“Hot outside? Cool down in church”
As hot temperatures scorch the European soil, the German Health Minister has some remarkable advice: want to cool down? Go to church.
This week, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (Social Democrats) visited Italy, PRO writes. There, temperatures rose well beyond 30 degrees Celsius. And Italy is not the only country that sighs under a heat wave.
Lauterbach, however, discovered a place where temperatures felt better: the Basilica di San Domenico in Siena. The cathedral dates from the 16th century and is built according to the Gothic style.
The Minister, eager to share his experience, tweeted soon after his visit that churches should be open for people as a measure against the heat of summer. They can serve "as cold rooms during the day and offer protection", he wrote, adding a picture of the Basilica di San Domenico.
Basilica di San Francesco (Siena). Wunderschöne mittelalterliche Bauweise, aber auch ein Kälteraum. Die Kirchen sollten in Hitzewellen als Kälteräume tagsüber offen sein und Schutz bieten. pic.twitter.com/z8wtUXZw9M— Prof. Karl Lauterbach (@Karl_Lauterbach) July 17, 2023
The Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) is happy with Lauterbach's recommendation. The Church responded swiftly to the Minister's tweet: "Karl Lauterbach is running into open doors. In our churches, everyone is welcome to pray, to get some attention, but also to get some protection against the heat. Where possible, church buildings are open during the day. And under the motto "Open Churches", there are initiatives to open more churches."
However, on Twitter, some were critical of Lauterbach's recommendation as well. Someone wrote that "ordinary citizens" do not have time to cool down in a church during the day because they have to work. Others pointed out that churches are open in general.
Why are churches cooler?
The European Association of Cathedral Builders supports Lauterbach's call to cool down in a church building. Gerd Meyerhof, deputy chairman of the association, tells Domradio why.
The old churches are often located in the city centres where the stone buildings and the asphalt roads heat up quickly and increase the heat even more, he says. Therefore, there are many people who want to have a quick cool-down in a church.
Because church buildings remain cooler in general, as they are made of thick masonry, Meyerhof explains. "This means they hardly follow the daytime temperatures and only slowly follow the outside temperatures over the course of the year", he says.
How quickly a church heats up also depends on the style of the building, according to Meyerhof. "The Romanesque buildings have more mass, so they have greater thermal inertia. In addition, because of the smaller windows, less radiant heat enters. Conversely, the large windows of Gothic churches allow the interior to heat up more quickly."
The chairman of the Association of Cathedral Builders welcomes the recommendation of Lauterbach to cool down in a church. "Churches are definitely places of worship. The fact that they are also cool in summer is certainly not a disadvantage for the devotionals. It is a classic win-win situation."
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