Seiffen is not known for its architecture. The town in a far corner of the Germany began as a mining town, and over time evolved into a sort of Christmas Village or Spielzeugdorf, filled with shops creating toys and decorations. Yet, if you go up the hill from the Buntes Haus… past the giant Christmas Pyramid, and around the bend a bit… you’ll find one of the most iconic buildings in Germany. The eight-sided Seiffen Church. You may recognize it from many of the German Christmas decorations coming out of the Erzgebirge. But it’s not only a symbol… the Bergkirche Seiffen is a living church that ministers to its parish, just as it has for hundreds of years. It sits on the hill next to the cemetery, and has an incredible view over the town and valley. I’ve hiked up a few times to admire the church and town. And this year, I finally took the opportunity to go inside.
Standing next to it, it’s hard to believe that the church is big enough to hold a service. But like the Silent Night Chapel in Austria and like the Tardis) it’s bigger on the inside!
The Seiffen Church- Bergkirche Seiffen
A church serving the miners of the Erzgebirge has stood on this spot since the 1500s. But in 1776, when the original rectangular church finally needed to be torn down because of disrepair, architect Christian Gotthelf Reuther was called in to design a new church. Using the Frauenkirche in Dresden as an example, he designed an octagonal church.
(note- There are quite a few octagonal churches in Germany, including the Aachen Cathedral. The number eight represents new beginnings, which makes sense for a new church, as well as the eight Beatitudes. Perhaps more importantly, an 8-sided building is quite structurally sound.)
The cemetery also dates back to the 1500s… but when you walk through it, you notice that most of the tombstones are quite recent. In Germany, recycling gravesites is fairly common. Limited space means that families “rent” the space for years at a time… then after a while, the spaces get reused. (Practical, and frustrating to historians!)
Remember, the mines in Seiffen weren’t terribly productive, and they mostly produced Tin instead of Silver. This partially explains why the town slowly switched over to wood carving. (For more information about local mining, you can visit the Abenteuer Bergwerk in Deutschneudorf, just down the road).
The steeple topped with a weathervane. On one side you can just see the symbol of the miners who would use the church, harder to see is the coat of arms from the Schönberg family who donated much of the money for the building of the church.
You’ll find the entrance to the church on the opposite side from the road. (And fair warning, there isn’t much parking up there… you will probably have to walk up, but exercise is good for you… and there are benches)
Inside the Seiffen Church is light and airy, painted white with green (for Saxony) or grey accents. Big windows let the sun shine in. Although the church feels small, inside you find three levels of seating. Women and children sat on the ground floor. Men and business owners sat in the balcony seats above it all.
The coat of arms on the balcony belongs to the Schonberg family, but that wasn’t the family seat… see the glass? That’s where the owners of the local glassworks sat for services.
Decorations in the church include wood carvings and a Tin Crucifix.
The Cross of the Miner’s Guild
According to the church history, the Miner’s Guild commissioned the cross in 1688. The Guild itself watched over the miners. On Shrove Tuesday, the miner’s would meet to share a meal, sing songs, and play games. This cross would be laid on the coffin of any miner who died while he laid in state, and carried with him to the cemetery for his “last shift”.
The cross vanished for a while (as things did in Germany), and then “discovered in a landfill” by some boys in 1992. Today, it hangs in the Seiffen Church where it belongs.
(The miners also met for a Christmas Eve service in the mines… and the way they hung their lanterns along the arch of the mine was the inspiration for the Schwiboggen).
The Angel and the Miner holding lights can be found everywhere in Seiffen. And you’ll see them on the wall of the church. These two figures act as guardians to the miners. Men worked long hours underground, leaving home before sunrise and returning after sunset. They could go months without seeing the sun. The Angel and Miner protected them during those long hours of darkness.
Even a small church needs a big organ to make celebratory music! The Poppe brothers built the organ in1873. The Cymbal Star can be activated by the organist to rotate and make a ringing sound. The organist gives a daily tour that lasts 25 minutes, and ends with playing the organ at noon daily.
The Seiffen Church lights up at night, making it a beautiful place to sit at the end of a long day of shopping!
Visit Seiffen and the Seiffen Church
Seiffen might be the best place in the world to do your Christmas Shopping. Shops are filled with German Christmas decorations like Nutcrackers, Pyramids, Smokers, and Schwibbogen. The Open-Air museum shows off life as it was, and has a fascinating Reifendreher demonstration. The food is tasty, accommodations comfortable, and the people are friendly. Find out more about why you need to visit Seiffen HERE
Tours of the Seiffen Church are offered Monday to Saturday at noon, and last about 20-30 minutes.
Unlike other church tours, there is no walking around. Walk in and sit down on a pew. The pastor/organist will share the history of the church, and conclude by playing the organ.
The grounds are always open for a stroll.
All are welcome to Sunday morning services which start at 9:30 am. You’ll find more information about services on the Church Website.
A Seiffen Church for Your Home
Müller Figurines Seiffen church and carolers, height 12 cm / 5 inch, natural, original Erzgebirge by Mueller SeiffenTea Light Holder with Seiffen Church and Carolers – 12 cm / 4.7 inch1-Tier Pyramid with Seiffen Church and Carolers – 25 cm / 9.8 inchCandle Arch – ‘Church of Seiffen with Carolers’ with LED Interior Lights – 63×35 cm / 25.6×13.8 inch
9 Piece Traditional Erzgebirge Christmas Decoration / Seiffen Village and Carolers / Bergkirche Seiffen / Made German Democratic RepublicChurch and ChoirErzgebirge Christmas pyramid, original Richard Glässer, small vintage pyramid 1 story, Seiffen church, carolers
Bergkirche Seiffen- Church website
The Church of Seiffen Müller Kunst
Bergkirche Seiffen Seiffen city website