Thuringia, 2000 churches

Thuringia, 2000 churches

New perspectives through transformation: Creative ideas and new uses for sacred buildings

"Churches shape the cultural landscape of Thuringia and are an important part of the cultural heritage of the region. Reprogramming them to promote social interaction in the respective communities helps reinforce their role in the localities and raise their perception in Thuringia and beyond.”
Prof. Barbara Holzer, IBA Thüringen Advisory Board

Churches invariably play a central role in the identity of local communities, and in Thuringia 99% of the nearly 2000 protestant churches are additionally historical listed buildings. As such they represent an important architectural and cultural legacy. The upkeep of these churches, parsonages, and other properties, however, presents a challenge, especially in the context of demographic change and declining church congregations. In cooperation with the Protestant Church of Central Germany (EKM), the IBA Thüringen and its partners therefore set out to find strategies to give new life to empty or little-used churches.

In 2016, the EKM and IBA Thüringen put out a call for ideas for forward-looking uses for around 2,000 churches.

At the opening of the exhibition on 13 May 2017, visitors were able to see hundreds of ideas for the use of church buildings. Many of the “Think lateral!” ideas were presented as videos on the monitors of the exhibition.

Six model projects have been carried forward from the call for ideas: a socio-cultural centre at St Martin’s Church in Apolda, a HER(R)BERGSKIRCHE in the Church of St Michael in Neustadt am Rennsteig that serves as a wayside shelter for hikers bookable via AirBnB. Currently in the qualifying stage are a project for a garden for bees at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Roldisleben, a meditative playground in the Church of St Nicholas in Niedergebra and a digital and social network Church of St Johannis in Ellrich.

The Chapel of St Anna in Krobitz is the first completed “Think lateral!” project. The renowned international artist Carsten Nicolai developed a sculptural work for the IBA project. Entitled “organ”, the musical instrument is inspired by early designs of so-called pyrophones from the eighteenth century. Photo: Henry Sowinski.

The HER(R)BERGSKIRCHE in Neustadt St. Michaelis am Rennsteig, an IBA project since March 2019, is a model project for other possible wayside shelters along the Rennsteig Trail through the wooded uplands of the Thuringian Forest.

The nave of the Church of St Martin in Apolda is to be converted into a socio-cultural centre and local meeting place. The project participants include the EKM, the diocese, the town of Apolda and the parish.

The Church of St. Peter and Paul in Roldisleben is to become a sanctuary and protected natural habitat for bees. In 2019 the project received funding from the Thuringian Ministry for Infrastructure and Agriculture and will also include a garden for the senses with herbs from biblical times.

The goal of St Johannis Church in Ellrich is to become a fully digital and social networked church by 2030. The church itself has already become a workshop space. The project is an initiative by the church parish, the municipality of Ellrich, the EKM, the architecture office ONOFF Berlin and the artist Jürg Montalta. Photo: Elke Bergt.

With the help of ropes and cords as well as local participation, the Church of St Nicholas in Niedergebra was temporarily transformed into a communal climbing centre. The project was initiated by the church parish, the municipality of Niedergebra and the EKM.


Momentan keine Termine

Curatorial Project Management & Planning
Board of Trustees
  • Veronique Faucheur, Oberkirchenrat Christian Fuhrmann, Florian Heilmeyer, Prof. Barbara Holzer, Jürg Montalta, Anne Schönharting, Dr. Barabra Steiner und Tom Unverzagt 
Participators in the Querdenker Salons
  • Dr. Dankward Guratzsch, Prof. Dr. Andreas Hoffmann, Dr. Stefan Krämer, Holger Reinhardt, Dr. Mathias Rein, Elke Bergt, Marcus Schmidt, Dr. Sonja Beeck, Jürgen Willinghöfer, Dr. Marta Doehler-Behzadi, Ulrike Rothe, Lisa-Marie Hottenrott und Oliver Weiland 
IBA Project Coordination

Ulrike Rothe
Project director
Phone +49 3643 90088-12