A Little Bit of Germany in Arizona? (3)

The first thought I had when I walked into San Xavier del Bac was that it looked very familiar. However, due to my nonexistent knowledge of the Tohono O’odham before this trip, it obviously was not due to some prior experience with the church. The comparison I actually was making was to the Asam Church, also known as St. Johann Nepomuk, in Munich, Germany.

St. Johann Nepomuk (Asam Church), Munich, Germany (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asam_Church,_Munich)
Interior of San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

While I at first dismissed this comparison, I realized that these two churches were actually constructed with the same century as well, with the Asam Church completed in 1733 and San Xavier del Bac started in 1783 and completed in 1797. However, most people would not say that the San Xavier del Bac church would be aligned with a building in Germany that exemplifies the height of highly decorative Rococo architecture in the area. To my eye, however, many similarities can be drawn. From the heavy use of gold to accent the altar, especially the main altarpiece, to the overall crowded visual effect, the buildings evoke a very similar feeling of the opulence of the heavens through intense sensual overload.

Contrary to my experience with San Xavier del Bac, I was somewhat horrified by the incredible busyness and cluttered appearance of the Asam Church when I first saw a picture of it. However, now that I have experienced San Xavier del Bac, I believe that I might have a different reaction to the Asam Church if I ever see it in person. Walking into San Xavier del Bac instantly soothed me and it tempted me to sit down , not just because it offered a break from the shade. Rather than being overwhelmed and somewhat disgusted by the incredible detail of the design, I was enraptured and happily sat there simply taking in the church. Although I don’t know to what extent these two buildings could actually being connected with respect to the origin of their designs, I now appreciate the approach of both churches as they seek to inspire spiritual awe and devotion.

3 Replies to “A Little Bit of Germany in Arizona? (3)”

  1. The atmosphere inside San Xavier seemed more calming to me as well. Many churches I’ve been to try to overwhelm you with style or size, but San Xavier (which may have been considered large for the area and time) seemed more to foster a personal connection between both the clergy and saints pictured with its structure and form.

  2. Artwork undoubtedly stimulates the mind in quite a unique manner. Many religions around the world have used the power of aesthetics to supplement the experiences of their followers. Today, society’s appreciation for the great arts, such as sculpture, painting, and classical music seems to be diminishing. I wonder what is driving this phenomenon. While I’m sure everyone has his or her own opinion, personally, I believe that the age of instant gratification has disincentivized people from discovering the traditional ways of dealing with the struggles and hardships of life.

  3. Wow, these two churches really are incredibly similar. Personally, I have very little experience with church art/architecture so I really appreciate you taking the time to share your observation. I think the fact that each of the churches also appear to be shaped like a cross helps in providing visual similarity. I was wondering, though, if there’s a large size difference between the church at San Xavier and Asam Church? From my limited experience, churches have the characteristic of being obscenely large and grandiose but the church at San Javier was relatively small.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Joseph Guse. All rights reserved.