the niche above the tabernacle. On the south choir wall a vesper picture from the 1st quarter of the 15th century. In the confessional chapel south of the monks’ choir a Late Gothic crucifix as well as two tomb slabs from the 13th / 14th century. On the west wall of the nave, fragments of a tomb slab of the Free Lords of Vaz from the 12th /13th century with a coat of arms. Further grave stones, 17th century. In the nave, a baptismal font, 1623. Organ 1977.

(Kunstführer durch Graubünden, Hg. Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte. Eng. translation of the title: Art Guide of Graubünden, ed. Society for the History of Swiss Art, Zurich 2008. This book has only been published in German.)

Die ehemalige Prämonstratenser Klosterkirche St. Maria und Michael Churwalden, Schweizerische Kunstführer GSK, Nr. 611, Bern 1997.