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Cemetery chapel


In the Thalheim parish the desire to solve the design and functional deficiencies of the historic cemetery chapel that towers high above the small town had been growing over a long period of time. A joint participatory process with members of the parish, the building committee, the cemetery administration, the church building supervisors, the state monument office and the commissioned architects sought solutions to the following questions:

  • The orientation towards the apse while simultaneously orientating the room lengthways causes a division into two fractions + priest + deceased, which are only indirectly related to each other
  • The community wants a common perspective; The priest and the deceased should be at the center of the community
  • Another disadvantage is the narrow spatial situation in the apse with the cross, altar and ambo set back
  • The color scheme of the prayer room with creamy white walls and stalls as well as purple decorative elements appears cool and dreary
  • The rows of longitudinal stalls act as a barrier and reinforce the reverberant acoustics
  • Accessibility is unresolved, both in terms of access and benches resting on wooden platforms


The interventions developed are minimally invasive but effective. The wooden platforms are removed, but left visible through a dark stone frame and lighter granite covering. Within this frame, the wooden, restored stalls are shortened and “lightened” and reinstalled in a rotated position facing the apse. This fundamentally changes the spatial effect - the prayer room appears brighter and more open. The apse receives a newly designed lithurgical furnishings consisting of a cross, candlesticks and ambo in a simple design made of solid oak.


An existing side door will be enlarged and will provide barrier-free access to be created in a follow-up project. The new color scheme is earthy, enveloping and natural. Restored wooden surfaces of the benches and doors as well as the new oak surfaces of the liturgy harmonize with sandstone-colored cornice bands and the stepped wall background. The antique white ceiling vault, apse and gallery showcase the restored leaded glass windows and gilded glorioles.


The focus of the redesign project was on using what was already there and working creatively with these components and constructions. Instead of the separating wooden platforms, a connecting covering was installed to complement the existing, but to identify the original. The new door, which will provide accessibility, was made using the traditional design of the existing one. The liturgical furnishings were made of solid wood using traditional joining techniques. The new features of these furnishings are identified by the type of wood - oak - which forms a fine contrast to the restored softwood surfaces.


The benches, each consisting of three fields, were expanded and shortened symmetrically on both sides. The end faces were then reassembled. The backs were given openings for a lighter appearance. After the paint was removed, the benches were oiled and rotated and reinstalled and received new bench heaters that were connected concealed under the ceiling. The access doors were also stripped of paint and oiled to look like the wood.

The painting work was carried out using traditional techniques and colors. The aim of the color design was to create an earthy, enveloping atmosphere that harmonizes with the wooden surfaces and particularly emphasizes the restored leaded glass windows and glorioles.

A sustainable new concept could be implemented with a low budget and using existing materials as much as possible.


Redesign of the interior of the cemetery chapel in Thalheim / Erzgeb.

Category: Public, Indoor
Client: Evangelical Lutheran Church Thalheim / Erzgebirge

Design: Hendrik Heine

Services: Property planning, Lph 1 – 9
Start of performance: 2020
Completion: 2022

Publications: Annual calendar of the Saxony Chamber of Architects 2024

Photos: Till Schuster

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