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Erecting scaffolds around church spires is a challenging task that involves complex scaffolding technology. One essential component here is ensuring that all loads are safely transferred. The Basilica of St. Martin in the city of Amberg is no exception. The scaffolding experts at REMONDIS’ subsidiary, XERVON, had to come up with some smart ideas to enable the urgently needed renovation work to be carried out completely safely and as conveniently as possible on the church spire.
At a height of 92 metres, the spire of St. Martin is truly impressive. At the moment, however, it is hidden from view as the tower (basic size: 12 metres) and its copper onion dome have been completely surrounded by scaffolding. A team of up to seven scaffold specialists needed several weeks to erect this complex structure which involved 200 tonnes of scaffolding material and 25 tonnes of steel beams. Further sections have had to be added to the scaffold as the renovation work has progressed, for example it had to be fully enclosed with a tear-resistant and dustproof cover whilst work on the façade was carried out. It has by no means been a simple process to erect this scaffolding, especially as access to the tower is restricted. The north side of the spire, for example, is in the middle of a pedestrianised area which has meant that crane work may only be performed – and supplies delivered – at certain times.
The tower has needed extensive restoration work done to it as can be seen by the long list of planned tasks – from restoring the natural stone masonry, to renovating the historic ceiling beams, all the way through to repairing the metal on the roof of the tower.
The scaffolding specialists from XERVON’s south-west region developed a complex scaffold construction to ensure all the workers have safe access to the tower and can perform their tasks efficiently. This structure safely transfers all the loads to a suitable load-bearing surface. Due to the local conditions, very few sections of the scaffold are able to directly bear loads and transfer them vertically to the base. To solve this problem, therefore, special constructions of bar joists and steel beams were designed and erected to re-direct and distribute the loads.
XERVON’s scaffolding specialists planned and calculated every section of the scaffolding for the Basilica in Amberg right down to the tiniest of details – an impressive example of their scaffolding expertise
With all these special requirements and conditions having to be met, no part of this scaffolding is a standard construction – on the contrary, it is absolutely unique with every single section having been planned and calculated right down to the tiniest of details. The west side of the tower, for example, is 23 metres long and is right next to the edge of the River Vils which means that the scaffolding has had to be protected against the force of the water and possible floods. The scaffold has, therefore, been erected on a special sub-structure which can bear any excess loads generated by faster currents or floods. Special scaffolding was also needed on the east side, where a self-supporting scaffold structure has been erected above the surface of the roof of the nave. Any loads generated here are transferred either straight to the tower via a steel construction or to the scaffolding on the north and west-facing sides via heavy duty bar joists. The base of the scaffold on the north side was extended to enable it to bear these extra loads. A further tricky task had to be performed in this area: around 20 metres of freestanding scaffolding had to be erected here.
The workers access the tower from the south side. Here, too, the base of the scaffold was extended to increase its load-bearing capacity. Thirty metres in height, this extension is topped by a 100m2 load platform made from steel beams. A lift (max. load: 1,500kg) has been integrated into the scaffolding here which transports the workers from the ground to the platform. A second lift (max. load: 500kg) then takes them from here to up to 80 metres above the ground. What is a slight breeze for the people in the market square is a strong wind at such heights that buffets the scaffolding and tarpaulin covers.
Despite all these challenges, the XERVON scaffolding experts have succeeded in completing their tasks. The work being carried out on the tower is also well within schedule – not least thanks to XERVON’s extensive experience gathered from similar such projects and their smart access solutions. Much of the renovation work has already been completed even though the damage to the tower was worse than had been expected. There is still a long way to go, however, before the work on the Basilica of St. Martin in Amberg has been completed. The next stage of the plan is to erect scaffolding around the whole of the nave so that the sandstone façade and valuable stained glass windows can be repaired.
The historic town of Amberg (approx. 42,000 inhabitants) dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the best preserved cities in Europe. Situated around 60 kilometres east of Nuremberg on the River Vils, the town’s market square is dominated by the Basilica of St. Martin. 72 metres long and 20.5 metres wide, it is the second-largest church in the Upper Palatinate region (the largest being Regensburg Cathedral). Construction began on the church in 1421; the upper sections of the tower were then rebuilt and completed in 1727. The architecture and interior furnishings of the church have been influenced by many different eras since then: the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque movements as well as the Reformation and counter reformations. Today, St. Martin is a late Gothic ‘hall church’ with a Neo-Gothic interior. Its unusual architectural feature: all three sections of the church’s nave are of the same height with the same pitched roof.