Undoing GDR Iconoclasm: The Return and Interpretation of a Spiritual and Academic Heritage through the Building of the Paulinum in Leipzig

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On the first Sunday of Advent in 2017, a new university church was consecrated at Leipzig University in Germany. This celebration brought to an end the five-decade-long absence of a church within the old university. The inauguration of the Paulinum—as the combined church and assembly hall was named—visibly reconnected the university with a church history involving the active participation of personalities such as Martin Luther, Johann Tetzel, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Under scrutiny in this article is the 1968 destruction of the medieval monastery, and later University Church of Saint Paul, by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) as a kind of socialist iconoclasm. Through the destruction of the University Church of Saint Paul, I argue, the church became something of an architectonic and cultural martyr. Although the Paulinum is not viewed as a direct continuation of the university church, its completion and refurbishing with art treasures from the old church has, however, come to be viewed as a counterpart to SED barbarism and as an undoing of some aspects of the destruction. Moreover, some episodes from the university church and its destruction have been passed on and attached to the Paulinum as a mnemonic layer, much valued by the university, city, and region.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1013–1038
JournalChurch History: Studies in Christianity and Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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