Heiliggeistkirche Heidelberg (Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit)

Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg, Germany


"Brian Clarke was asked to submit a proposal for one of the few purely Gothic churches in Germany. On request of the client he designed five windows in the North nave of the church and developed a scheme for the entire range of windows. His proposal is based on the historical and architectural foundations of this extraordinary building. It also does not fail to take into account the central position of the church in an urban ensemble that has preserved it's medieval to Baroque structure.The windows do not only work when seen from the inside but also from the outside, by virtue of the relief structure of the lead. Clarke developed a design that links modernity and ancient craftsmanship by using a different single ornamental element, invented by medieval stained glass painters, in each window. This ornament is transformed into a regular, precise pattern by virtue of a computer-generated repetition. Each ornament originates from another European country. To give an example: the 'fleur de lys', a stylised clove, was first used on a larger scale in the stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

These formerly modest, almost hidden elements of a figurative composition are retrieved from anonymity and become the foundation of an exuberant and abstract composition. This abstraction is modified and at the same time enhanced by scriptural elements, enlarged details of manuscripts chosen for compositional (the beauty of the abstract gestures of calligraphy) and historical reasons. The history of those texts used in the designs connect them with the church's location as they have been taken out of the 15th century manuscripts first recorded and formerly owned by the Biblioteca Palatina, one of the most famous libraries of ancient times. This library had been situated inside the church, where Brian Clarke's designs are intended to echo a culture that has been at the very heart of the history of this building.

This project is an outstanding example of Clarke's ability to tune in to an architectural situation that demands not only a subtle consciousness of history, but also an aesthetical idiosyncrasy that can keep designs for a 14th century building cautiously suspended between historical reminiscence and modernism." – Stefan Trümpler, director of the Musée Suisse du Vitrail, Romont, in the book Brian ClarkeLinda McCartney: Collaborations.

Designed in 1997, with five windows (totalling 34 square metres) designed in full, and a scheme for the full sequence of twenty-two planned out, at the request of the Evangelische Stiftung Pflege Schönau, an ecclesiastical fund. Though unexecuted, a quotation from the designs in the form of one of the Heiliggeistkirche 'amorphs' – paper cut-outs painted by Clarke and one of his signature forms – appears in the new oculus window of the Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu in Romont, created in 2009 to replace the storm damaged original window from the 1995–1997 restoration scheme.