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German 700-year church moves to new home

A coal-mining project appeared to be more important than a 700-year-old church which had completed nearly a weeklong trip to a new home in eastern Germany on Wednesday to free its original place for it.

The Emmaus Church, first mentioned in historical documents in 1297, started its journey Oct. 25 from its former home in Heuersdorf, near Leipzig.

Loaded in one piece onto a huge flatbed trailer and secured by steel braces, it traveled 12 kilometers (7Ѕ miles) to its new home on the Martin Luther Square in Borna.

"I hope - I am certain - that it will stand for hundreds of years more at its new site," Saxony Governor Georg Milbradt said Wednesday, after which the church was inched into its new home to the sound of pealing bells from another church nearby.

The Romanesque-style stone church has a steeply pitched roof and a small black tower. At 19.6 meters (65 feet) tall and 14.5 meters (48 feet) long, it weighs around 750 tons.

The move was completed in time for Reformation Day on Wednesday, when Lutherans traditionally remember 16th-Century church reformer Martin Luther.

Plans call for restoration work to be carried out at the new site before the church is opened for services, likely Easter.

The Mibrag coal mining company is paying EUR3 million (US$4.2 million) to move the church, after the regional legislature in 2004 approved plans to dig up Heuersdorf to get at some 50 million tons of lignite, or brown coal, which will supply a nearby power station.

Village authorities fought the plan for years, but lost their appeal to Germany's Constitutional Court in 2005. Most of the 320 residents already have been resettled.

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