GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Service members, government employees and their families stationed in USAG Bavaria may be far away from the comforts of home, but the Netzaberg Chapel offers the community a beautiful and comfortable place of worship.
Thanks to Sasha Shatlan, the chapel’s interior designer, the space has evolved into a home for the whole USAG Bavaria community.
Shatlan grew up in former Yugoslavia, in what is now Croatia.
From a young age, Shatlan knew he was destined to be a designer like his father.
“My father’s friend was a famous movie production designer, so I basically grew up assisting him on sets and I fell in love with the process,” Shatlan said. “One of the first movies I worked on was actually Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which was his first big film.”
Shatlan didn’t originally plan on designing chapel interiors, but he discovered a love for that kind of work in an unexpected way.
While working on his master’s degree in theater design and fine art, Shatlan had the opportunity to restore very old sacred places throughout Europe.
Shatlan said he had the chance to spend weeks restoring frescoes in monasteries that were over 1000 years old.
“There is something amazing about this experience when you’re very young,” said Shatlan. “You go to a place that is very spiritual, has some kind of history and centuries of worship and spirit. You end up kind of falling in love with that process.”
Shatlan said the gratitude and love of people when he completes a project makes everything worth it.
When construction on the Netzaberg Chapel was completed, Shatlan toured the interior.
“It looked naked,” Shatlan said. “There was nothing that looked like a place of worship. So, our plan was to make it look a little nicer.”
Garrison Senior Chaplain, U.S. Army Col. Pies, was totally on board to give the chapel the attention it needed.
“Sasha Shatlan has been a literal God-send. He has been a seamless support and consultant to me as we have worked together to help transform the Netzaberg Chapel from a house of worship into a home community of faith,” said Col. Pies.
Shatlan always bases his designs on the people who will be attending that place of worship.
Designing a chapel to serve a diverse military community comes with specific challenges Shatlan said.
“Netzaberg is a multi-denominational chapel. Here, my inspiration is more patriotism, military life, and families. It is very different than designing a Catholic church in the Bronx,” Shatlan said.
Throughout the chapel, Shatlan included innovative designs that allow the space to serve people of different faiths.
There are various alter pieces that can open and close to accommodate different services happening within the chapel.
“Sasha has also been instrumental in helping the Garrison Chaplain to clean out closets full of mismatched furniture and ecclesiastical items that were accumulated through the years,” said Col. Pies.
These pieces were stripped down, reconstructed and re-stained to match other pieces of religious furniture.
Col. Pies was very pleased with the work Shatlan conducted on these pieces.
“So, in the end, all the furniture and platform ecclesiastical items match and blend in for an orderly and attractive presentation,” Col. Pies said.
Shatlan is currently working on several other chapels throughout U.S. Army Europe.
For more information visit USAG Bavaria’s Religious Support Office page.