St. Ulrich Parish Church

The parish church in the heart of Deidesheim

The present parish church was formerly a Marian chapel, which was built before 1300. It became dilapidated in the 15th century and it is assumed that it was also becoming insufficient for the needs of Deidesheim’s residents. The building that was to follow has been preserved to the present day. It was already called a parish church in 1460 and seven years later, St. Ulrich was mentioned as the church’s patron for the first time, together with the Mother of God. The exact date of completion of the construction work is unknown.  

The church of Deidesheim is of a particular importance to the Palatinate since it is the region’s only wholly preserved and large church building from the mid-15th century. It still overlooks Deidesheim in its original surroundings and is not challenged by any other building.

During its 500 years of history, the church was often subject to imminent looting or destruction. Unfortunately, there are no accounts of destruction during the Thirty Years War, but it seems quite obvious that this war also left scars on the building. In 1689, Deidesheim was burned down by French troops during the War of the Palatinate Succession. The church roof caught fire too, meaning that the roof truss, the tower, the bells, the church clock and the pews were completely destroyed. Fortunately, the vaults were saved. Nevertheless, it took the community a number of years to reconstruct the church but at least the altars could finally be dedicated again. Attaining the funds required was especially difficult.

The fate of the church was sealed in 1794 when troops of the French Revolutionary Army ruthlessly looted the church and desecrated it by converting it into a warehouse for confiscated wines and using it as a military prison. Later, it turned out to be very difficult to re-obtain the liturgical vessel, an organ, bells and a church clock.

The design and structure of the church building have not been changed in the last 500 years. The furnishings, however, were often replaced to suit the respective taste of the time. Today, the high altar with its two side altars is the only remnant of the seven medieval altars that had been in the church. The floor covering, which had originally consisted of grave slabs, was replaced with stone slab flooring. In 1708, the rood screen was demolished although parts of it can still be seen in the charnel house. The style of the reredos was probably changed from Gothic to Baroque and back to neo-Gothic. The church’s interior decoration was also subject to trends. In the beginning, the vaults, columns and perhaps even the walls were painted. However, in the course of time, it was not only the colors that were changed, but also the way in which columns, arches and arch ribs were decorated. During the neo-Gothic period a return to the original appearance of the church was favored. Apart from stones in their natural color, the church was also given its neo-Gothic furnishings, which still can be seen today.

Glass paintings:
The church of Deidesheim is the Palatinate’s only church building that still shows glass paintings from the Middle Ages. You can see the cut, rectangular panes above the northern side entrance, depicting Mary in glory as well as St. Catherine and St. Barbara. Above the southern side entrance there are two circular panes, which probably show head-and-shoulders portraits of Mary the Crowned and St. Dorothy. 

Wooden figures in the church room and the side altars:
To the left of the northern entrance you will see St. Jacob the Elder or St. Wendelin (around 1500) as a pilgrim. In the hospital’s deed of foundation, Nikolaus of Böhl states that Deidesheim was located on a pilgrim’s road bustling with foreign pilgrims and Christian people. According to this account, it seems very likely that the figure depicts St. Jacob the Elder. On the other hand however, the figure’s pilgrim clothes, staff and bag could also bring one to conclude that it is the patron saint of agriculture, St. Wendelin.  

Left side altar: The middle figure, the risen Christ, dates from the 18th century and the flag was added at the end of the 19th century. It is assumed that the left-hand figure, which was created in around 1480, is St. Wolfgang. Some of the parts of the figure such as the right hand, the front foot and parts of the hair and the folds of the robe had to be replaced in the 19th century. The right-hand figure of St. Urban is more recent and probably dates from the neo-Gothic period of the late 19th century.

Sanctuary: In 1941, the crucifix in the sanctuary was part of the high altar and was surrounded by a nimbus. The figure of Christ crucified is much older and dates back to around 1510. The picture showing the Ascension of the Lord, which had previously been inside the high altar, was removed and put up at the northern side of the sanctuary. The removal was suggested by Mrs. von Buhl, whose family had donated the high altar. On the pews to the left there is a figure of St. Sebastian, who is tied to a tree and a figure of St. Barbara is stood on the pews to the right. Both figures are probably works from the Middle-Rhine region from around 1760.

Below the triumphal arch you will see a statue of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. She is standing on the crescent of the moon and her body is surrounded by twelve stars and rays of the sun. The Marian statue used to be a part of the Baroque high altar from the 18th century. To the right, there is also a figure of St. Ulrich, who, together with Mary, is the patron saint of Deidesheim’s parish church.

The right-hand altar, a St. Anne’s altar, features a figure of Anne as a mother holding Mary on her lap. It has not been possible to determine whether the figure, which dates from around 1510, is part of the property of the old church.

On the consoles in front of the gallery you will find five more figures. Their origin and age are not known. The saint with the model of a church could be St. Elisabeth. One of the other figures is St. Nicolas.

The cemetery of Deidesheim was located around the church until 1783. The charnel house and the cemetery cross, rising above the former cemetery area to a height of 6.78 meters, still give testimony to this fact. On the cross’s three-stage pedestal, there is a cube-shaped hill with skulls and bones, which is meant to symbolize Golgatha. The light-colored sandstone of the “crossbeam” was designed with knotholes and branch cracks to resemble a wooden beam. The figure of Christ crucified, the cross and the inscription tablet are sculpted from one piece of rock.

If you go up the stairs between the town hall and the Catholic parish church, you will come across the Mount of Olives Chapel. In its eastern opening, a free replica of the pietà of Michelangelo is visible. As shown by the roll, the oven peel and the pretzel on the keystone of the net vault, the chapel was founded by the bakers’ guild.

Outside of the church, a larger-than-life figure of the ascending Mother of God stands at the side of the sanctuary. The rococo figure had originally been in a recess at the inner side of the northern town gate. Alas, its former counterpart, a statue of the risen Christ which had been set up at the southern town gate in 1731, has not been preserved.


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