Berg St Martin
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Église St Martin is located in Berg, a village in the region of “Alsace Bossue”, literally the “Hunchbacked Alsace” in France. The church and the surrounding Kirchberg are the landmark of this region in the Département Bas-Rhin.
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Visiting Église Berg St Martin
The small church of St Martin in Berg is certainly one of the most beautifully situated Round Tower Churches. From up there, you have a great overview of the “Alsace Bossue” or “Humpbacked Alsace”, of which this church is the landmark. It is reliably open in the summer months, the large meadow by the church is ideal for a picnic, and various hikes in this beautiful region start from the car park by the church. On previous visits, the door to the tower was also open, so that you could climb to the top and have an even wider view over the region. However, this was no longer the case during our last visit.
As early as the beginning of the 8th century, documents mention a basilica on the hill that was dedicated to Saint Martin. It was a nobleman named Grodowin who donated this church and its outbuildings to Wissembourg Abbey in 716. A restoration, perhaps even a rebuilding of the nave, took place in 1606. In 1895, the tower was struck by lightning; in 1903, the church was repaired and the choir was converted into a cemetery chapel; a tasteless porch replaced the old nave.
The rectangular chancel (measuring 4.65 x 4.85 m) from the first half of the 14th century (the only surviving old part) is covered with a vault on ribbed crosses falling on columns in the corners. The keystone is decorated with vine leaves, but the capitals with projecting baskets are plain. The windows have a filling with two three-lobed lancets, crowned by a trefoil. One of the windows is half hidden by the roof of the sacristy, while on the outside the corners of the choir are supported by very simple buttresses.
The original Romanesque bell tower no longer exists, as it was used as a target by American artillerymen during the heavy fighting in the winter of 1944-45 and was eventually destroyed. In 1947, the tower was rebuilt and the chapel restored. Descriptions today allow us to know exactly the structure of the old tower. Like the nave, it was built of small, regularly laid limestone blocks. The exterior, covered with whitewash, was completely smooth, without projection or entablature, up to the cornice of the conical roof. The upper storey was pierced by three mined openings in the central column, whose construction period, judging by their decoration (cubic capitals, attic bases with claws, elongated hammered abacuses), fell in the second half of the 12th century. These bays opened to the north and east, on the side of the slope. The two lower floors were built before the 12th century. The pointed-arched door in the chancel with a chamfered edge in any case dates only from the 16th century. The original entrance to the tower must have been above the first projection at a height of 4,90 metres.