Visitors to this rest area will find no service station or coffee shops. Instead, as they approach the building, they will see a relief tower covered in strange symbols and a path leading to a pyramid made of glass and concrete. Around the tower there is a carving of a human body with a car for its head.
A cross atop the pyramid identifies it as a church, but the whole picture looks more like something out of a Mesoamerican retrofuturistic fantasy. As visitors walk along the path and up the stairs, they are greeted by gorgeous enamel doors. This is the Autobahnkirche St. Christophorus.
Sculptor Emil Wachter designed the Autobahnkirche during the 1970s. It’s arguably the most peculiar of the more than forty German “road churches.” These roadside havens for stressed drivers might adhere to the Catholic or Protestant faiths, but are not subordinate to any ecclesiastical body. They mostly claim to be ecumenical places of worship and respites for the soul amidst the aggressive dynamics of the traffic jungle. While a few are simply old village churches or chapels assigned an additional purpose, the ones that were designed specifically as road churches often display curious construction designs.
The Autobahnkirche Baden-Baden is devoted to St. Christophorus, the patron saint of travelers. The main building stands at the center of a cross-shaped set of four avenues. At the end of each avenue, a relief tower indicates the limits of the church area. The towers also depict scenes from the stories of Noah (East), John the Baptist (West), Elijah (North), and Moses (South).
Some 2000 different motifs also decorate the Autobahnkirche’s walls and stained glasses.