In 1963, German architect Gottfried Böhm designed a church for the Neviges site and more than 50 years later, photographer David Altrath captures the brutalist which is known as Mariendom.
Standing like a concrete mountain amid a wood, the jagged concrete volume of the Neviges Mariendom towers over its surroundings. Built on a popular pilgrimage site in western Germany, the Mariendom is only the latest iteration of a monastery that has drawn countless visitors and pilgrims from across the world for centuries.
Unlike its medieval and Baroque predecessors, however, the unabashedly Modernist Mariendom reflects a significant shift in the outlook of its creators: a new way of thinking for both the people of post-war Germany and the wider Catholic Church.
"The Mariendom in the pilgrimage town of Neviges is one of the most important church buildings of the 20th century. The unique concrete folding structure over a free-polygonal ground plan spans a floor area of approx. 2,800 square metres and is a major work of the architect Gottfried Böhm. In 1968, Cardinal Frings celebrated the first Holy Mass in the Mariendom. Since 1995, it has been listed as an historic monument together with its adjoining buildings.
The concrete structure is reminiscent of the shape of tents pushed into one another, their tips raised to form peaks. The Mariendom gives the impression of an abstract monumental sculpture and shows Böhm's conception of architecture, which unites artistic form and memorable imagery." — David Altrath