Munich | Church Chic – St. Anna Damenstift

One of the reasons why I started “Church Chic” was my intention to pay tribute to the extraordinary talents and quality in craftmanship that can be found in churches around the world. The overhanging and pompous Bavarian Baroque style that you can find often in and around Munich is something quite unique.

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The small St. Anna church in Munich´s historic downtown area called Hackenviertel is a great example for this. I pass this place of worship many times when I make my way towards Kaufingerstrasse, the main shopping street in the city. And this was actually my first time going inside!

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Today´s location of St. Anna dates back to 1440. At this time, small villages spread over the area, each being an independent administrative zone. Back then, St. Anna´s predecessor was a tiny chapel in a village called Altheim.

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The chapel was demolished though in the 15th century to make way to a larger church built in Gothic style completed in 1496. This was the apex of the pest and other deadly diseases.

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Almost 250 years later, in 1732, the Gothic church was to be replaced by a new-built and construction had already begun. Kaiser Karl VII, at that time electoral prince, decided though that the site should house the new abbey for the monastery of the Salesian order which lied right adjacent. The building was designed by Johann Baptist Gunetzrhainer and its decor by the well-known Asam Brothers. The abbey was opened to the public officially in 1735.

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During World War 2, St. Anna was completely destroyed  and the only thing that survived were the outside walls. But it was not before 1960 that it was rebuilt. One interesting fact is that the wall and ceiling paintings could only be re-established based on black and white photographs that had survived the war.

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This is the reason why it was decided to do the frescoes in sepia tones. The idea was to prevent using unoriginal colors and giving the wrong impression at the same time that the paintings were originals. At the same time, the three large altars were implemented.

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Another detail that makes St. Anna unique is the fact that “The last Supper” had not been portrayed in form of a painting, but in real life figures that can be seen on the two upper pictures. This is apparently something very unusual for Bavarian church architecture.

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This little gemstone is one of these places that look quite inconspicuous from the outside, but once you have opened the door revealing the immense artwork inside, it is like diving into a fairy tale. I was so astonished when stepping in that I hardly noticed the iron cast bars protecting the inside from vandalism. A definite must see when touring Munich!

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