Spitalkirche zum Heiligen Geist
"Let us build such a church, that those who come after us all take us for madmen," said the old canon of Seville, when the great cathedral was planned. Perhaps through every mind passes some such thought, when it first entertains the design of a great and seemingly impossible action, the end of which it dimly foresees. This divine madness enters more or less into all our noblest undertakings."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Our first day in Austria we came across this church as we were out for a walk. The pink paint on the exterior was intriguing and we quickly discovered that its understated exterior gives no hint as to what awaits you inside.
We were not the only ones who released a breath upon first sight of the interior, the kind that comes out involuntarily when you see something so beautiful that there are no words, only breath.
We sat down on one of the benches in the back just to take it all in. This is almost always our practice in these ancient cathedrals. We sit a while in silence and take some time to feel the space and be present with it. I want my photographs to give due reverence. I doubt I succeed at this but I like to try. Often we see people come into cathedrals, take a couple of selfies, and leave but not in this chapel. The few people who came in with a camera really took their time. One other photographer, in particular, who came in with his wife, sat on a bench across from us and also waited quite a long time before creating photographs of this beautiful place. Later on, we talked with them and learned they were visiting from Germany. Their kindness and our conversation with them was refreshing.
The church's name, Spitalkirche zum Heiligen Geist, translates in English to Hospital Church of the Holy Spirit. It is a small cathedral in the middle of old town, Innsbruck, dating back to 1326. Some of the frescoes were damaged in air raids during World War II and were repainted in 1962 by Hans Andre. The gothic crucifix (c. 1500) was integrated into the high alter in 1705.
We feel very fortunate to have seen this church because it was closed to the public for ten years due to massive damage to the basic structure of the church building following the severe winter storms of 1990. It reopened in December 2003. The tower renovation was completed later in 2007-2008. Since January 1, 2004, the church has been used again as a place of worship and a venue for church music concerts. I am so grateful it is open to visitors. It is one of our favorite cathedrals so far in our travels. It sits quietly in the midst of a busy tourist shopping area and it would be easy to miss and walk right past it. If you are ever in Innsbruck, John and I highly recommend a visit to this church. Our favorite cathedrals have been the ones we have happened upon that are not big tourist attractions or well-known cathedrals, though we have visited some of those, also. The lesser known churches are almost always empty, or nearly so, and provide a quiet, peaceful retreat from the busyness of life just outside their doors. As mentioned before in other writings, we are not religious people and enjoying these incredible cathedrals is not reserved for those who attend church or hold any certain beliefs. We would recommend anyone experience them, particularly the ones off the beaten path which feel very different, and far better in our opinion, than some of the more famous ones.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), quoted above, was an American poet, educator, author, and the first American to translate Dante's Divine Comedy.