St. Peter in Bad Waldsee

Bad Waldsee St Peter

The baroque collegiate church of St. Peter in Bad Waldsee

On our city tour through Bad Waldsee in Upper Swabia on the edge of the Allgäu, we discover the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in Bad Waldsee, a true gem of baroque architecture. No wonder, after all, Dominikus Zimmermann - one of the “star architects” of the Baroque era - was the master builder of the church as you can see it today. But this church actually has something to do with fashion, namely with fads in architecture.


Baroque high altar by Dominikus Zimmermann in the collegiate church of St. Peter in Bad Waldsee
Baroque high altar by Dominikus Zimmermann in the collegiate church of St. Peter in Bad Waldsee

Originally, the collegiate church was one of the three Waldseer monasteries in Baden-Württemberg belonged, built in the Gothic style. But when baroque forms became fashionable in architecture in the early 18th century, the town lords of Bad Waldsee wanted to have their church redesigned in accordance with the contemporary style, and they commissioned none other than Dominikus Zimmermann, who had already erected a monument to himself with the Wieskirche , with the conversion of its Gothic church into the modern baroque style.



At that time, Waldsee belonged to Austria and was under the influence of the Habsburgs. At the same time, it was a trading town that had become rich mainly through the linen and grain trade with Switzerland. And with three monasteries in the city – one Augustinian monastery, of which St. Peter was a part, and two Franciscan monasteries (one nunnery and one monastic monastery) – the church was also an important factor in the city. Throughout the city's history, the three parties have struggled to show their influence to the outside world, and the 'modernisation' of St. Peter's in the Baroque style can certainly be seen as a sign of this rivalry.

Dominikus Zimmermann left the church in its Gothic three-nave, but added two church towers, which today characterize the cityscape of Bad Waldsee. There are only a few churches in which the towers are attached to the church carcass. They give the exterior appearance of the church a special and extraordinary appearance.


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The perfect pulpit for "dismantling" fools
The perfect pulpit for “fooling away” fools


But the interior of the church is particularly worth seeing: Barbara, who shows us the city, points out the pulpit, the high altar with its columns and the choir stalls, which were designed by Zimmermann. She shows us the columns that separate the nave of the church from the side aisles and explains that their marbled appearance is artificial - a fad of the Baroque era. Instead of resorting to real marble, the more expensive method of creating the marbling by applying plaster of paris was chosen here.

Baroque in all its glory

At the pulpit, Barbara shows us how the presence of heaven was represented in the Baroque period: chubby putti cavort in the lower part of the pulpit structure, while full-grown angels in the upper part present the heavenly nearness in a somewhat more venerable way. We notice that there is no access to the pulpit of St. Peter. But Barbara tells us that this does not prevent the pastors of Bad Waldsee from using them anyway - albeit rarely.

During the Swabian Fastnet, the carnival season, a separate fool's fair is held, and the pastor came up with an idea to bring the town's fools who were damaged by the celebration to his church: on the morning of the fool's fair, he had the fire brigade drive through the city with sirens wailing, whereupon the townsfolk, terrified, rushed to the church, fearing that it might have caught fire. The pastor, however, had the crane of the fire engine lift him into the pulpit and "pulled" his flock from the otherwise inaccessible baroque pulpit of the church. Expression of a down-to-earth Catholicism that prevails in Bad Waldsee?


Marbled columns in plaster
Marbled columns in plaster


In any case, we take with us from our guided tour through the collegiate church of St. Peter in Bad Waldsee: a deep respect for the abilities of Dominikus Zimmermann, who brilliantly redeemed Gothic-Baroque as a fad of the times, and a sense of sympathy for the ingenuity of local clergy in the methods used to bring their sheep to Mass.

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Source: own research on site with the kind support of the spa administration Bad Waldsee and city guide Barbara Ertner

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline

St. Peter in Bad Waldsee
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