Iconoclasm is a genuine recognition of the power of the work of art. Nigel Halliday


Duo Empfangshalle - VM - Patrik Scherrer

Duo Empfangshalle: High Altar Reredos, Parish Church St. Laurentius, Mühldorf am Inn

A Network of Love

by Patrik Scherrer

Behind the more than life-size baroque crucifix a sculpture of netted gold rises to the ceiling. The transparent modern reredos (a painting or other image above and behind an altar) rises from the half-round altar in the chancel of the Catholic Parish Church St Laurentius in Mühldorf am Inn in Upper Bavaria. The sculpture connects the sacrament celebrated in the eucharist with the cross hanging above it. It also connects the semi-circular altar that rises from the floor to the chancel arches coming down from above and the ceiling paintings beyond it in the stucco arches.

The net-like sculpture consists of an irregular web of connections, so that the light of the baroque chancel windows can penetrate it and also form a bright halo for the Crucified One. The golden web forms an area of radiation around Jesus, which allows for many possibilities for contemplation and meaning.

The large net sculpture can remind us of a fishing net and the call of the first disciples, who were fishermen. They were casting out their nets when Jesus called to them: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17). Or it makes us think of the stories of the miraculous catch of fish, when the disciples believed in the command of Jesus to cast out their nets once more, in spite of many failed attempts during the night, and how they could then pull a gigantic catch into the boat. (Lk 5:1-11; Jn 21:1-14). In this way the reredos issues an enduring invitation to follow Jesus. It visualizes the task of all believers to be fishers of men, to be committed to the welfare of humankind and thus enthuse them for God.

Formally the net construction is linked to the folds of Jesus’ loincloth. It also forms a holy area emanating from Jesus, materialising out of the light that surrounds him. It forms a kind of ‘Holy Glow’ that shows us the way from illumination to active engagement. It is a transparent process, wherein encounters and ties play a significant role. The picture of the net elucidates Jesus’ commission to be a ‘Networker’ in our time (as he was in his), a social netmaker. To be networkers of love, who work towards a supportive and stable structure for all people.

In that sense the large net sculpture offers an endless number of connecting points for all who seek meaning and support. It is precisely the connections between individual ‘knots’ that offer perfect grips to pull oneself up or take hold of in an emergency. The net can be seen as a life raft for all who are lost and helpless as well as a spiritual climbing wall, for which Jesus’ grace and love are equally important.

The middle of the reredos has fewer links. On either side the links are increased and closer together, thereby reinforcing the concave effect. In that way, the net sculpture can also be seen as a large open Scripture scroll, revealing the Crucified One as the light of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

The net visualizes the love for all people that emanates from Jesus. The individual lines of the net are like arms holding each other, forming a network of love that offers us both an example and an encouragement. For this network of love Jesus is both the focal point and the point of departure.


Empfangshalle: High Altar Reredos, Parish Church St. Laurentius, Mühldorf am Inn, 2019, Synthetic, 3D-Print, Bronze-Aluminium-Alloy. © Archbishop’s Palace Munich, HA Kunst, Photo: Achim Bunz.

Empfangshalle was founded in 2001 by the art duo Corbinian Böhm and Michael Gruber and since then has made a name for itself for art in public space. This duo of artists has developed an expanded concept of art based on communication and cooperation. A network of over 30 independent artists make up the backbone of Empfangshalle. The reredos in Mühldorf am Inn (approximately midway between Munich and Passau, Germany) was part of a highly modern holistic concept that included the altar, ambo and tabernacle. Empfangshalle and Studio Ticino cooperated to create something completely new, using a state-of-the-art 3D printing technology that allowed an aesthetically fascinating 8-meter high reredos sculpture to literally grow into the sky, just as for centuries churches were bearers of cultural heritage, which took up and promoted the latest developments in architecture in former times. These manufacturing techniques were intended to act as a bridge to the late gothic and baroque existing architecture of the church. Architect Oliver Tessin has been developing computer-based cellular structural concepts for years. Through a well-informed use of the latest technologies, Tessin has developed forms from processes in nature, which create a special connection to the parish church, even as the orientation to the principles of nature was also a philosophical basis of the gothic style of architecture in the middle ages. In the case of the new reredos, the principles of optimal weight distribution using minimal material were the ‘godfather’ of the design. FIT AG from Lupburg, a leading  company expert in additive manufacturing (3D printing), was recruited for the project. Its task, under the direction of Bruno Knychalla, was the technical development and production of the sculpture. In consultation with Studio Ticino and Empfangshalle a pioneering combination of technology could be developed and realized. The reredos consists of 60 individually shaped individual parts, which were printed and assembled in white polyamide plastic. They were then coated first with aluminum and then with a bronze-aluminum alloy, resulting in high stability and the golden shimmering surface. The combination of art, architectural research and state-of-the-art production creates a quality that reflects the future-oriented spirit of the parish and thus creates a unique added value for the future of the parish church of St. Laurentius. The Archdiocese of Munich was supportive and consultative in its implementation.

Patrik Scherrer is the driving force behind the German website Bildimpuls. Every fortnight he sends out a ‘Bildimpuls’ or visual meditation, in which he focuses on contemporary Christian and religious art from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. He studied theology and works with the mentally handicapped. He wrote the book Gott in Sicht? 33 Impulse zum christlichen Glauben aus der Pinakothek der Moderne, Schnell & Steiner, 2005. On the Bildimpuls website there is also a lot of information about artists, books, museums, exhibitions, and organizations. 

ArtWay Visual Meditation 7 February 2021