Schlosskirche, Spiez

Spiez is a small German-speaking town of about 12,500 inhabitants in the Canton of Bern, best known for its castle and its fine views over the lake. Spiez is along a major rail line and makes an easy day trip from Bern or Interlaken.

The Romanesque Schlosskirche or Castle Church of Spiez is picturesquely situated at the end of a rocky peninsula overlooking Lake Thun. Regularly used for weddings by locals, the pretty Schlosskirche is well worth visiting for its faded Romanesque frescoes in the apse and the crypt.

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History of Schlosskirche

Christianity first arrived in this area around 500 AD through the work of Irish missionaries. With Einigen and Scherzligen, the church at Spiez is among the oldest missionary churches in the Berner Oberland.

The existence of a Carolingian church on this site is first recorded in 762, in connection with the donation of the Ettenheim/Elsass Monastery by Bishop Heddo of Strasbourg.

The Schlosskirche that stands today was probably founded around 900-1000 AD in connection with the kingdom of Upper Burgundy (centered around Lake Geneva c.880-1032). Its architecture is consistent with that of Lombardian (northern Italian) churches of the 9th and 10th centuries.

Spiez belonged to the diocese of Lausanne and was ruled by the Strättligen, Bubenberg and Erlach lords (a monument in the floor of the left aisle commemorates Albrecht von Erlach).

Since 1907, the Schlosskirche has served the parish of Spiez; in 1929 it came under the ownership of the Stiftung Schloss Spiez (Spiez Castle Foundation).

Today, the Schlosskirche of Spiez is used by locals for weddings and tourists often stop by after a tour of the adjacent castle.

What to See at Schlosskirche

Both the exterior and interior of the three-aisled Castle Church are Early Romanesque. The square tower is even older than the church, and probably belongs to the earliest church that stood here. The spire was added in 1628.

The stone interior is austere yet manages to be cozy and welcoming. The graduated ceilings over the nave, aisles and apse make a unique harmony of individual components.

The frescoes in the elevated apse, which is approached by a rather monumental stairway, and in the crypt (under the apse and entered from the left aisle) are the clear highlights of a visit despite their faded state.

The apse frescoes feature Christ Enthroned within a medallion, surrounded by saints and other images. Be sure to turn on the electric floor lamps conveniently placed beneath the frescoes for a good look.

The content of the crypt frescoes is unknown to us, as the gate to the crypt was unfortunately locked during our visit and written sources are scarce.

There is also a fine stone pulpit and interesting altars and monuments in the small chapels at the tops of each side aisle.

Quick Facts on Schlosskirche

Site Information
Names:Castle Church of Spiez · Kirche Spiez · Schlosskirche · Spiez Schlosskirche
Country:Switzerland
Categories:churches; lakeside setting
Styles:Romanesque
Dates:10th C
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:46.689119° N, 7.688563° E
Address:Thunersee
Spiez, Switzerland
Hours:Usually unlocked during the day
Lodging:View hotels near Schlosskirche
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (December 2006).
  2. Kirche Spiez - Kultur BeO

More Information

View of the Schlosskirche from Spiez Castle. © Holly Hayes
North exterior of the Schlosskirche. © Holly Hayes
The Schlosskirche is picturesquely situtated on Lake Thun. © Holly Hayes
The ancient tower (c.900-1000 AD). © Holly Hayes
Entrance to the Schlosskirche. © Holly Hayes
Interior, looking from the apse towards the entrance. © Holly Hayes
Frescoes in the apse. © Holly Hayes
Main apse fresco, with medallion of Christ. © Holly Hayes
Frescoes and sketches of apostles. © Holly Hayes

Map of Schlosskirche, Spiez

Below is a location map and aerial view of Schlosskirche. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.