• Sunday , 20 August 2017

A Journey to Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Feldkappelle

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I set off armed with my phone packed with a series of google map screenshots and a bag with two litres of Ice Tea and no sandwich. Nevertheless I was cautiously optimistic.

I took the train to Euskirchen, hoped off and began the 13.8km cycle. It was a cold sharp day, my breath was clearly visible. The sun shone with an intense brightness.

Whilst cycling I was either too hot or too cold. I swapped layers numerous times in an attempt to find a stable temperature. When I finally reached the destination according to my pieced together map, I saw the chapel from a distance across a vast raked field.

I carefully threaded across a winding path, moving between shade and light, mud and frost. My feet negotiated the varying ground conditions, right foot on solid frozen ground, left foot 20 pounds heavier in thick squelching mud, and my €6 rented bicycle somewhere in the middle becoming dirtier with every step.

The smell of fresh manure filled my nostrils, the sounds of birds chirping pierced my ears. I was glad to have the birds as company for without them it was eerily silent.

I approached the chapel from the north, the building revealing itself gradually through dense skeletal trees and vegetation. It was completely in shadow and appeared almost only in two dimensions as a planar surface. It took light on a third side to reveal its true form and volume. This play of shadow and light intrigued me more and more.

I passed a tall man dressed appropriately for the conditions. We nodded to each other acknowledging that neither of us spoke a common language and kept walking.

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The iron door to enter the chapel was closed over, a moment of hesitation came over me as I thought, what if it is locked? Have I made this journey in vain?

I lifted the warm round knob, popping open the door with a clink. It swung around with ease despite its appearance of great weight and solidity. I entered the building and was surprised to find that I was not alone. A couple were praying. They sat in silence on a timber bench sculpted to receive the human form, I sat on the gritty ground. My eyes took a few moments to adjust to the light which seeped from an opening overhead.

Having read about the building I consciously expected a rich smell of burnt wood. But my nose was running from the cold and it wasn’t until much later that the lingering smell began to grow.

A pond of water lay in a rough depressed piece of ground just below the oculus, remnants of a wet day the evening before. The smooth calm water reflected the rough cave-like walls which soared weightlessly to the sky. As the heat worked up from my long cycle began to subside, it became increasingly cold. The couple left. I was alone. The sound of wind brushing against the building’s twisting exterior form became louder, a wind I was not previously aware of.

I left a message and scribbled my name on the visitors black moleskine. I claimed a seat and sat there in silence, reflecting on the journey I had made and a wry smile on my face.

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