Bigger is not always better. Sometime small, like a historic Munich chapel, can be a travel must-see. It’s easy when traveling through big European cities to follow the throngs to the large churches or cathedrals in town. Huge European cathedrals can be very impressive, of course. But the Marienklause Chapel, about 3-4 miles south of the city center of Munich, Germany, is certainly worth a close look. It is a cozy small historic chapel on the banks of the Isar River running through Munich.
The Marienklause Chapel (“Marienklauselkapelle” in German) sits, often unnoticed by passers-by, just off one end of the Marienklause Bridge, both just south of the Hellabrun Zoo. The bridge itself is an attractive pedestrian bridge near some locks, canals and a small dam on the river where you often find people just hanging out enjoying the view of the water. But take a moment to wander off the east side of the Marienklause Bridge and look for a small wood and stone structure a few steps away, tucked a bit behind another waterworks building.
The chapel was built in 1866 by Martin Achleitner, the supervisor of the “Auer Muehlbach” lock. He built the Marienklause Chapel by hand, the story goes, as a way to give thanks to the Mother of God for saving him many times from death from floods and rock falls. He also built a small freestanding alter and, in front of the chapel, the “Stations of the Cross,” a 14-step traditional Catholic commemoration of Christ’s last day on earth. In Achleitner’s day, the Isar River was wild, dangerous and could easily take lives.
The small historic Munich chapel called Marienklause is built right into the hillside from so-called “molasse conglomerate” stone, plus wood from the area. “Molasse” is a composite formed from sedimentary marine deposits that often contains fossils, and it is easy to see that in the rough rocks inside the chapel. It is thus a soft stone, meaning the condition of this small historic chapel has been maintained quite well by volunteers over the decades.
You won’t spend a lot of time at the chapel, but it’s very quaint and not very well known. You can push a button to turn on a light to illuminate the insides, but you can’t go in. Enjoy the historic feel of the moss-covered rock, and doors and shutters made of twisted old wood branches and hand-hewn planks. You can also drop a small donation in the box outside the chapel to help with its upkeep.
Achleitner, waterways supervisor and builder of the Marienklause Chapel, died in April 1882 at the age of 59. His name is the first of four on a small plaqueon the side of the chapel commemorating several waterway supervisors in the 1800s. Note that the last name on the plaque, Johann Enzer, did in fact drown, taken in 1906 by the Isar River.