Photos: Saarbrücken with bonus Stengel churches

As promised yesterday, here are some photos of my recent trip to Saarbrücken.

Now Saarbrücken is a bit of an oddity, for though the settlement dates back to Roman times, the current city was only created in 1909 by the unification of three smaller towns, including the original Saarbrücken (nowadays known as Alt-Saarbrücken). It was heavily bombed in WWII and suddenly found itself the capital first of the semi-independent Saar protecorate and then of the German state of Saarland after the war. Due to the combination of WWII bombing damage and suddenly finding itself a capital city, which involved a lot of administrational responsibilities and required a lot of buildings wherein to carry out said responsibilities, Saarbrücken suffers a lot from bad city planning and architectural decisions made in the 1950s and 1960s. We’ll see some of those later.

However, Saarbrücken is also reknown for its baroque architecture, courtesy of architect Friedrich Joachim Stengel. Though originally from Saxony-Anhalt, Friedrich Joachim Stengel worked mostly in the Saarland area and the neighbouring Alsace region, which is now French. And it was in the Alsace that I had my first contact with Friedrich Joachim Stengel and his work.

As I mentioned before, my great-grandfather hails from Alsace and I still have distant relatives there. When I was a teenager, I visited my Alsatian relatives with my family several times. We also visit a lady who had been a pen pal of my Mom’s, when they were both teenagers. This lady had a thing for churches, particularly churches built by Friedrich Joachim Stengel. And so she dragged us through half of Alsace to show off Stengel churches. And Friedrich Joachim Stengel littered both Alsace and Saarland with churches, most of them unremarkable village churches. This church in the Alsatian village of Hirschland, from where my great-grandfather hails, is a typical example. After seriously overdosing on Stengel churches as a teenager, my reactions to hearing the name of Friedrich Joachim Stengel is still a groan even twenty years later. Which is why I was surprised how beautiful some of his buildings in Saarbrücken were.

Coincidentally, the story of Friedrich Joachim Stengel also illustrates how fluid national and cultural borders are in border region between France and Germany along the rivers Rhine, Moselle and Saar. The conventional historical narrative these days is that the evil and imperialistic Second German Empire stole Alsace-Lorraine from France in 1871, but that France was totally not imperialistic for trying to snatch the Ruhr area, the Rhineland and the Saar area after WWI and again after WWII. The truth is a bit more complicated, because the whole area changed hands several times over the past couple of centuries (There are buildings in Saarbrücken that were damaged during the French revolution!) and was actually its own kingdom in medieval times, which lies probably at the root of the problem, since I for one can see certain cultural similarities in the areas which used to be part of the medieval kingdom of Lotharingia, no matter to which country they belong these days. Culturally and linguistically, the Saarland and the adjacent parts of Alsace are German and particularly the rural areas of Alsace are still German speaking (and the dialect spoken in the Saarland sounds very similar to the dialect spoken by my Alsatian relatives), though the bigger cities such as Strassbourg, Metz or Nancy are largely francophone. Pointing out “But they speak German in Alsace, so why shouldn’t it be part of Germany?” got me in trouble in 11th grade history class, because thou must not contradict the established historical narrative. And not to let the Second German Empire off the hook (because they were Imperialist jerks), they did not just snatch the German speaking parts of Alsace from France but also parts which were clearly French speaking but had interesting industries. And indeed an attempt to get control over the coal and iron ore deposits along the Rhine and the resulting heavy industry lies at the root of the longrunning border conflict between Germany and France. Interestingly, the conflict evaporated for good once the coal and steel industry lost its relevance and gradually died off in the 1970s.

But enough with the history lesson. Let’s have some photos:

Saarbrücken castle

The rear side of Saarbrücken castle with gardens. There has been a castle on this spot since at least the 10th century, though the current baroque castle was designed by my old friend Friedrich Wilhelm Stengel. The upright slab on the right is a segment of the Berlin wall. Segments of the Berlin wall have been set up as monuments in many German cities. Bremen has one as well.

Saarbrücken castle

The gardens of Saarbrücken castle with baroque puttos

Saarbrücken castle

A fountain and some puttos in the gardens of Saarbrücken castle.

Sphinx Saarbrücken castle

A baroque sphinx in the garden of Saarbrücken castle

Saarbrücken castle cannon

A rusty cannon guards the gardens of Saarbrücken castle

Saarbrücken castle garden pavillion

A garden pavillion overlooking the river Saar in the gardens of Saarbrücken castle

Saarbrücken castle baroque garden

A gorgeous baroque garden at Saarbrücken castle.

Saarbrücken Schlosskirche

The late gothic castle church adjacent to Saarbrücken castle.

Baroque statue Saarbrücken

A weathered baroque statue in the lobby of Saarbrücken castle, which now houses part of the city administration. The castle burned partly down during the French revolution, hence the damaged statue.

Saarbrücken castle

The front side of Saarbrücken castle, originally designed by Friedrich Wilhelm Stengel. The central wing has a decidedly non-baroque glass front (the original was damaged in WWII) and the fountain is modern as well.

Saarbrücken fountain

A closer look at the fountain in front of Saarbrücken castle. A modern fountain has been built around a headless baroque statue, probably a casualty of the French revolution. Yes, they not only guillotined aristocrats, but beheaded statues as well.

Saarbrücken Old Townhall

The old baroque townhall of Saarbrücken on the left, the city museum on the right and the tower of the Ludwig church in the middle. The new townhall is located on the other side of the river Saar.

Saarbrücken Friedenskirche

The Friedenskirche or peace church, another Friedrich Joachim Stengel design. For a baroque church, this one is surprisingly subdued, probably because it was originally a reformed church. Nowadays it’s russian orthodox to serve a growing immigrant community.

Saarbrücken Ludwigsplatz

Friedrich Joachim Stengel at his best: The baroque Ludwigsplatz with the stunning Ludwig church.

Saarbrücken Ludwigskirche

The spire of the Ludwig church. Note the red limestone which is typical for the area.

Saarbrücken Ludwigsplatz

A baroque townhouse (with postal car) on Ludwigsplatz.

Saarbrücken Ludwigsplatz

A closer view of the balcony of one of the baroque townhouses on Ludwigsplatz.

Saarbrücken St. Jakob Church

The neo-gothic St. Jakob church, built in the 1880s.

Saarbrücken theatre

A look across the river Saar with the Saarland state theatre in the background.

Saarbrücken Saar estuary

A look along the river Saar, which illustrates a postwar planning disaster. Because if my city stretches along a river, I will absolutely build a highway directly beside the river, where it generates a lot of noise, hampers the view and is vulnerable to flooding. The chimney in the background belongs to the power station Römerbrücke. The neo-classical building on the right is the state parliament of the Saarland. It was originally built in 1866 as a casino, which I for one find hysterically funny and also kind of fitting, considering the Saarland is notoriously cash-strapped,.

View along the river Saar

View along the river Saar with loads of postwar buildings, which hide the tower of the neo-gothic townhall.

Saarbrücken: View along the river Saar

A view along the river Saar with a postwar shopping district stretching along the river.

Saarbrücken Sparkasse

Nighttime view of the Sparkasse bank, a postwar building topped by a revolving clock, which was the epitome of cool back in 1960.

Saarbrücken: View along the Saar

An evening view along the river Saar with postwar buildings. The revolving Mecedes logo on top of the Saar-Center makes for an unlikely lodestar

Send to Kindle
This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Photos: Saarbrücken with bonus Stengel churches

  1. R says:

    Some really great shots here, Cora. How good? Good enough that I just linked this post to my Facebook page.

    • Cora says:

      Glad you like the photos, Doug. And yes, I’m quite pleased with how some of them came out myself, though the sunshine and the late summer sunsets (Would you believe that the nighttime shots were made at a quarter to eleven?) helped. Also many thanks for the link.

  2. Sherwood Smith says:

    Great photos!

  3. Rolf Niebergall says:

    I was in Saarbruecken few times, a friend of mine used to live there, Hans Dieter Otte, he even was married to a Miss Universe, Marlene Schmidt. I met her too, also her daughter from a different marriage (Ty Harden) . Almut was her name. Dieter died, his son is still a doctor there, Kristian. I went once with Dieter from there to Strassburg and also Paris. He even used to be a teacher in Paris for few years. I met him here. He knew Paris very well. By the way my son is one of the best teachers in the USA (book). He is now (40 years old) assistant principle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *