Serenity. Johanneskapelle, Hinsbeck-Leuth, Nettetal, Germany
Along the road in Nettetal between Hinsbeck and Leuth is a little enclave shadowed by huge Linden Trees. A fine place for cyclists to rest for a while. There's a small chapel. It is dedicated to St John the Baptist and it is appropriate that in the yard there's an ancient fresh-water well. The chapel dates from 1617, and down through the centuries it has been restored and extended (1671/1672, 1854, 1994). Prior to the most recent restoration this serene temple had been severely vandalised. It's now meticulously restored - with a painting over the altar of St John baptising Jesus in the Jordan River by the contemporary Cologne artist Dieter Bäumling.
I was intrigued by the inscription on the outside choir wall. It reads in Gothic Letters:
"Zur Erinnerung an Sophia, Gräfin von Schaesberg. geb: zu Krickenbeck. 24 Juni 1823. gest: zu Angers als Novize im Kloster zum guten Hirten. 17: Nov: 1844".
Thus the Johanneskapelle was dedicated - at the restoration of 1854, ten years after her untimely death - to Sophie Auguste, Countess of Schaesberg. Interestingly, she died in a monastery in far-away France at Angers. The convent of Sophie's novitiate was that of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of Angers, called in German: Kloster vom guten Hirten. As a young girl Sophie must have been up on the spiritual movements of her day. The Angers institution had only very recently - in 1835 - been founded by an idiosyncratic and formidable lady, Rosa Virginia Pelletier (1796-1868) from the French Vendée. Taking the veil in 1814 as Maria Euphrasia, she began to devote her life to the apostolate to Girls and Women who were 'encumbered by life'. She founded the House at Angers in 1835, and it had become the mother-house of more than 100 institutions by the time of her death. Maria Euphrasia was canonised in 1940.
Our Sophie Auguste, called 'Sophia' in her monastic novitiate, was apparently drawn to the work at Angers by those sisters who had had to overcome much adversity in the years before the official establishment of the Order (by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835). She died, however, before she could be professed.
This chapel devoted to St John is a suitable memorial to Sophia. Just a few kilometers away right by a lovely lake stands imposing Krickenbeck Castle where she'd been born to Heinrich Edmund Maria, Count of Schaersberg (1779-1835) and Auguste, Baroness of Loë (1791-1857).