CHURCH OF ST. FRONLEICHNAM, AACHEN 1930
The Parish Church of St. Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) in Aachen is one of the key projects of modern church architecture in Germany. Its reduced cubic form and unadorned, simple design were revolutionary at the time it was built in 1930 and are still controversial. St. Fronleichnam was the first built church project by the then young architect Rudolf Schwarz, whose numerous other buildings crucially influenced the image of sacred architecture in Germany.
The church is located in the eastern section of Aachen’s downtown, and its size and white plaster façade cause it to stand out in the housing development in the Ostviertel, which was once a working-class neighborhood. The nave, aisle, and altar are combined within a simple, rectangular block with a low saddle roof. To the south, connected to the aisle, is a four-meter-tall bell tower on a square footprint.
The facade has no decorative elements whatsoever. Only copper-lined steel doors and a high ribbon of delicately articulated, square windows with steel frames subdivide the exterior walls. Inside, the space is simple and lacks conspicuous decoration. The white walls and ceiling starkly contrast with the dark bluestone of the floor, steps, and decorative elements, and the blackstained wood of the furnishings.
Also involved in the planning of the sacred building were Hans Schwippert and Johannes Krahn, and two other architects with whom Rudolf Schwarz worked closely in his day. For the interior design, Schwarz employed what he called his “working group,” composed of teachers and students at the School of Applied Arts, Aachen, where he was director. The church goldsmith Fritz Schwerdt, for example, designed the cross for the altar, several lamps, and the tabernacle that was installed in 1958. Hans Schwippert was responsible for, among other things, the housing for the organ and the pews. Also striking are the cords hanging from the ceiling designed by Schwarz, each of which supports twelve lighting cylinders.
Thanks to the intervention of Rudolf Schwarz, and later his widow, Maria Schwarz, the interior of the church has remains almost unaltered. It has undergone just a few changes, for example, the installing of a celebration altar in 1980. [KS/HY]