Alsace Bossue

The Stengel churches

The Protestant church in Harskirchen © The Alsace Bossue tourist office

The Protestant church in Harskirchen © The Alsace Bossue tourist office

Sarre-Union - Harskirchen - Domfessel - Diemeringen - Berg

The region «Alsace Bossue » has many churches called « Stengel churches ». They were built in the Nassau-Sarrebruck county around 1760-1780, following an agreement between Louis XV and the Prince of Nassau-Sarrebruck. This agreement stated that new churches could be built and financed in the Sarrewerden county to end quarrels between the Protestants and the Catholics, who until then had to share their places of worship.
The architect, Friedrich Joachim Stengel, was in charge of this project. The architectural plans of the Protestant churches he built stand out as « Breitsaalkirche » (longitudinal section churches): the nave is used crosswise, without chancel or transept, so that preaching can be better heard.


Start your tour at the « Reformed » church of Sarre-Union (rue des Eglises). Built by Dodel, one of Stengel's students, this church is in the style of the« Breitsaalkirchen » architecture (longitudinal section churches). Today it is classified on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List.


In the same street you will find the Protestant church of Sarre-Union. This is an exception to the circuit, as it isn't a Stengel church but it's worth the visit! Next to the former school and the vicarage, this Gothic and Baroque church was opened in 1710. In the grounds you'll still find tombs of prominent local people – mayors, pastors... The organ, with an elaborately carved cabinet, was first mentioned in the church's register in 1716. During the French revolution, when the church was turned into a hay barn, it was sealed up with planks. The present instrument was built by the organ builders Dalstein & Haerpfer de Boulay, under the guidance of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.


Your next stop will be at the Protestant church of Harskirchen (rue d’Altwiller), 4km West of Sarre-Union by the D26. Harskirchen used to be the capital of the Nassau-Sarrebrück county. Its church was built in 1767 and classified as a French historical monument in 1926. It is the most imposing and elaborately decorated church in the Sarrewerden county. Very typical of Baroque art, it has galleries on three sides, supported by pillars; and the central pulpit is at the rear of the altar. Inside, you'll find a 17th century altar in the Rococo style, a Georges Geib organ dating from 1766... and an 18th century portrait painting of Friedrich-Joachim Stengel.


Go back past Sarre-Union and carry on 5km East to the Protestant church of Domfessel (48 rue Principale), one of the jewels of the Gothic art of Alsace (built in the 14th century). First a Catholic church, it became Protestant during the 16th century Reformation. Its defensive wall as well as its fortified tower remind us of its defensive function in the Middle Ages. Do not miss its tower, built between 1330 and 1340, that served as a dungeon where the watchman had his room on the second floor.


At the next village (4km following the D919), stop by at the church of Diemeringen (place du Faubourg). This Baroque church was designed by Friedrich Joachim Stengel, chief architect for the counties of Nassau-Sarrebruck. Polychrome wall paintings were discovered in the second half of the 20th century when the church was renovated and they were then restored.


Finish your journey at the Protestant church of Berg (6 rue du Presbytère). To get there, take the D9, then turn right to the D182, passing through Rexingen, then turn right again to the D340. This church, along with the Reformed church of Sarre-Union, is one of the rare examples of « Breitsaalkirche » (longitudinal section churches). Its architecture is specifically adapted to Protestant liturgy and is characterized by benches set out in a horseshoe shape around the « Kanzelaltar » (combined pulpit and altar). The church has been classified as a French historical monument since 1985.

Alsace Bossue by bike – a tour of the Welch villages with a multimedia satnav.

This tour will lead you though villages that were abandoned then repopulated and rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries by Protestant refugees, known as the Huguenots. Dive into the heart of history and nature, thanks to a lot of interesting information given by the satnav that can be rented out from the Tourist Office in Lorentzen (7Km east of Sarre-Union).
Starts at Berg-Wolstof. Lenghth: 61 km/ 6hrs. Includes 894m of uphill riding. You may also break the tour into 3 loops: North/ Centre / South (20 to 30 km each).


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