Thüringen, 2.000 Kirchen

Church as hybrid public spaces

The church has been and still is the center of a village, but the social role of the church has been changing for a long time. In Thuringia, 99 percent of the approximately 2,000 Protestant church buildings are listed as historical monuments. They represent a special cultural and local value, but are also a particular challenge simply due to their number.

Not only is maintenance expensive, but churches are no longer regularly used everywhere. Due to low and shrinking membership numbers, church communities often cannot maintain their treasures. The result is the loss of important meeting places for the community.

Therefore, in 2014, the Evangelical Church in Central Germany (EKM) applied for the first open call for projects ›Zukunft StadtLand!‹ of the IBA Thuringia. This was a framework that was exactly right for their burning questions. They developed the theme ›Aufgabe, Abgabe, Wandel? Perspektiven für kirchliche Gebäude in Thüringen‹ and became one of the first IBA project sponsors.

Auftakt 500 Kirchen 500 Ideen in Erfurt_Foto Thomas Müller
After an intensive preparation phase with experts from all over Germany, the EKM, in cooperation with the IBA Thuringia, published an open call for ideas in 2016: StadtLand:Kirche. Future-oriented ideas for the use of church buildings were sought from all sections of the population, not just from people of the Christian faith.
Ausstellung Kaufmannskirche Erfurt 2017_Foto Thomas Müller.jpg
The results were exhibited in 2017 at the Kaufmannskirche Erfurt. Scenography: chezweitz.
Vernissage Querdenker Ausstellung_Foto Thomas Müller
At the vernissage on May 13, 2017, visitors were able to explore hundreds of ideas for dealing with church buildings themselves. The idea videos submitted in the call were played on the monitors.

Seven model projects emerged from the call: The ›MA‹ Martinskirche Apolda will become its own IBA project as a sociocultural meeting place. The four HER(R)BERGSKIRCHEN Thüringer Wald will be successfully rented out online as IBA project family hostels on the Rennsteig and are places of encounter. The Feuerorgel Kapelle Krobitz was transformed into an art chapel with a gas-powered organ in 2017 - and the first completed IBA project.

The Bienen-Garten-Kirche St. Peter and Paul in Roldisleben, a meditative playground in the Kirche St. Nicolai in Niedergebra, the Netzwerkkirche St. Johannis in Ellrich, and the Gesundheitskirche St. Severi in Blankenhain are also model churches that are in the process of being developed.

Improvisationskonzert in Krobitz_Foto Henry Sowinski
The Feuerorgel Kapelle Krobitz The Feuerorgel Kapelle Krobitz is the first completed project from the open call for ideas in 2017. The internationally renowned artist Carsten Nicolai developed the sculptural work ›organ‹ for the IBA project. The musical instrument is inspired by early designs of so-called flame organs from the 18th century. Picture: Henry Sowinskii
Herrbergskirche Neustadt am Rennsteig Innenaufnahme_Foto Thomas Müller
The HER(R)BERGSKIRCHE Michaelis in Neustadt am Rennsteig is a model project for further HER(R)BERGSKRICHEN along the Rennsteig in the Thuringian Forest, and has been an IBA project since March 2019. In 2020, the HER(R)BERGSKIRCHEN welcomed the addition of the Luther Church in Tambach-Dietharz. In 2021, the Matthäuskirche in Spechtsbrunn followed, which will be offered as a HER(R)BERGSKIRCHE for the first time in the summer of 2022. In addition, in 2022, the project process began for the Kirche St. Katharina in Hirschberg an der Saale, which will be available for booking from 2023 onwards.
Sozialkaufhauskirche Apolda_Foto Thomas Müller
The nave of the Martinskirche Apolda is to be converted into a sociocultural meeting place. In 2020, the planning participants, the Apolda church community, the EKM, and the IBA sought designs for the conversion of the nave. The design of the Leipzig architecture firm Atelier ST was able to prevail, proposing a house-in-house solution for the Martinskirche with a new diamond-shaped vault made of white-lacquered laminated timber. Visualization: Atelier ST
Netzwerkkirche Ellrich Workshop_Foto Elke Bergt
The St. Johanniskirche in Ellrich is looking to 2030 and aims to connect digitally and socially. The church space has already frequently been used as a meeting place in workshops. Participants include the city of Ellrich, the EKM, the church community, the architecture firm ONOFF Berlin, and the artist Jürg Montalta. Picture: Elke Bergt
Bienengartenkirche Roldisleben_Foto Thomas Müller
The Bienen-Garten-Kirche in RoldislebenRoldisleben is being opened up for expanded use. Thanks to the commitment of the actors involved, encounters, identity building, and the exchange of experiences, cultural, ecological, and religious knowledge are promoted here. The focus of the project is on the development of the garden and building of the Kirche St. Peter and Paul in Roldisleben beyond purely religious use, for the benefit of the village community and as an attractive meeting point for the entire region.
Kirche Donndorf_Foto Thomas Müller
In the St. Nicolai Kirche in Niedergebra, a ›meditative playground‹ was realized in 2019. The church community, the municipality of Niedergebra, and the EKM were involved. Picture: Elke Bergt

These seven churches demonstrate how a hybrid, public use of mostly listed sacred spaces is possible. The church conversions lead to a changed attitude of the church communities. The sense of community is strengthened by making a church for the people into a church with the people. To inspire other church communities, the EKM has launched the website, where the IBA projects and other model churches from all over Central Germany can be found.


Project Sponsors


Landesbischof der Evangelischen Kirche in Mitteldeutschland

Project Partners

Curatorial project management open call for ideas

Contact Person

Ulrike Rothe


Gespräch mit Elke Bergt_IBA Magazin 2022.pdf [pdf]


Thüringer Staatspreis für Baukultur 2021 für ›2.000 Kirchen Thüringen‹
Buch ›Ein neuer Typus Kirche‹ erschienen
Neue Möbellandschaft für die Netzwerkkirche Ellrich
Studentischer Wettbewerb zu Kirchenmobil entschieden
Landesbischof übernimmt Schirmherrschaft für Modellprojekte
Förderung für Ausbau der Netzwerkkirche in Ellrich bewilligt
Bereisung der Modellprojekte
Rückblick auf den 29. Evangelischen Kirchbautag 2019
Pavillon für Bienen- und Gartenkirche Roldisleben
Workshop zur Umnutzung von Kirchengebäuden bei der IBA Parkstad
1. Kirchen-Salon in Erfurt
Eröffnung der Ausstellung ›500 Kirchen 500 Ideen‹
Ideenaufruf gestartet
Bundeskulturstiftung fördert künstlerisches Projekt ›STADTLAND:Kirche‹
Nominierung zum IBA Kandidat

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