Guide to St. Servatius Catholic Church Berge
The information below is a translation of the German from the booklet available in St. Servatius.
Berge, in the far Northwest of the old sovereignty and present district of Osnabrück, owes its charming landscape position to the last branches of an ice age moraine elevation, which here reaches a height of 100 meters. The pastorate church of St. Servatius sits on a flattened plateau.
The church was created around 1180 as the personal church of Count Simon of Tecklenburg. The counts of Tecklenburg had spread out their territory this far in the 12th century. In 1250 we learn of the first clergyman in Berge. In the first half of the 13th century the bishop of Osnabrück elevated St. Servatius to a parish church; the territory was branched off from the original parish of Bippen. Next to the village of Berge, it included the peasants of Anten, Dalvers, Grafeld and Schmone.
The church belonged, as did the neighboring parish, to the archdeacon (district supervision) of the Osnabrück cathedral cantor. After the institution of the deanery in the 17th century, Berge is within the deanery of Fürstenau.
During the time of the reformation and counter-reformation these was also in the area of Berge a many sided change of religions [confessions]. Only in the year 1650, after the Thirty-year War, were the conditions finally settled. One reached back to the circumstances of the so-called “normal year” 1625. As in many communities the circumstances were not possible to reconstruct exactly and in such cases a very special regulation arrangement was chosen. Thus one applied in Berge parish church the Catholic religion, while in Venne the church maintained the Lutheran religion.
The other religions certainly had freedom of belief, but were strongly bound to the local parish church. The Evangelic Christians [Lutherans] in Berge turned to the cathedral of Börstel, 5 km away. Only after the change of government of Osnabrück to Hannover could the Lutherans in Berge create their own parish church, for which building began in 1836.
In the year 1910 the curate Garfeld was separated out. About 1800 members belong to the present parish, which includes members from Bippen and Manslage.
These are the priests of St. Servatius:
1250 Albero 1306 Rodolfus
1576 – 1594 Niemann, Georg
1594 – 1605 Hüls, Laurentius
1605 – 1643 Hector, Johannes
1643 – 1652 Offermann, Ivo
1652 – 1668 Steinken, Egbert
1668 – 1691 Elmendorf, Johannes Arnold
1691 – 1692 Sterenberg, P. Christoph OP
1692 – 1713 Hamm, Lambert
1714 – 1745 Arkenow, Werner
1746 – 1769 Willebrand, Hermann Heinrich
1785 – 1817 Leeve, Lambert
1817 – 1849 Völker, Eugen
1849 – 1857 Schulte, Anton
1857 – 1885 Heilmann, Ludwig
1885 – 1888 Fährnmann, Bernhard (Pfarradmin.)
1888 – 1890 Zuhöne, Hermann
1890 – 1907 Ruiter, Bernard
1908 – 1916 Stroetmann, Bernhard
1916 Rosken, August (Pfarradmin.)
1916 – 1927 Drexler, Josef
1927 – 1953 Stöckmann, Hermann, genannt Leusing
1953 – 1968 Struve, Fritz
1968 – 1980 Dotzler, Richard
1980 – 1985 Teuber, Günter seit
1985 Flohre, Lothar
The approach to the church from the main road past the impressive framework lets you imagine something of the former defense character of the church. On the east and west sides of the church yard there are still remnants of walls kept as ruins, which formerly marked boundaries of the church land. Even in the 1879 volume 6 of Mithoff’s “Art Memorials and Antiques in the Hannover Area” , Mithoff speaks of two spike-shaped towers which lead south and west in the reach of the church which also was used as a cemetery. Just behind the choir and in a separated corner of the present area are still some noticeable grave markers and memorials remaining from the 18th and 19th century. The greenery frames the view of the house of God which in its present form originated in two different epochs.
The original form of the gothic church is still recognizable in the west tower and the connecting westerly beam. Up to the first ledge, the tower shows its original unstructured form, in the lower third the sandstone wall is built with powerful remains. The openings in the tower resemble gun placements and they indicate the defense character of the earlier construction. In the ground plan it is noticeable that the tower is slightly angled, as is a ship. The arched sound openings starting directly over the fist ledge originated from the widening of the church between 1900 and 1903. It follows a further circular ledge and shortly over it the similar protruding endings. The spire follows in the form of the gothic prior building: a square that changes into an octagon. The three steel bells of the tower (c’ – f’— as’) were delivered in 1922 from the bell foundry Ulrich and Weule in Bockererm.
The western beam bordering on the tower remains the closest to its original form. Diagonally placed triple stepped buttresses capture the thrusting vault at the corner. Under the great gothic multiple window, the former spire-shaped south portal is still recognizable, which at the old view disappears behind a porch. This view also shows the original size of the window. Both the connecting arches were broken into in 1901 at the construction of side naves, at the eastern walls of the former straight closed choirs. The built-on choir room had a 5/8 closure. All windows show rich faceted three part inlays.
Both the side nave arches have shortened slate roofs with a small core of roof. The Osnabrück architect Alexander Behnes carried out the enlargement. The sandstone material used – of course without mixture of left-overs – suites well the previously found material; also the buttresses are suiting in form and placement to the existing ones, so that in spite of the 600-years of difference, a uniform working body of a building lies before us. The construction of the church together with the dedication of the new high altar was completed on September 3, 1903 by Bishop Hubert Voss with great participation of the entire community. In the Reliquien of this altar rest the relics of St. Gemellius and St. Micinus.
Both of the side nave portals lead to the interior of the church (to the south “Berge side”, to the north “Antener side”). The inside of the tower is a covered barrel arch that includes the three ridges of the central nave of the former long hall. Broad transverse arches separate them from each other. The four respective sandstone ribs of the cross arch are fluted, deeply carved, and resting on small corner supports. In the apex of the arch, the ribs meet in small end stones. The side nave arches, which are only half as wide and therefore shaped in right corners, were added in the construction of the central nave. Also the wall breaks through the former outer wall take up the spire arch.
Choir room formation
In the course of the total interior renovation of 1992/93, the choir room on the ground floor was formed entirely new.
The step construction was drawn forward out over the triumphal arch. The first wider “Communion Step” carries also the pulpit from 1901. Before the beautiful middle choir window stands the old high altar torn from the wall on an added step surface. This serves now with the old tabernacle as repository for the Sacrament.
Altar and Ambo, made by the sculptors Michael and Christof Winkelmann from Möhnessee, stand in the central area of the choir room. They are cut out of massive sandstone in yellow-gray color brought from Mainfranken. Altar and Ambo fit in form also very well with the Gothic room.
The new altar does not take up much room because of its narrow shape. The motif of the Tree of Life is the centerpiece of the altar. Bishop Theodor Kettmann placed relics of St. Boniface and St. Maria Goretti in the Reliquien below the new celebration altar at the rededication of St. Servatius and the consecration of the altar on April 3, 1993.
The seats of the priest and mass servers were finished in oak wood and are movable so they can be rearranged for different liturgical holidays. In tone of color they are indistinguishable from the new gothic choir seats.
Highlights of the medieval times are the frescos of the former choir arch, on the east arch of the church, which were uncovered in 1992. The now visible painting originated in the 15th century. The fresco was covered by a one-colored arrangement of the 20th century, a colorful painting from 1903, the Boroque painting of the 18th century in blue and bright gray and the gray Renaissance painting of the second half of the 16th century.
Presently manifold scenes of the theme “Last Judgement” are shown to the visitor.
Next we are considering the east top of the arch (toward the altar): Christ as world judge at the Last Judgement is accompanied by Mary and John the Baptist in penitents garb. Small human figures are to be found in the folds of the arch.
The south top (right) represents the condemned, who are lead by the devil into the jaws of hell. Interesting are the different details showing a “candidate for hell” with a money belt and liquor bottle shown with the greedy one and drunkard.
At left in the northern top one recognized the chosen ones before the gate of heaven as well as sun, moon and stars. The “Heavenly Jerusalem” was projected in the erstwhile time; it shows gothic forms of building with multiple work windows. In the easterly spandrel is recognized a musician angel, which also shows John the Evangelist.
The west top (in the direction of the organ) shows a kneeling man (son of Elias: Elias leaves his student Elias his coat behind), above him diagonally placed is a two-wheeled cart. At both sides we find again musician angels, and incorporated here the evangelists Mark and Luke. In the south spandrel one recognized upstanding bodies, in the direction of a closing stone a closely pressed group of angels.
Not all entities could be described here, for the patient observer there is still much to be discovered. Further paintings were found in the old west arch of the church, however they were only marginally preserved and therefore had to be covered again.
The oldest piece of equipment of the church is the baptismal font of the Bentheimer type, today placed in the middle nave area. These baptismal fonts were produced in Bentheim and Gildenhaus from the sandstone that occurs there and about 100 examples remain in northwest Germany and the Netherlands. One can date them in the late Roman time (shortly after 1200). The baptismal font at Berge has special meaning because of the still partially recognizable colored style.
The basin – it is so large because in the Middle Ages the children to be baptized were immersed – rests on four crouching figures of men that are tied together in a ring. They could represent the unredeemed people, while the figure vessel that crushes them can symbolize the life outside of the grace of Baptism. In the lower region are recognizable palm motifs, which a grapevine which circles around the basin, alternately one recognized leaves and grapes. The rope ornament pictures again the upper end.
Doubtless the old and valuable monstrance (Tower Monstrance) along with the baptismal font, belongs to the historically valuable parts of the church treasure.
Unfortunately the original source of the Berge monstrance could no longer be determined. We know however, that this worthy monstrance was constructed in the year 1909 by the court appointed gold and silver works of I.C. Osthues from Münster from two older monstranses, into an artful and delicate goldsmith work.
The remaining equipment of the church originates from the time around 1900, therefore the epoch of the widening of the church. The church remains largely intact and deserves consideration. The church is from the time of the new gothic style, which revealed an independence of style that is much valued.
Altars, chancel, choir seat and confessional seats are constructed of wood and show the typical elements of gothic style – high spire reliefs filled with multiple work, slim branches (small towers) which are covered with scrawls and end in a flower cross.
The panel painting of the Stations of the Cross, with new gothic wooden framing, stand with their ornamentally shaped background in the tradition of the so-called Nazarener. The tower hall was proved with an impressive Pieta (Sorrowful Mother) on powerful sandstone pedestal in the Chapel of Mary. It carries the inscription "Oh, all of you who pass by her pay also attention and show a pain similar to my pain."
The other sculptures of saints are arranged in secret places of work, the place of work of Seling and the woodworker Fuchs.
We begin our observation of the most important works with the side on the left inserted in a spiral niche in the wall. Two mural paintings of saints frame it, at left Saint George, who holds the dragon he has kidded in his right hand and on the right is Saint Elisabeth. In the middle of the altar shrine stands the Madonna of the rosary with the standing Child Jesus on her lap.
In the break through of the side name we find the patron saint of the church, St. Servatius. He is one of the “Ice Saints” and was Bishop of Maastricht in the Netherlands in the 4th century. Because of St. Servatius’ efforts for peace, Peter is said to have appeared to him and handed him a silver key with which he could open eternal life to all that ask for it. This statue shows him as a bishop with the key.
The new gothic chancel, as well as the choir seats are not made in color. At the chancel curb under the gothic multiple work windows are the busts of the evangelists represented with their symbols. A powerful multiple filigreed spire crowns the sounding board, ending in a double flower cross.
The old main altar shows a narrow case for the Eucharist – while at the left of the tabernacle the Wedding at Canna is represented, and to the right is shown the miracle of the loaves. The choir windows show in beautiful colors from the lest to the right Mary as comforter of the grieving ones, the crucifixion and the relatively rare representation of Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, and how they recognized Him at the breaking of the bread. The large scene over the right choir seats, which for us now appears somewhat theatrical, shows the Sermon on the Mount. Forward is a statue of the Sacred Heart that was created in 1915 by wood sculptor Fuchs from Munich.
On the right entrance to the side name we arrive at the right side altar; it is devoted to the Holy Family, it shows very realistically the carpenter’s workplace of Saint Joseph. Finally both the statures at the middle pillars are to be mentioned; the first apostle Peter with keys and Paul with the sword. The view back shows us the powerful organ – here also is the new gothic formation remaining of the time around 1900. The organ controls over 15 registers and was constructed by the organ building company Haupt in Osnabrück.
When leaving the church by the south portal (Berger side) we find the life-large Crucifixion carved from sandstone around 1900 as mission cross in front of the former western retaining wall. The eastern retaining wall behind the Cross and the Sacristy extension of 1989/90 which breaks through of stairs, leads us to the War Memorial. The worthy, park-like path with a fine view over the village leads us to three war memorials, which show the rapid change of style clear in the last hundred years. The eagle-crowned column of the monument for 1870/71 is kept in historicism still whole, while the memorial place for the fallen of World War I exhibits expressionist style. The stairs and the part of the churchyard turned into a memorial place for the fallen of World War II is in the new realistic style. With the view of the beautiful silhouette of the neighboring Lutheran church we can end our tour.