Dreifaltigkeitskirche – Churches in Görlitz

Dreifaltigkeit means trinity in German and this church is situated on the Obermarkt in Görlitz. In fact, it’s the oldest structure on the square, having survived all of the devastating city fires that swept through the Obermarkt throughout the city’s history. To be honest, when I first saw the outside of this church I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a bit…underwhelming. But boy, was I surprised by the gorgeous interior! It’s perhaps my favorite church in Görlitz and a lesson in why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

The first thing you see when you walk towards the entrance is a sign saying that it costs €1.50 to photograph inside this church, this is the fee for photography in all four of the pre-Reformation churches in the old town of Görlitz. Entrance, however, is free if you’d just like to have a look. When I walked in I was floored by the beautiful vaulted ceilings, the ornate paintings and altar. It’s got kind of a dark & gloomy vibe even though there’s plenty of light pouring in through the windows. In the summer it makes a very cool and calm escape from the glaring sun on the Obermarkt where there isn’t a lot of shade.

The church was established in 1234 by Franciscan monks as a monastery and church. Its monastery walls were integrated into the city walls – before the Obermarkt was built in the 13th century, the city walls were at the top of Brüderstraße – “Brother Street” in English, named that way for the monks who lived there. The Franciscan order of monks believed in living a simple life, barefoot and with few worldly goods, and also believed in simple churches. Originally this was a simple hall church, no higher than 20 feet. The spire, nicknamed “the monk”, along with the stained glass windows and Gothic choir, were added later on. It’s the oldest Gothic structure in town.

Inside you will find incredible painted ceilings, a beautiful baroque altar and a late-Gothic winged altar called „Golden Maria“. The stunning interior also featured prominently during scenes from the film Grand Budapest Hotel by director Wes Anderson – they don’t call us Görliwood for nothing!

The Legend of the Creepy Monk in Wood Slippers

There is a grisly legend about one of the monks who lived in this monastery. A long time ago there was a young traveling craftsman who had nowhere to stay for the night, so he snuck into the church and fell asleep in one of the pews. That night he was awoken by a strange shuffling sound. He peeked over the pew and he saw by the light of the moon a gruesome sight – the figure of a hunched over monk with a repulsive face, dragging the body of a lifeless girl. The monk took the girl and placed her under a stone in the crypt. The travelling craftsman was very exhausted, frightened and unsure if he had dreamt what he just saw, so he remained quiet about it. The next day, however, he heard around town that a mother who lived on Fleischerstraße was panicked because her daughter, who was last seen attending mass, had gone missing. Realizing that the terrible vision from the night before wasn’t a dream, he led the townspeople to the church and identified the monk. Because of the monk’s hideous face, he was easily identified. When confronted he did not deny his crimes. He admitted to attacking the girl, having been unable to keep his oath of celibacy. In order to hide his crime he had murdered her and hidden her body in the church. and the young girl’s lifeless body was found where he had hit it, she had been attacked and murdered. As punishment for his crime, the city had the monk walled in alive, leaving him to suffer and die behind a wall of bricks inside the church. It’s said that his spirit never found rest. To this day, late at night in the church you can still hear the sound of his wooden slippers shuffling on the stone floors.

The Waiting Mother
Photo Credit: Fotoarchiv Frank Vater

Today there is a hotel and restaurant located on the Fleischerstraße where the widow with the missing daughter lived, it’s called Zum Klötzelmönch. Next door on the orange building high up you can see the statue of a woman’s head, they call this the “waiting mother”.

The Dreifaltigkeitskirche was expanded and changed in appearance over the centuries.

The reformation was adopted in Görlitz quite early, challenging the authority of the Catholic Church after Martin Luther published his 95 Theses in 1517. The first Lutheran sermons began here in Görlitz relatively early, in 1521. The Franciscan monks began to feel less welcome here and started to leave town. In 1563 the last of the monks handed over the monastery and church to the city on the condition that they turn it into a school.

The building adjacent to the Dreifaltigkeitskirche is still used as a school today, the Augustum-Annen-Gymnasium. Can you imagine going to high school in a gorgeous building like this? We certainly didn’t have high schools like this in Arizona!

I’m not the type of person who believes in ghosts, but I’m also really grateful that I don’t have to spend the night inside the Dreifaltigkeitskirche. But I do take every opportunity to slip inside, especially when it’s warm outside, for a few moments of cool and calm in its beautiful interior.

Click here to find out more about the other historic churches in Görlitz!