Franz Boehm Memorial, 2020

Thomas Kesseler: Franz Boehm Memorial, 2020

The Catholic priest Franz Boehm, who became pastor at St Gereon in 1938, was a resistance fighter against the Nazi regime who died in Dachau concentration camp in 1945. In 2019, a competition was held in his honor to erect a monument to him to commemorate his 140th birthday in 2020.

The winning design is by artist and architect Thomas Kesseler, who studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna under Erwin Heerich, Hans Hollein and James Stirling. Thomas Kesseler has already realized numerous projects in sacred spaces in the past, such as glass windows for the Matthäikirche church in Düsseldorf and the memorial for Nikolaus Gross in Essen Cathedral.

Destruction made visible

The site of the monument in Monheim am Rhein is the area north of the present choir of St Gereon, on the site of the apse of the previous building, which was destroyed in the war. In the center is a stele with the bronze bust, which was redesigned by Thomas Kesseler according to old photographic models. Behind the life-size bust are two glass panes set in metal, each measuring 4.2 meters by 2.25 meters, which make the character of the sitter stand out more thanks to their ragged appearance. Photographic images of the old church were printed onto the glass panes using the silkscreen technique. They show the church before and after its destruction as a result of the Second World War, which was unleashed by the Nazi regime.

Behind these images lies an abstract painting using black paint, whose brushstrokes and scratches illustrate the violence of destruction. Due to the site-specific lighting conditions, the motifs are sometimes more clearly visible from the back than from the front. The fronts of the panes of glass reflect the surroundings and incorporate them into the artwork – illustrating how Boehm himself had an impact on the city. A low semicircular wall outlines the position of the old choir where the high altar stood, in front of which Franz Boehm once celebrated Mass with the Catholic congregation. This wall made with reused old bricks also serves as a seating area for guests.

With this work of art, Thomas Kesseler has created a multi-layered place of remembrance that allows visitors to experience a significant part of Monheim’s contemporary history and to enter into an exchange with Franz Boehm and his work and fate.

Biography of artist Thomas Kesseler

Born in Gelsenkirchen in 1956; lives and works as an architect, sculptor and painter in Bad Hönningen

1972–1975 Courses at the Folkwang-Hochschule Essen under Werner Graef

1975–1981 Studied painting and sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, master student of Erwin Heerich

1981–1984 Studied architecture at the University of Applied Arts Vienna; masterclass student of Hans Hollein

1986 Final examination in the Facutly of Architecture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Ernst Kasper and James Stirling

1989 Award of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia for Young Artists, Architecture Section

1998–2019 Professorship at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Technology/Detmold School of Architecture and Interior Design


Solo exhibitions (selection)

1995 “Thomas Kesseler,” Morsbroich Castle Municipal Museum, Leverkusen

2000 “Painting,” Art Museum Mülheim an der Ruhr in the Old Post Office, Mülheim an der Ruhr

2006 “Farbe und Raum,” Gallery Aedes, Berlin

2012 “unabhängig,” Künstler-Union-Köln, Cologne

2012 “A Sea of Blue,” Thomas Kesseler room installation, K.I.C.K., Bochum

2016 “Skulptur – Farbe – Raum”, former Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund


Selected publications:

Becker-Kesseler,Ute / Kesseler, Thomas, Räume. Dialog Kunst und Architektur 1981–2001, Berlin/Tübingen 2002, ISBN-10: 3-8030-0623-6

Feireiss, Kristin (Hg.), Thomas Kesseler – Farbe und Raum, Berlin 2006, ISBN-10: 3-937093-71-0

Kesseler, Thomas, Farbkraft, Bönen 2012, ISBN-10: 3-86206-173-0

Kesseler, Thomas, Skulptur, Bönen 2016

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