German snow church in Japan crystallizes peace message

By Ecumenical News International
16 Feb 2010
The Frauekirch

One of the outstanding sculptures of the week-long Sapporo Snow Festival in the far north of Japan is of the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus, in Dresden, Germany - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.

For seven days each February (it was from 5-11 in 2010), snow and ice statues and sculptures of all shapes and sizes turn the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, into a venue for winter images representing different themes.

The Frauenkirche, in the eastern German city of Dresden near the border with the Czech Republic, presents itself at the festival, "as a symbol of a reunited Germany". The church is considered unusual because, though it is Protestant, it bears the title of "Our Lady", which Roman Catholic churches more commonly use.

This church was completely destroyed in February 1945 after bombing by US and British air forces shortly before the end of the Second World War. The area around the shell of the church drew peace protests against the communist authorities in [what was] then East Germany during the 1980s.

Reconstruction of the church's façade was completed in 2004.

"The church was chosen to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin wall in 2009, the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany in 2010, and 150 years of German-Japanese diplomatic relations in 2011," said the Hokkaido Broadcasting Company. The HBC organised the project to build the sculpture for the 61st Sapporo Snow Festival.

"Four hundred and thirty nine lorries hauled three thousand cubic metres of snow to construct the 26-metre-high Frauenkirche as the biggest building in the history of the festival [which began in 1950]," the church said in a statement.

Some 4,730 soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force built the Sapporo ice and snow artefacts and some of them built the church made from compacted snow.

"Dresden's Frauenkirche was chosen after a one-week information-gathering trip by a delegation of Japanese organisers at the end of October 2009," the church said. "The group from the public Hokkaido Broadcasting Company, headed by Kazuto Yamada, visited the church".

Yamada told Ecumenical News International, "We talked with the German Embassy [in Japan] and the German National Tourist Board. Then, our staff went to Germany to find a building for the snow sculpture."

"By selecting the Frauenkirche, we not only chose a building that is famous and sends out a clear message of peace and reconciliation but also one that stands for the idea shared by East and West to reconstruct this church, destroyed in the Second World War," HBC's Yamada said.

"As a united German reconstruction project, the Frauenkirche will remind visitors in Sapporo of the happy reunification of Germany, and hopefully tempt many to see the original in Dresden," said a priest from the church, the Rev Sebastian Feydt.

* HBC's English Web site: www.hbc.co.jp/snowfes2010/data.html#english
* Church site: www.frauenkirche-dresden.de/archivnachricht+M5f6c7f168f8.html
* English website of Snow Festival: www.snowfes.com/english/index.html

Photo: Courtesy Sapporo Snow Festival

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Keywords: art | culture | germany | japan | sculpture
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