When the altar burns: Vandalism in Bavaria's churches on the rise

Urine on a hymn book, broken organ pipes, graffiti: according to the State Office of Criminal Investigation, the number of cases of damage to property in Bavarian places of worship has been increasing for years. The number of thefts in churches, on the other hand, is declining.

Bavaria's places of worship are increasingly becoming the target of acts of vandalism: 294 cases of damage to property in churches, chapels or monasteries were counted by the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) in 2022, 23 cases more than in the previous year. According to the figures, the trend has been increasing for years, for example from 219 cases in 2019 to 242 cases in 2020.

A spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Regensburg speaks of destroyed and damaged holy figures. "Basically, we notice that the vandalism is much more massive." In addition, smoking, urinating and even setting fires in church rooms has occured.

Smearings become art

Some of the graffiti have anti-religious features or are intended to provoke. On the outside wall of the parish church of St. Peter and Paul was written "FCK Jesus" and the "diabolical" number sequence "666". The anarchy sign as well as slogans against right-wing extremism were also sprayed on the wall here.

The Augsburg community took the whole thing with humour and made an art installation out of the graffiti. They put up signs with statements like "I celebrate that we are so important to you..." or "Digga, we think Nazis suck too!"

The Gethsemane Church in Würzburg was smeared with pro-Russian propaganda for the war of aggression in Ukraine.

Burning altar and urine on the praise of God

In February, several hymn books were set on fire in the Catholic parish church of St. Heinrich in Munich. According to the police, the church interior was vandalised, candles were knocked over and the hymn books were scattered on the floor. They even urinated on a "Gotteslob".

In Spalt in Middle Franconia, an entire altar was recently in flames, and a youth is being investigated for particularly serious arson. 

In a church in Neunstetten in the diocese of Eichstätt, a disinfectant dispenser burnt. In Oberschneiding in Lower Bavaria, two girls aged twelve at the time of the crime are suspected of having damaged organ pipes.

Fewer thefts in churches

While the damage in cases of vandalism is often still limited, several hundred euros in the case of St. Heinrich's Church in Munich, the pilgrimage church "Maria Hilf" in Seubersdorf ended up with 64,000 euros. In July 2022, burglars stole 30 organ pipes and 16 gold-plated candlesticks. The stolen goods were worth 24,000 euros, the material damage caused by the broken doors and the destroyed organ is estimated at 40,000 euros.

However, according to the State Office of Criminal Investigation, there are fewer and fewer thefts in churches, chapels and monasteries throughout Bavaria. There were 807 cases in 2018, 398 cases in 2022.