“Not a flashy event story”

For the first time since its inauguration in 1880, Cologne Cathedral is the main actor in an impressive production. The world-famous landmark will receive a tribute this evening in the form of the play "The Cologne Cathedral Play. In the this site interview, Michael Batz, the author of the piece, reveals the story and how he used it to convince those in charge of the cathedral of the idea as well.

this site: How did you get the idea for the mystery play??

Batz: The idea came up when the now still acting mayor Fritz Schramma was in Hamburg years ago. He has looked at the "Everyman. He was so enthusiastic that he wanted such an "Everyman" in Cologne, too. I told him at the time: Mr. Schramma, leave it alone. I write you something new. Do something that is new in Cologne and that only really finds its place in Cologne as something unmistakable. They make an "Everyman" everywhere by now.And that took a while. But now in the context of the congress "Foundation living city" is finally given the opportunity to do that. And it's now a story that deals with Cologne Cathedral in a way that obviously hasn't happened before. Namely a kind of scenic meditation. What actually happens to us? To us, who also carry beasts within us? Isn't it the other way round that the beasts, which are carved in stone up there, perhaps also have something human in them? And it is then a modern fairy tale. It is a contemporary play that will be performed in front of the south portal.

this site: What story do you want to tell?

Batz: The story is set in a situation of a cathedral building lodge. The point is that a stonemason is faced with the task of carving an image out of a rough block of stone. And he does not know which. If he takes a traditional image of a gargoyle – that's such a fable-hermaphrodite figure of the Middle Ages – then he's actually just a copyist and repeats something that today hardly understands anymore. If he now does something completely modern, as has happened here in the meantime, then he is actually risking bypassing the idea of the cathedral, something that is very topical today and forgotten tomorrow. And in this respect he does not really know how to proceed. And he uses a legend, namely that in such a situation one should consult the old pictures if one wants to make a new one. And these are these beasts. Basically the beasts are questioned like one's own soul. Is one actually so innocent? If one approaches a work, an idea, purely, openly and innocently? Or is one guided by a vanity after all? And he can now bring down these gargoyles in a big scene, which then also come down – mighty blocks, much bigger than one perceives from below – and open up to a great music as well. And lo and behold: out of the gargoyles, the monsters and beasts, emerge eight historical figures from six centuries, all from Cologne's history. And now they get the task to find within three days a person who loves them so much that in an extreme case he would even be willing to go back to the top for them and turn to stone.

this site: Reveal one of the personalities?

Batz: They are rather types from different epochs. For example, a tailor from the Biedermeier period, an alderman from the Gaffel period, a market woman from the 20th century. Century. In this respect they represent the whole of Cologne.

this site: And everything is portrayed by means of light?

Batz: Of course we have to present everything with theatrical means. We cannot let alpinists come down on a rope. That would also be a break in style. We do it from a combination of light, image, figure and fog. And: The stage will be really full.

this site: Back to the genesis of the play: Was it difficult to convince the cathedral chapter and cathedral architect Barbara Schock-Werner??

Batz: I learned that there is a certain relationship between the city and the church here. And when you come from the outside, you don't know that at first and are rather surprised. I was then invited to present the project in a situation where people were rather skeptical at first But then I simply told the story that I didn't want to stage a flashy event story, but rather arrive at a content. Namely to a questioning: What is a value? What is the value within the society? What do I mean to others? And what is actually the cohesion of society? And that convinces both the cathedral provost and the cathedral architect. They were quite relieved that things weren't happening that they couldn't have agreed with.


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