St. Martin's Church in Biberach was built in 1337-1366 and served as the parish church of Biberach before the Reformation. With the conversion of almost the entire population of the town to Lutheran Protestantism, the church was used for Lutheran services. Then, in 1548 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered that Catholic services be resumed. The solution was to divide the church, with Catholic services held in the former choir and Lutheran services in the larger nave. The arrangement was made permanent by the Peace of Augsburg.

For centuries, the two denominations' use of the church was regulated by the time of day. Catholics used the church from 5am to 6am, Lutherans from 6 to 8, Catholics again from 8 to 11, Lutherans from 11 to 12, and so on through the day. Catholics could use all parts of the church during their hours, although there were too few in Biberach to fill the church, while Lutherans were restricted to the nave except during the Lord's Supper when they were allowed to use the choir. The tower bells were rung by each denomination in turn.

During times of religious strife, the sharing of the church became tense. in 1638, during the Thirty Years War, someone blew his nose into the Catholic vessel containing Holy water. The Catholics retaliated by locking the door to the choir, making it impossible for the Protestants to follow their usual custom of having the Lutheran pastor celebrate Holy Communion while standing in the choir. The next year, a Catholic rang the bells to disrupt the wedding of a prominent Lutheran couple underway in the nave. A crowd gathered and a riot ensued large enough to be investigated by an imperial commission, which resolved issues surrounding shared use of the church.

The interior was remodeled and decorated in baroque style in 1746. The richly carved, gothic, early 16th century choir stalls were preserved when most of the interior decorations were removed during the iconoclasm of the Reformation.

The ceiling frescoes were created during the renovation by Johannes Zick, who included a self-portrait. The frescoes in the Lutheran area, the nave, depict the life of Jesus, the wise men and shepherds at the Nativity, the circumcision, Jesus among the scribes, and the events of Easter and Pentecost. The frescoes in the Catholic area, or choir, are of the Roman Catholic theme of the Church triumphant, they depict the Evangelists, the Fathers of the Church,the Archangel Michael, and the Virgin Mary being crowned with the Papal Tiara by angels.

Between the Catholic choir area and the Protestant nave is a large clock, with two faces, one visible from each part of the shared church.



Your name

Website (optional)


Founded: 1337-1366
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

More Information


4.1/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Achim Buschmeister (2 years ago)
Eine ganz besondere Kirche in Biberach! Historisch, sehr schön innen. Sehr schön gelegen! Biberachs Herzstück eben...
Kate M. (2 years ago)
Rüdiger Glaser (3 years ago)
Schon auf alten Postkarten festgehalten:
Dominik Gierl (3 years ago)
Beautiful paintings from the inside, but old on the outside
Rene Andreck (3 years ago)
Sehr schöne Kirche von innen und aussen
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.