'Black day' as Leipzig rector resigns in church protest

February 14, 2003

The rector of Germany's Leipzig University has stepped down in protest at the regional government's decision to rebuild a 13th-century church on campus.

Volker Bigl, elected rector in 1997, carried out his threat to resign after the Saxon government allowed the restoration of the Pauliner Church to go ahead.

The struggle between those opposed to reconstruction, who include Leipzig's Social Democrat mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee, and those in favour, led by a group of Nobel peace prize-winners, has dogged the regional government for the past ten years.

Professor Bigl had hoped the estimated €20 million (£13 million) cost of rebuilding would be used to extend the overcrowded university. "It was more or less agreed that a memorial to the church would be erected, leaving room on the campus for a new lecture hall to accommodate the growing number of students," he said.

But science minister Matthias Roessler said that after comparing the cost of a memorial with that of rebuilding the church he found the difference was small. He said: "After reviewing the figures, the cabinet changed its mind."

Following the resignation, mayor Tiefensee spoke of a "black day in the university's history". He added: "It has been a hard blow to the self-administration of a venerable university and an unparalleled affront by the Saxon government."

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Reader's comments (2)

Communism goes and Bigl goes, but the church remains.
It was quite right to reconstruct the church which never should have been demolished in the first place, and which represents nothing more than gross cultural vandalism. The reconstruction serves several purposes, among them firstly to acknowledge the cultural history and the significant figures associated with the church and secondly as an admonition to those spineless individuals in the 1960s who approved of its removal. It is also worth note that Albert Schweitzer was very concerned and had spoken up for the church. Walter Ulbricht had assured him of the church's survival. However, Schweitzer died in 1965 and the church did not survive long afterwards. Yes, I suppose the moneys could have been used, as the rector points out, for the secular needs of the expanding university, but as it says in the Good Book, 'man lebt nicht vom Brot allein'.

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