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Pilgrimage Church of Wies

By Natalie Vereen-Davis

What is the Pilgrimage Church of Wies?

The Pilgrimage Church of Wies is an oval church in the German Alps. This Bavarian property has been attracting Catholic pilgrims and curious visitors since the mid-1700s. 

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There is a fascinating legend associated with a Jesus statue housed inside the church. According to the legend, the large carved wooden Jesus now at the heart of the church once cried actual tears.

Interestingly, there is a long history of weeping religious statues, but most have been dismissed by the Catholic Church as hoaxes. The weeping statue of Jesus at Wies has been thoroughly investigated by the Catholic Church and upheld as a miraculous event.

Because of the statue’s history, over a million travelers make the journey here each year to marvel at the beautiful interior and pray at the feet of the famous effigy.

A rather simple and not very large church, painted white, with a few simple decorations around the tops and bottoms of the windows and with a narrow tower at the far end.

Why is the Pilgrimage Church of Wies a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The Pilgrimage Church of Wies (German: Wieskirche) is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its rococo architecture and interesting history.

The statue was originally placed in a small wooden building, the remains of which visitors can see elsewhere on the property.

Two brothers were commissioned to design and build an elaborate Rococo masterpiece to honor the statue. This more elaborate church was completed in 1754.

An extremely ornate section of the altar at the PIlgrimage Church of Wies. The decorations - mostly gold - surround a small statue of a standing chained Jesus.
The statue on the altar.

What can you expect on a visit to the Pilgrimage Church of Wies?

Upon arriving to the site, the exterior of the church isn’t particularly large or imposing. In fact, initial impressions may leave you wondering why this property qualifies as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

However, once visitors cross the threshold into the church, those doubts immediately vanish, thanks to the elaborate detailing, large windows, beautiful altar, and the central Jesus figure.

The atmosphere inside is thoughtful and quiet, though you will hear the occasional new visitors breathe “Wow!” as they cross into the nave from the narthex.

Interior of the church, richly decorated gold on white, with the organ above the door to the narthex.

Is the Pilgrimage Church of Wies worth visiting?

Absolutely! If you’re already exploring Ettal, Oberammergau, Füssen or Schwangau, the Pilgrimage Church of Wies is an easy day trip add-on.

A visit here adds depth to your understanding of the Catholic Church’s history in Germany as well as the fascinating history of medieval relics, the tradition of weeping religious statues, and the beauty of rococo architecture.

Find accommodations near the church.

What sorts of travelers would like the Pilgrimage Church of Wies?

If you’re interested in the history of religion, art, and/or architecture, you’ll find a visit here captivating.

Catholics will find additional depth here as they will be able to sit in adoration before the altar and reflect on the image of Jesus.

Looking toward the altar in the Pilgrimage Church of Wies: richly decorated with gold and paint on white walls. The decorations cover the ceiling as well, and the altar is predominantly gold.

Tips for visiting Pilgrimage Church of Wies

The site is generally flat and easy to access, even for visitors in wheelchairs.

Note that the church asks visitors to be quiet and respectful while viewing the interior.

The church is still an active one, so check their calendar for prayer sessions and worship services. No visitors are allowed into the church at this time unless they are participating in the service.

Generally, mass is held at 10:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sundays and Catholic holidays. There are additional evening masses at 17:00 during the winter and 19:00 during the summer.

If you’re there during a service, and you’re not Catholic, the experience of listening to a mass might depend on your understanding of the importance of this site. If you’d rather not attend a mass that’s going on during your visit, you can spend that time reading about the history of the property in the narthex or walking around the property.

Masses typically don’t last more than a hour.

Where is the Pilgrimage Church of Wies?

The church is located at 12 Wies in Steingaden, district of Weilheim-Schongau, Bavaria.

Getting there:

  1. By car, the church is less than a 30-minute drive from either Füssen or Oberammergau. From Munich, the closest large city, the church is about an hour and 20 minutes by car. There is free parking on-site. Nearby is the town of Steingaden and the medieval Steingaden Abbey.
  2. Public transportation is an option, but you will have to take both train and bus to get there. From the Hauptbahnhof in Munich, take the train to Weilheim. From there, you can take another train to Peiting, and transfer to a bus for the remaining time to the Wieskirche. Alternatively, you can disembark from the train in Weilheim and take a bus to the church through Rottenbuch. Allow for at least 3 hours of public transit time (more if your transfers are not immediately following one another).
  3. A third option is to take a tour from Füssen, which takes you to Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace as well.

For more information about Wies Pilgrimage Church and its opening hours, see its official website.

Text and photos provided by Natalie Vereen-Davis of Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown. Natalie started her family travel blog to combine her travel obsession with her career as an English professor. She hopes that her family’s travels encourage others to seek out a lifelong love of learning!

Have you been to the Pilgrimage Church of Wies? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

Text: Pilgrimage Church of Wies. Images: above a close-up of the famous Jesus statue; below, the altar of the church.

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