Motorway Churches in Germany

Siegerland Autobahnkirche

Motorway Churches in Germany

Travelers along Germany’s famously fast highways can stop for gas and pause to pray at the same place.
October 17, 2013 by Caitlan Reeg

A tradition going back centuries appeared again in Germany in the 1950s—roadside chapels. In the Middle Ages travelers could find small stops along their way to pray. In the 1950s this idea transformed into formal motorway churches, or Autobahnkirche. You can find Germany's motorway churches at highway rest stops, often situated directly opposite gas stations and food marts.

Roadside rest stops may seem like strange places to build churches, but they are well attended, attracting approximately a million visitors every year. Travelers can find the churches by following the blue and white road signs with the shape of a church on them.

Germany recently opened its fortieth motorway church in Siegerland, about halfway between Dortmund and Frankfurt. The bright white building is designed to be ecumenical, or designed for a variety of Christian faiths. The church is open 24 hours a day and sees a steady stream of travelers and truck drivers pass through its doors.

schneider+schumacher is the Frankfurt architectural firm that designed the building. The architects created a space that looks modern from the outside with its bright white angles. Some say it looks like origami. Others think of the character Batman. Inside, the space is simpler and more intimate. A dome made out of raw wood planks creates a womb-like shape in the interior.

The organization that raised the funds to create the Siegerland motorway church wants to give travelers a quiet space where they can sit and contemplate amid the chaos of normal life. The church does not hold any regular services, aside from a weekly meeting on Fridays that is led by both religious workers and laypeople. Representatives of the church group say it is important that the church is open and available to travelers no matter what time they visit, day or night.

October 17, 2013 by Caitlan Reeg