St. Peter and Paul, Bern, Switzerland

This is the seat of the Swiss reformist catholic church in Switzerland, formed in 1871. The cathedral is comparatively modern, having been built next to the city hall between 1858 and 1864, and was the result of an international design competition, won by a group of architects including Frenchman Pierre Joseph Edouard Deperthes, the architect of the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) in Paris.

The most striking aspects of the cathedral are that it’s quite small, no larger than a regular city church, and very modern. Where most large catholic churches are very ornate and considerably older than this, the interior is very plain. As you can see in the photo above, the seats around the smaller altar, and the priest’s chair on the main altar, are very modern: clean, straight lines. There is modern art around the interior walls and the limestone walls and floor are clear of pretty much any memorial plaque, crypt or unnecessary decoration. The painted roof is just as elaborate as many others I’ve seen and the alpine flowers decorating corner arches are quite exquisite. During my visit, I felt as I do in many catholic churches: at peace, perhaps brought on by my catholic education and upbringing. Only the unusual cleanliness and sparsity of the interior made me feel as if I wasn’t in a Roman Catholic environment: that the very Swiss approach had pervaded and perhaps displaced the more Vatican influences.

More information (in German) at Wikipedia).

2 responses to “St. Peter and Paul, Bern, Switzerland”

  1. Carmen avatar

    Thanks for your blog. It was interesting to read it. I would like to make you notice that what you describe as “unusual cleanliness and sparsity of the interior made me feel as if I wasn’t in a Roman Catholic environment” I understand it as cause of it was built on 19th century. So I think your comment should be applied to so many catholic cathedral and churchs allaround Europe. Modern ones are diffrente. I think you should visit Gaud’s Holy Family at Barcelona which I visited last May i.e. you can see photos of it on Picassa i.e. really wonderful. Pope got really impressed cause of it.
    Best regards, Carmen

    1. Mark Howells-Mead avatar

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that the more modern churches are decorated in a more spartan way, but I’ve rarely come across one from this period which is quite so “modern”.

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