Gottfried Böhm, Neviges Pilgrimage Church, (1962)
When a miraculous engraving in copperplate of the Immaculata was brought to Neviges in the seventeenth century, it became a pilgrimage center for the religious. Around 1960, the church decided that they wanted to construct a new building, starting a competition which would result in a new church amidst a Franciscan monastery and other late-baroque architecture. This led to a series of competitions, eventually won by architect Gottfried Bohm, although initially his design was not accepted as the judges thought it to be exaggerated and manneristic.
Bohm’s design incorporated extensive interior caves in both the main and lower churches, the chapel niches were formed by jointless folds of concrete, the piers were either free-standing or formed by the edges of the walls, and the folded sections were illuminated only by small roof lights that peak just above the altar.
As is the case with many structures built with innovative materials or designs, the maintenance of this church has proved to be somewhat of an issue. The sand-blasted and site-poured concrete did not have any insulation or damp-proofing upon installation as it was intended originally for summer purposes only. The members of the town decided to make it comfortable and enjoyable year round, so they furnished the church with a heater which changed the thermal behavior of the structure. It was suggested that the roof of the church be covered with lead or slate, but eventually it was painted with a light-colored paint sealant that unfortunately separates the roof from the walls visually. All of the money and time that went into making the church a perfect pilgrimage destination has taken its toll on the little town, as the streams of pilgrims started to dry up even during the planning and building period.
“Today the pilgrimage church is like a memory of another epoch… disturbing and magnificent.”