Only a few times a year can you visit the St Sebastiani Chapel in Bamberg, Germany as it’s usually off limits and only open for very special religious events and church services. (Which are outside the classic tourist high season). So if you’re curious, here’s a rare peek for you.
The chapel is not accessible for most of the year, except for special church services and events.
(However, you can book to have your marriage held inside the chapel. Still, the priest you have to bring yourself.)
Every year on January 20, the Sebastiani procession takes place from the church of St. Otto to church St. Gangolf to celebrate the name day of St. Sebastian.
A large statue of the saint is decorated and carried through the streets. Of course, there are also church services and prayer hours.
The whole thing is part of the Sebastian Octave. The name says it all, as the celebrations extend over eight days with the procession being on the very last day, as the highlight.
By the way, you can also buy delicious baked Sebastiani rings at the bakeries during this time.
St Sebastiani officially belongs to the larger church of St Otto and therefore the event of the Flurgang also is celebrated by and in St Sebastiani.
This petition takes place every year on the Sunday before Ascension Day in the corridors of the church of St. Otto.
The reason is, among other things, to pray for abundant yields and growth of the plants of the nurseries and gardens in Bamberg.
“Small” Corpus Christi procession
In Bamberg, two Corpus Christi processions take place every year.
The Great Corpus Christi Procession starts and ends at the cathedral directly on Corpus Christi day.
The following Sunday, there is the Small Corpus Christi Procession through various parishes.
During the processions, the Eucharist is carried through the streets of the city, accompanied by the faithful who are praying and following the holy host.
In September, the Kirchweih takes place, where the small chapel is well cleaned and decorated by the community.
This also allowed me to visit during the Day of Open Monument in Bamberg 2023.
The church was first mentioned in 1477 as the lazaret St Sebastian and in 1618 when a new washhouse was attached. The name of today’s street is a direct reference to its original purpose: housing for those afflicted with pests.
Even today the name of the street reminds of the origins of the historical hospital complex: Siechstraße. A Siechenhaus is German for “infirmary”.
A Siechenhaus was a special hospital for people suffering from epidemics. And there were separate houses only for men and women suffering from plague and for French disease (known today as syphilis and incurable until the discovery of penicillin).
During the Baroque era, the chapel was extended to allow more room in the front and an entry area.
It was then remodeled during the Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648) and adapted to the taste of the Baroque period (1660–1780).
Due to the secularization effected by the Napoleonic Wars, the chapel was put up for auction and was freely available for purchase. A local wine merchant wanted to purchase it and turn it into a party wine bar.
This did not please the local gardeners, who by now were happily settled in the area and frequented the chapel (because the church was further away). And they got together and simply acquired the chapel.
In 1892, the parish even established its own foundation for the preservation of St. Sebastian’s Church.
In the middle of the 19th century, another wave of plague threatened and the parish priest seized the opportunity. He elicited a promise from parishioners to donate generously to the chapel if they survived the plague.
Lo and behold, Bamberg was indeed spared from the epidemic and there was again a new surge of money for the upkeep of the chapel.
The chapel later changed hands again a few times and was bought by the Schmidt couple, who had much of the interior decoration renewed and adapted. Thus, since then, you can see two large paintings on the left and right in front of the altar with the saints Andrew and Elizabeth – as a reference to their own names.
In 1970, the chapel was sold to the Bavarian state and then passed on to the Gardener and Crocheter Museum. The original relics and Sebastiani statue from the chapel can therefore be seen in the museum.
What is cool is that the organ is still original. Since it has hardly been used since 1862, it is unique and can also only be tuned by specialists.
From the outside, the chapel looks somewhat unimpressive, but still stands out.
The surrounding houses are decorated in chic white-yellow and baroque elements. And a neo-Gothic facade of gray stone visually stands out.
Interestingly, the request to remodel the facade in neo-Gothic style was rejected. But this was simply ignored, which led to anger. But in the end, permission was subsequently granted.
Fun fact: if you stand in front of the chapel you might notice that the front façade is a bit wonky and not parallel to the main street. That’s because it was placed parallel to the then street instead of built straight.