Being some reflections (architectural, liturgical, sociological) on Narrengottesdienst (the Fools´ Service) at St. Stefanskirche in Konstanz.
We´ll start with the building. I´d never been in for a service before, since I usually go to the Münster when the Old Catholics aren´t having a service and I want to go to church but am not in a lutheran mood. St. Stefan´s claims to be the city´s oldest parish church, which is at least arguably true. The tower´s a familiar landmark, and Margaret and Catherine may recall the statues of the church´s patron and (randomly) of John of Nepomuk outside. Inside, the Nave, with its medieval architecture, neo-gothic glass, and 16th and 19th century murals more or less works, and manages to include some renaissance monuments, modernist stations of the cross, and a rococo organ without too much difficulty. The Chancel, however, got Rococo´d at some point in its past, and while that´s unfortunate in itself, it´s pretty restrained and would be relatively attractive...if someone in the 19th century hadn´t partly re-gothicked it. As it is, the line of the original east window protrudes rather crudely through an 18th century cornice, and the bright colors of gothic revival windows clash horribly with the pastels of the celing painting. Moral of the story: if you´re going to redo a building, at least for the love of God make a thorough job of it.
Anyhoo, back to people wearing silly clothes. (And this time, it´s not just the clergy!)
Narrengottesdiest appears to be a well-established tradition (the Lutherans wera having one too), whereby people bring their costumes--and some of the atmosphere--of carnival to church, both literally and metaphorically. So the church was full of Blätzle and people in wizard costumes and camel outfits and carnival masks, we were played in with a brass band (also in wizard costumes...is this a tradition, or just Potter-mania?), and the first reading was the Emperor´s New Clothes. (No, before the liturgists ask, there was no mocking of church services in general--no black puddings, or burning shoes in thurifers...) The Gospel, appropriately enough, was Mark 2:18-22: which of course has to do with fasting vs rejoicing, clothing, and wine, the themes of the week. And the sermon took this up, calling on the church to be willing to embrace the new and the strange without rejecting the old. Admittedly, some of the new things which the priest was praising were the arrival of some certain conservative politicians on the German and Catholic scene...but I´m willing to forgive him. He did the whole thing in verse.