The Latin “Patronus” signifies a protector or advocate to whom an institution (church, hospital or school) is assigned. Usually, the patron was a person who had been canonized such as St Mary or St Nicholas. Churches were built for and dedicated to these saints. Originally, this was done at their tombs. With the spread of holy relics like bone splinters it became possible to erect churches and altars at any desired location. Today we can easily discern who financed them. Churches of St Nicholas were often paid for by merchants and seafarers as he is their patron. He is also the patron of Greece, Croatia, Russia, Lorraine, Sicily, Aberdeen, Alicante, Amsterdam, Bari, Freiburg (Switzerland), New York, Siegen as well as of children, students, girls, bankers, prisoners, pilgrims and travelers. St Mary is – to name just a few – patron of the Cistercian monastic order, the Catholic Church and all (Catholic) Christianity, also of Croatia, Poland, Hungary, the USA, Bavaria, Catalonia, Aachen, Breda as well as of virgins, priests, midwives, landlords/landladies, cooks, potters, shipmen and the lost.
The exhibition “Called by your name” is shown in one St Mary’s church and one St Nicholas’ Church of each of the German federal states in 2017. The chosen churches represent a large network of churches bound together by their names and their appeal throughout Germany and Europe. The history behind names and churches is the history of places and people. They exemplify starting points in the exploration of our own name and our deep-rootedness in history.