Let Us Spray Graffiti Artist Saves Church from Closure


By in Goldscheuer, Germany

Part 2: 'Maybe Some Will Find this Blasphemous'

Strumbel was bubbling over with ideas, and Father Braunstein realized the project could become much more than the mere restoration of a 1960s building. They agreed that Strumbel should create the entire new interior of the church.

Strumbel declined a fee. Of course he will benefit from the attention, as he says himself, because the longevity of art in a church is incomparable. But he talks even more about his social mission. "I want to create a feeling of security" is a phrase he often uses.

The place he imagined is now on display in the church. He has painted wide strips of dark grey and white on some walls. At the front of the room, a crucifixion scene made out of wood had been hanging over the altar; it is now on the ground. It will be mounted on the wall again, however, and a strip of LEDs in different colors will light it up.

'Every Inch Had to be Approved'

Speech bubbles painted white will hang on two walls by the entrance; candles will go underneath them. The light from the flames will shine on the speech bubbles, a symbol of the silent prayers of the faithful.

LED ribbons, funky stripes and comic-book elements in a Catholic church? That sounds like a minor revolution. But Strumbel met surprisingly little resistance from the archdiocese, even though, as he says, "every inch had to be approved."

The Goldscheuer parish council was far more skeptical, however. When Strumbel presented his plan, the councillors looked shocked. The only way to convince them was through the image for which the church will be most renowned in future: a 6-meter (20-foot) high Madonna holding the infant Jesus in her arms.

Strumbel is spraying the image on the wall above the gallery, which is above the entrance. It requires dozens of cans of paint, and Strumbel needs to wear a gas mask as he works; otherwise the concentration of paint in the air would be too much for him.

The Madonna by the entrance and the crucified Jesus by the altar sit facing each other; here the newborn in his mother's arms, there the adult being tortured to death.

In his Madonna picture, Strumbel combines the two meanings the church holds for the people of Goldscheuer, and probably for many Christians. In the image, Jesus' mother wears the traditional costume of the region around Goldscheuer. She combines the transcendent with the secular dimension of the church -- faith and home. "Maybe some will find this blasphemous, it is always going to be provocative," says Barbara Martin, an architect from the building authority at the Archdiocese of Freiburg.

A New Approach to Religion

In mid-March, Father Braunstein celebrated a service at what was then still a construction site. Some 170 people came to the mass, almost six times as many as usual. The village church had not seen so much life in a long time.

The priest will open the renovated building on July 1 with a service. Almost certainly, even more people will turn up, wanting to see their new church.

People like Hans-Dieter Udri, who likes what he sees. "After all, you have to think of those who will come here in 30 or 40 years' time."

Father Braunstein also believes that young people can find a new approach to religion through Strumbel's art. He counters any doubts with his approach to life: "I'm an optimist."

One thing is certain: Strumbel has started something with his art. "There are rumours that the older women want to get out their traditional costumes once again for the opening," he says.


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Washbush 06/10/2011
1. Please make regular updates to this story ...
This is such a fantastic story in so many respects, that it demands a regular follow up. I would like to see an up date once per week, showing the progress until the job is finished. Can you do that, please? John M
BTraven 06/14/2011
What a pity that evangelists are not allowed to have images in their churches. Perhaps, there will be a new Michelangelo among those who paint there.
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