The Church of St. Laurentius - the history book of our town
The Church of St. Laurentius
The building of the church of St. Laurentius continued during the last 7 centuries. Four construction phases in the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Baroque style can be discerned. The styles of each period have been harmoniously integrated into the former building. So with right you can regard the church as the history book of Marktheidenfeld.
The Echter Church
The starting year of the construction of the "Echter-Kirche" can be dated to 1613, as a memorial plaque points out, which today is displayed inside the former pastoral church of St. Laurentius. It reminds us of the reintroduction of the catholic denomination as well as of the reconstruction of the church at that time. The consecration of the new church building was made on September 8th, 1614 by the Würzburg Bishop Eucharius Sang.
When Heidenfeld - as it was called at the time - was reclaimed by the Diocese of Würburg, The Prince Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn has a new church built, the Echter Church, to replace the Old Romanic church, to set a visible mark of the counter-reformation. During the centuries before Heidenfeld had been governed by the counts of Wertheim; those called the town to confess to the doctrines of Martin Luther.
The nave of the old Romanesque church was torn down. Only the choir in the ground floor of the church steeple was preserved. The new single-nave church was built in the so-called Echter-style, a mixture of the late Gothic and Renaissance period, recognizable from afar by the characteristic of all Echter churches, the pointed steeple. This steeple was hit by lightning in the year of 1805 and burned down. It was replaced by the Baroque onion-shaped steeple of today.
Frescos in the choir of the Romanesque church
Little is known about the previous Echter church. It is likely that it was a little castle-like church in an area free of flooding, where the population could seek shelter in times of crisis. Apart from the choir a little Romanesque double-window at the north side of the steeple is preserved. When the church of St. Laurentius was restored in 1982/3 they found Medieval frescos under the plasterwork of the vestry, which were partly uncovered in 2003. They showed Christ as pan-creator, as king of the entire world and the universe, as well as a depiction of the four evangelists, characterized by animal symbols. Those freso paintings most likely date from the 16th century.
Graveplates of Wilhelm and Elisabeth von
Another historically important artifact fas found also in 2003. During the restorations two graveplates were discovered, depicting Wilhelm and Elisabeth von Krichingen (died in 1610 and 1612). Wilhelm and Elisabeth von Krichingen were the successors of the counts of Wertheim, after Count Michael III. of Wertheim diem in 1556 without male successors. The two graveplates are now displayed under the previously mentioned memorial plate for the building of the Echter Church of 1613.
Expansion and modification in the 18th century
In the first half of the 18th century the nave was expanded and finished with the Baroque show facade. Then the interior was modified. A high altar and an altarpiece dedicated to the church patron Laurentius were made. The altarpiece was painted by Georg Sebastian Urlaub from Thüngersheim near Würzburg.
St. Laurentius, a deacon of Pope Sixtus II, died a martyr's death. Legend has it that he was tortured on a grate, because he declined to give up the church's treasures which was trusted to him. A stature of St. Laurentius adorns the show facade of the church in Obertorstraße. There is one more inside the church. St. Laurentius holds the grate in his hand as a distinctive mark. The statues of Peter and Paul on both sides of the altarpiece were made by Jakob van der Auvera, whose son Johann Wolfgang was one of the most important sculpterors of the Würzburg Residenz.
Due to the strong increase in population of the market town Marktheidenfeld at the end of the 19th century, the two side aisles were added. In the late 1960s a second catholic church, St. Josef, was build.
The restoration of 1982/83 and modification of the church area in 2002/03
In the years 1982/3 the church of St. Laurentius was restored. The staircase between choir and nave was changed and the new people's altar, the pulpit and the sedilia were made of the typical red sandstone from the region. During the restoration of the historical town center the area around the church was renovated. It was the idea to make the church as a building more visible and to "place the church inside the town". All fixtures around the church were removed during the restoration and the stairs were modified. Now you find an open and inviting space which covers three levels and invites you to linger.
The Laurenzi Fair
The church patron St. Laurentius lent his name also to the largest festival at Marktheidenfeld. Every year, around the church holiday of the Ascension of Virgin Mary (August 15th), Marktheidenfeld is celebrating the Laurenzi-Messe for nine days with guests from near and far.