Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Village Church of Serrig at Kirten
The 12th century tower of the Catholic Church in Kirten
In the nineteenth century, the heart of almost every village in the Rheinland, and certainly in my ancestral villages, was the Catholic Church. The families who lived in the village worked long hours on six days of the week, but on Sundays, the spiritual took precedence over weekday labor. The church was not only the place where all villagers went to nourish their souls, but also a gathering place for friends and relatives, united in their religious practice as well as the social activities of the parish, such as the Kermis or parish festival.
The Catholic church of Serrig, home parish of my Hauser, Rommelfanger, and Käse ancestors, was not actually in their village. It was located at Kirten nearby. Here stood a Romanesque-style church building with a bell tower, the only part which remains today. The villagers of Serrig walked some good distance to attend services in their parish church, located in this Ort, a place not large enough to be called a village.
The book, "Serrig: Landschaft, Geschichte und Geschichten", says that while the population of Serrig grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, residents still traveled to the Kirten church, even though it was some distance away, and Kirten itself had only three mills and four nearby houses.
The visitation protocol of about 1810 (this was probably akin to a diocesan report on a Catholic Church in its jurisdiction) reports that Kirten's place of worship was too small by half for the number of people who attended services, most of whom, approximately 80 families and 560 communicants, came from Serrig to services.
The protocol also says the "choir" of the church (the chancel which held the choir and any priests in attendance who were not officiating at the Mass) was in terrible condition; the floor of the attic very damaged and the sacristy needed renovation; the benches were all old and broken; the glass windows of the church were dull and lacking in color. The altar of the Virgin Mary and the two neighboring altars of holy Nikolaus and the holy Cosmos and Damien were "doomed to disaster."
Eventually, the nave had fallen into such decay that only the chancel and the sanctuary of the church remained
The Kirten church had no organ and the mass was sung in Latin but regularly mixed with German songs. Every Sunday there was catechism instruction.
The cemetery was large enough for the needs of the parish. The church had two bells. The first bell was installed in 1753 (when the vestry and nave of the church were added to the first floor choir (which dated from the mid 1500s). Josef Mabillon from Saarburg was given the assignment of making the other bell tower larger in 1839 (to accomodate the new bell).
The rectory was in good condition with five rooms of which two had heat. There was a stable and stall and also a garden behind the house.
By 1853 the Kirten church was still in bad repair, although the protocol from 1853 noted that the altar was now very tasteful and modern. As if the author of the protocol was afraid to give too much praise, it was noted that t
he high altar of the church was overflowing with "bad" statues. Whether this refers to the condition of the statues or the quality of the craftsmanship is not clear.
A repair in 1838 was noted in the protocol of 1853. This repair had done away with the side altars.
On the tabernacle altar there had been a large statue of St. Martin (the Kirten Church's patron saint) with a beautiful horse. That statue was removed in 1838 by order of the report writer because he was afraid that the Halfen, the men who handled the horses that towed the barges along the Saar River, would be distracted by the horse's beauty and would not concentrate on the church service. The statue went to another small village, presumably one that was not on a river.
A new church was constructed in the Village of Serrig in 1896 and the crumbling church at Kirten was demolished. As I noted earlier, all that remains today is the church tower built in about the 12th century. The cemetery for the village of Serrig still lies nearby.
Next: The Village Church of Irsch