Unused church torn down in Germany to make way for open-pit coal mine | News | DW | 10.01.2018
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Unused church torn down in Germany to make way for open-pit coal mine

The church in the western German town of Immerath was one of the last major structures to remain standing. Residents have been resettled and the town will be devoured by a massive open-pit coal mine.

Bulldozers and excavators turned the bell towers of a late 19th century church in western Germany into a pile of rubble on Tuesday to make way for a massive open-pit coal mine.

The St. Lambertus Catholic church in Immerath, west of Cologne, was one of the last major structures to remain standing in the hollowed out ghost town. 

Read more: Opinion: German coalition hopefuls drop climate goals

The last church service at what locals call the "Immerath Cathedral" was held in 2013.

Bird's-eye view of the almost completely destroyed Immerath church (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Stoffel)

An aerial view shows the church reduced to rubble.

Immerath's 1,200 residents were resettled in 2006 to make way for the massive Garzweiler II open-pit coal mine, which is expected devour the erstwhile town and surrounding countryside by the end of 2018.

The energy conglomerate RWE said it would take another two weeks to remove the church rubble.

The church was finished in 1891 after nearly three years of construction. Destroying it took only two days.


Immerath, demolition of church.

Spectators look on as an excavator crushes a section of the church roof.

Coal mining a burning issue

Open-pit coal mines have become a major political issue in Germany, which still relies on coal for about 40 percent of its energy needs despite pledges to move to cleaner energy sources to meet climate change commitments. Some 25 percent of energy needs are met by power plants fired by high-polluting lignite (brown coal).

Read more: European climate protesters take on German coal

Greenpeace anti-coal protests in Immerath (© Bernd Lauter / Greenpeace)

Greenpeace activists climbed the church to unfurl a sign reading "Whoever destroys culture, also destroys people."

Environmental groups regularly protest in and around the coal mines.

Several hundred people witnessed the destruction of the church.

Police said charges were filed against 14 protesters, including several who chained themselves to a bulldozer and climbed the church to unfurl banners.

cw/se (dpa, epd, KNA)

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