There were two options today: tours of Deggendorf and some of Passau or an extended bus ride to Munich. We have been to Munich and don't see much point to long bus rides, so we declined that option. From what we heard, that was definitely the better choice.

Starting with today we were "really" in Bavaria. Our local guide here was as dismissive of the Franconians as the Franconians were of the Bavarians.

Picture

Narrative

Deggendorf Maypole

Although the excursion for today was listed as a "guided walking excursion of Deggendorf" we spent precious little time in the village. It was basically a bus cruise through some of the high spots.

The one thing that remains with me is the Maypole. Our guide said that there are three key ingredients of a Bavarian village: the church, the Maypole and the chestnut tree. The chestnut is the iconic tree of the Bavarian Biergarten. The marriage of chestnut and beer started no later than the 19th century and may have started sooner.

Sure enough, every time we passed through a village on this excursion, the guide pointed out the maypole. The chestnut trees were hard to identify without their leaves. (I wonder if the tree in the picture is a chestnut?)

Metten Abbey Church

Our real destination was Metten Abbey. The Abbey was founded in the 8th century and its members were very active in education. The library is said to be spectacular.

The abbey church is dedicated to St. Michael. I don't recall if we were told its date of construction, but it is clearly baroque in its current form.

Interior St Michael's church, Metten Abbey

I am not fond of Baroque architecture or decoration, but this has to be the prettiest sample that we saw. It was Sunday, however, and a service was about to begin, so it was just a quick duck-in for a picture. We were told that it was OK to take a picture as long as we didn't photograph any of the worshipers.

That is one thing that I really miss about these trips: the opportunity to go to Sunday worship. When traveling on my own, I will frequently search out local churches. It's been a great way to experience a place and usually meet some nice folks too. The group tours almost never allow a Sunday off -- with a notable exception when we were in Israel.

Advent wreaths

This stall selling advent wreaths was set up in the courtyard outside the church.

Horses

Our next stop was at Niederaltaich Abbey. As everyone else headed for the church, I ducked out to get a picture of these two horses stabled nearby. The dun on the right is a Norwegian Fjord. I can't identify the dark bay.

St. Maurice

This disembodied head represents St. Maurice, said to be an early Christian who was also a Roman soldier and commander of the Theban Legion in the 4th century.

He was typically pictured as an African. St. Maurice and some (or all) of his legion were martyred either for not worshiping the Roman gods or not engaging in wanton killing. He is venerated in Europe (St. Moritz is named after him) and in the Orthodox tradition. He was a patron saint of the Holy Roman Emperors and also figured large in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Niederaltaich Abbey is dedicated to him.

This head is reminiscent of the ruined monuments of Gondor in Lord of the Rings. Since it was dedicated in 2009, perhaps the artist was thinking of them.

St. Maurice Church

This abbey was founded in the 8th century. Like most places it suffered from fires, war and floods. The current abbey church, St. Maurice, is Romanesque on the outside, but was renovated in the Baroque style in the early 18th century.

Although it survived many disasters, it didn't survive Napoleon. The abbey was secularized in 1803 and fell into disrepair. It wasn't revived until 1927. Since then it has become a focal point of ecumenical outreach -- especially to the Eastern Orthodox church.

Altar

Definitely in the Baroque style!

It's hard to tell in the pictures, but some of the paintings appear to be illustrating portions of the legend of St. Maurice.

We were told that the exuberance of the Baroque makeovers of Catholic churches was a deliberate action of the Counter-Reformation. The Protestant focus was on scripture, the Word, and the churches were plain to the point of austerity. Most of the populace at the time, however, was illiterate so the Roman church doubled down on imagery.

Additionally, prior to the reformation, the Catholics had emphasized sin and hell to further the sale of indulgences -- a major source of income. This abuse was a major focus of Luther in his 95 Theses. The reaction was to downplay hell & judgment and to emphasize a heavenly vision in the new artworks.

 

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