Carl August Bluhm, the patriarch of the Bluhm family in Germany, was born on November 7, 1780 in Prenzlau, a small village at the center of the historic Uckermark region. Uckermark means “March of the Uecker”–referring to the region’s location on the Uecker River–and it’s here that my Bluhm ancestors made their home for generation after generation. Carl August and his wife, Charlotte Sophia Bratsch, were innkeepers in the village of Blumberg, and the inn eventually became the “meeting place” for the community, especially after church services on Sunday mornings. These church services–and gatherings at the local inn afterward–were the center of Uckermark social life (as well as the center of my Bluhm ancestors’ story)–but the churches, themselves, are the focus of this one.
The village church in Blumberg–the church that my 5th great-grandparents, Carl August and Charlotte Sophia, attended–dates to the mid-thirteenth century. The original portion of the church is a rectangular hall made of fieldstone, and the transverse rectangular tower–complete with a tapered wooden bell chamber and lantern–was added in 1735. The church’s interior altarpiece features a 1708 painting of the Crucifixion; the sides of the altar are carved with acanthus leaves, and the altarpiece is crowned with a God’s eye set in the sun’s rays. Back outside, the churchyard is surrounded by a fieldstone wall, and the south side of the wall has a Baroque-style gate or “portal.” The religious motifs and striking ornamentation of this church, in particular, make it a powerful place for the beginning of my ancestors’ story.
Dorfkirche in Blumberg (Gemeinde Casekow) // Uckermark Kirchen
Ludwig Ferdinand Bluhm and Marie Christine Retzlaff, my 4th great-grandparents and the next generation of Uckermark Bluhms, were married on December 4, 1842 in the Dorfkirche–or village church–in Klockow. This church was built around the year 1300, and it’s design–a combination of a rectangular hall and a transverse west tower–is similar to the Blumberg village church’s layout. The windows are in an early-Gothic style and are arranged on the east and north sides of the church in trios. The church’s two cast-iron bells date to the year 1432, while the tower’s clock was made in 1752. The pulpit and the altar were constructed at the same time–although the specific date of their construction is unknown–and the altar features a God’s eye surrounded by the sun’s rays, as well. I imagine Klockow as a beautiful church to be wed in and the perfect start to Ludwig and Marie Christine’s marriage.
Dorfkirche in Klockow (Gemeinde Schönfeld) // Uckermark Kirchen
After marrying in Klockow, Ludwig and Marie Christine moved to nearby Neuenfeld, and their six children–including my 3rd great-grandfather, August Bluhm–were all baptized in the Neuenfeld village church. Neuenfeld is a medieval stone church from the thirteenth century, but the tower was built in 1869, seven years after the youngest Bluhm’s baptism. The church’s interior has whitewashed walls, and the windows and doorways are framed with leaf-tendril motifs. The pulpit and altar were built in the seventeenth century, and unlike the churches in Blumberg and Klockow, the altar does not feature jewels, rays or a God’s eye–the style is simple, lacking the ornate features of the former churches. Two memorial plaques hang next to the altar: the first is dedicated to Neuenfeld’s fallen soldiers in World War I, and the second features Christ’s image. This church is my favorite because of its simplicity in decoration: one’s eye is drawn to the cross and to Christ’s image rather than to gold filigree and elaborate carvings at the pulpit.
Dorfkirche in Neuenfeld (Gemeinde Schönfeld) // Uckermark Kirchen
These small-town churches tell the story of the Uckermark Bluhms: the paper trail begins with community gatherings at Carl August Bluhm’s inn after Sunday services, takes a detour at Ludwig Bluhm’s wedding in the Klockow village church and ends with my 3rd great-grandfather’s baptism in the Dorfkirche in Neuenfeld. My ancestors awoke to the same church bells ringing, were baptized in the fonts that still remain today and heard sermons under the watchful Eye of God every Sunday morning. Centuries have gone by, but these medieval churches still stand tall–a reminder, for me, of my ancestors’ stories. I hope I can one day walk the same churchyard grounds, listen to the same bells toll and sit in the same pews in the churches of my ancestors–I can see it now.
For more information about the Dorfkirche in Blumberg, visit Uckermark Kirchen, Askanier-Welten and Amt Gartz(Oder). Interested in the Dorfkirche in Klockow, where my 4th great-grandparents were married? Check out Uckermark Kirchen, Askanier-Welten and Amt Brüssow. Descriptions of the Dorfkirche in Neuenfeld can be found at Uckermark Kirchen, Amt Brüssow, and Evangelische Kirche in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.