The Playfulness of Rococo Liturgical Architecture

As we have have discussed in another article, Baroque versus Rococo: What's the Difference?, Rococo is often lumped in with baroque art and architecture, they are in of point, two different movements, albeit closely related one's. The parallel one might think of here is how there we can compare the Tudor or perpendicular styles to earlier gothic manifestations. There are similarities for certain and they clearly belong to the same family, but there are also distinctive differences. 

In the case of Baroque and Rococo we can say the same. While the former emphasized drama and windswept movement, the Rococo built upon this and added playfulness, colour and movement. Tbere is a greater frivolity to the Rococo one might say. Pastel colour palettes, strong curvilinear forms, floral and naturalistic motifs, all featured prominently and purposefully in the Rococo. One might say that if baroque art and architecture presented the viewer with a visual drama, the Rococo presented the viewer with a lighter-hearted, visual fairy tale. 

If Rome can be considered the cradle of the baroque, Rococo architecture seems to find its particular home in places such as Bavaria, Germany as well as Austria and some other parts of Eastern Europe. Today I thought we'd take a look at some of the Rococo churches from this region, with a particular focus upon the altars themselves.

Damenstiftskirche St Anna, Munich

Wieskirche, Bavaria

Side altar, Wieskirche, Bavaria

Basilica of Vierzehnheiligen, Bavaria

High altar of Metten Klosterkirche, Bavaria

It goes without saying that Rococo did not shy away from ornament or detail, and perhaps to certain people it will come across as a bit too much. But there is something quite appealing and relieving about the playfulness of these churches, and for those who find themselves turned off by such manifestations, one might ponder what Romano Guardini had to say in his the chapter, "The Playfulness of the Liturgy" in The Spirit of the Liturgy:
The liturgy ... too, with endless care, with all the seriousness of the child and the strict conscientiousness of the great artist, has toiled to express in a thousand forms the sacred, God-given life of the soul to no other purpose than that the soul may therein have its existence and live its life. The liturgy has laid down the serious rules of the sacred game which the soul plays before God. And, if we are desirous of touching bottom in this mystery, it is the Spirit of fire and of holy discipline "who has knowledge of the world" --the Holy Ghost-- who has ordained the game which the Eternal Wisdom plays before the Heavenly Father in the Church, Its kingdom on earth. And "Its delight" is in this way" to be with the children of men."

Only those who are not scandalized by this understand what the liturgy means. From the very first every type of rationalism has turned against it. The practice of the liturgy means that by the help of grace, under the guidance of the Church, we grow into living works of art before God, with no other aim or purpose than that of living and existing in His sight; it means fulfilling God's Word and "becoming as little children"; it means foregoing maturity with all its purposefulness, and confining oneself to play, as David did when he danced before the Ark...

It is in this very aspect of the liturgy that its didactic aim is to be found, that of teaching the soul not to see purposes everywhere, not to be too conscious of the end it wishes to attain, not to be desirous of being over-clever and grown-up, but to understand simplicity in life. The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeful activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God, and to be prepared for the sacred game with sayings and thoughts and gestures, without always immediately asking "why?" and "wherefore?" It must learn not to be continually yearning to do something, to attack something, to accomplish something useful, but to play the divinely ordained game of the liturgy in liberty and beauty and holy joy before God.

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