Neustadt am Rennsteig, Michael's Church

Neustadt am Rennsteig, St Michael's Church

Reconciling worship and tourism: Sacral sanctuary as wayside hostel

The Thüringer Wald attracts hikers and wanderers from all over Germany. Its most famous route, the Rennsteig Trail, runs along its ridge and provides not only an opportunity to explore the unspoilt wooded landscape of Thuringia but also to discover some unusual places to stay.

In Neustadt am Rennsteig, local representatives and outside experts came together to find a new concept for the future of Michael’s Church as part of an open call for innovative and unconventional ideas organised in 2017 by the Evangelical Church in Central Germany and the IBA Thüringen. An initial provisional solution was implemented in 2017, followed by a more permanent installation in 2018 in the form of a sleeping niche for passing hikers in the rearward section of the neo-Romanesque church, whose tower rises over the choir. The church can now provide shelter for up to two people per night and has already hosted 93 overnight guests in 2018 alone. Further possible uses are also in planning: the congregation has proposed yoga courses, a library and a communal cooking and dining area as part of an initiative to turn the church into a modern place for the community.

Michael’s Church is the first of a series of wayside church-shelters along the Rennsteig Trail through the Thüringer Wald. It represents a model solution for the conversion and ongoing use of churches that has since attracted international attention.