Project: Cathedral of Passau

Jun 19, 2009

The St. Stephan's Cathedral, in Passau, Germany, is a majestic baroque church built from 1668 to 1693. The cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Passau and the main church of his diocese. Passau is located in lower Bavaria, close to the Austrian and Czech borders; the city owns a historical center with numerous churches.

St. Stephan's Cathedral has been lit by lighting designer Michael Kantrowitsch during the recent ‘Night of open churches‘, an event that took place in Passau and was visited by almost 10.000 people.

Michael Kantrowitsch describes the installation: “St. Stephan's Cathedral has been lit by an amount of 44 D.T.S. fixtures in order to illuminate with changing colors the architecture in a 5-hour program of music, lyric and lighting sequences. I used the range of D.T.S. LED products: 24 FOS 100 FULL COLOUR bars and 20 DELTA R FULL COLOUR moving head color changers. The FOS bars were located at the pillars of the nave to create colorful accents and contrasts to the warm white of the halogen-lamp projectors. The DELTA R FULL COLOUR were used in the aisles to reach both, the paintings of the 10 Side altars and the ceiling paintings. Additional Moving Spots, as well as Par 64 and Pinspots completed the installation, which included the interior Lighting, but also the smaller St. Andreas chapel, the courtyard, the cathedral museum´s stairhouse and the front-facade.“

Lighting designer Michael Kantrowitsch, who operated the installation via a grand MA-fullsize lighting console, showed himself satisfied by the possibilities of the D.T.S. fixtures: “Both fixtures offer a surprising range between cold white, neutral- and warm white, but on the other hand a powerful color mix. The efficiency and the output of these LED fixtures is incredible. If we just look back a few years and then regard the development, it is finally proved: minimizing the power consumption in order to serve ecological and economical criteria does not have to affect design aspects negatively. We even have more comfortable and versatile design solutions thanks to modern LED-fixtures“.

Michael Kantrowitsch and his team achieved the complex interior and outside illumination with a comparatively low energy consumption of 55 Kilowatts at maximum. Altogether, the amount of luminaires came up to about 150 fixtures, containing 46 moving lights, 70 LED sources plus conventional ones. A Barco R12 projector sent pictures of all participating churches on the courtyard main-facade.

Until late midnight, thousands of visitors could experience the cathedral as an overall experience of acoustical and visual impressions.

The lighting installation outlined architectural, sculptural and liturgical elements and highlighted them by leaving behind the normal daytime viewpoint to a more abstract appearance. The lighting designers intention was also, to invite spectators to a spiritual journey. Lighting-improvisations during musical attractions took up directly the atmosphere of sound and lyrics as a visual multiplier.

For good reasons, Kantrowitsch did not exploit the full potential in terms of intensities and projection possibilities, which he explained as follows: “The cathedral is white. Every square centimeter responds to our lighting. At the same time, this church is full of ornaments. How many more can it tolerate? The architecture itself is fantastic and I want to support that. Therefore, I have to keep it simple here in some way, as also light is an ornament. The difference is: it can grow and then disappear again, light is a living ornament.“

St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau
St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau

The installation ended in a slow reduction of artificial lighting gradually being replaced by an illumination with an increasing number of thousands candles. 2500 visitors at this late hour appeared wholly fascinated. The event director, Sebastian Frankenberger commented: “It has been a moving atmosphere.“

Production details:

Planning Office: Michael Kantrowitsch, Arsluminis Lighting Design.

Michael Kantrowitsch (Lighting Design, Technical Director, Operating);
Max Brokbals (Assistance to LD, Operating, Network);
Nicole Behrends (Lighting Technician);
Heiko Teppner (Lighting Technician).

Author:  Ray Andersson

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