Church of St. Barbara – Bärnbach, Austria - Atlas Obscura

Church of St. Barbara

Bärnbach, Austria

Bizarrely-painted church designed by a controversial artist. 


Churches are usually the last structures to accept a little progressive flair, especially in their design and architecture. The Church of St. Barbara, re-designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, seems to defy all conventional religious molds with its bizarre exterior and artfully designed grounds.

When Father Friedrich Zeck approached Hundertwasser in 1987, he was already a well-established artist, and his style was clearly not suited for a classical approach to redesigning a church. However, Hundertwasser was never known for following convention, and gladly accepted the challenge.

Father Zeck wanted an entire-revamping of the church and the grounds, and gave Hundertwasser free reign over the design. The result was obvious and controversial to all passerby. Hundertwasser painted the exterior with symbols and strange imagery ranging from a heart with spears through it to giant green circles on the roof.

Hundertwasser also turned the church’s steeple into a massive clock tower, affixing clocks to each side, one of which did not even have numbers. Besides the exterior, Hundertwasser also created 12 gates around the church, which were meant to represent every religion of the world, making the site strangely egalitarian.

Although he worked with free reign during the project, Hundertwasser was so dedicated to his work that he even helped the church community fundraise to finance his progressive church artwork. Although it differs starkly from older examples of religious patronage, Hundertwasser’s Church of St. Barbara remains a unique architectural and artistic monument to individuality.

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December 15, 2011

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