Diocese with building site

Diocese with building site

There is a lot of coming and going on Limburg Cathedral Hill these days: directly opposite the cathedral, the new "Diocesan Center St. Peter" is taking up residence. The "St. Nicholas" building is gradually taking shape, the official residence of the Limburg bishop and a meeting place all in one. And the subject of sometimes heated discussions that even made headlines nationwide.

Outraged citizens railed against the bulky and pompous style of the building, and critics spoke of a high-security wing in the style of Fort Knox – until the news magazine "Spiegel" jumped on the bandwagon at the end of 2010, and saw the whole project as an example of an allegedly high-handed and authoritarian course of the Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – without making it clear that the decision in favor of the project was made by the bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, that the decision in favor of the project had already been made by the Limburg cathedral chapter at the beginning of 2007 and thus before Tebartz-van Elst took office.

It is noticeable to those responsible that these debates have inflicted many a wound. With a little distance, many accusations can be refuted, as becomes clear during an inspection with architect Michael Frielinghaus and diocesan architect Tilmann Staudt. Almost every large city is faced with the problem of putting historic properties to a sensible use and getting developers to rise to the challenge, explains Frielinghaus. "Against this background, what the diocese is doing here is exemplary." This may sound like self-promotion – but as president of the Association of German Architects (BDA), Frielinghaus should have plenty of opportunities for comparison.

Turbulent and less transparent at Begi
While walking across the roughly 1.In addition, the new site, which covers an area of around 1,000 square meters, makes it easier to understand why the original budget of 5.5 million euros will probably not be met after all. The "unbelievably complex construction measures" of which Diozesanbaumeister Staudt speaks include not only the costly renovation of the "Alte Vikarie" (old vicarage) – a half-timbered house around 500 years old that was temporarily in danger of collapsing – and the former sexton's house from 1904. Also included is an architecturally ambitious new building including a chapel. And all this on a rocky and rugged building site, which is also partially enclosed by a medieval wall of quarry stone.

Archaeologists and preservationists were and are involved in the work, as are craftsmen and subcontractors from the region, who are installing clay clinker from the Westerwald region according to the old model or covering the roof of the vicarage with Mosel slate. The sometimes difficult process can also be seen in a positive light, as architect Frielinghaus sums up: "As the result of interdisciplinary cooperation." Finally, as for criticism of the size or furnishings of the rooms intended for the bishop, those responsible point, by way of example, to 120 square meters of private living space – "without a garden, whirlpool or sauna" – and the 60-square-meter, simply furnished chapel – "more of a devotional room".

So why all the fuss? It is probably related to the initial phase of the large-scale project, which was turbulent and lacked transparency – and also occurred at a time when the diocese was forced to announce massive austerity measures. "Today, such a decision-making process would be communicated quite differently," those involved concede. In addition, the bishop, who calls the project "necessary and right," is not always easy for journalists to reach. Perhaps this sometimes somewhat difficult way of dealing with the public is the real construction site of the diocese.

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